Franchise owners often have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. On the “hate” side comes a crush of business from impatient customers who want to get their orders and get back into the stores. They can be brash, they can be rude, and they can push your employees to the breaking point. Your managers struggle to keep up with the demand and try to keep everyone smiling despite their own stress levels.

The “love” side of the equation is what can be a significant spike in revenue, and if you’ve properly prepared for it, a corresponding boost to your bottom line. You can set your business up just to meet the demand … or you can take it a step farther and view the holiday season as a great marketing opportunity. After all, all those impatient shoppers are going to have to stop somewhere to refuel and restore their energy, and if your employees are ready to welcome them with open arms, your location may become their go-to choice all year long.

The first thing to do is ensure that you are properly staffed to handle those holiday rush periods. If you have historical data from the last couple years, see how much extra business you handled, and staff up accordingly. It may even be worthwhile to add a bit of cushion — if, for example, you think you can get by with 8 people on a particular shift, but 9 would be better, plan for 9. Also keep in mind that seasonal ailments like colds and the flu may increase employee absences just when you need people the most.

You’ll want to make sure your best team members are available at peak times. One way to do that is to give them extra hours, or pay them a bonus rate for their willingness to work at your busiest moments. It’s a way to reward them for a job well done, and to make sure that you are ready for the increased customer demand.

Examine your operations with an eye toward potential bottlenecks. Does your drive-through lane back up into the street at peak times? That can discourage additional customers — not only will people who planned to use the drive-through pass you up for less-crowded competitors, but potential walk-in customers won’t want to have to navigate through your parking lot. As a solution, consider beefing up your drive-through staff so you can move vehicles through even more quickly than normal.

Finally, use this busy time as an opportunity to market to people who are out shopping or driving by. Want to capture more breakfast business? If your franchisor permits, put up banners advertising a free small cup of coffee for walk-in customers. You’ll create good will, and many of the people who come in for coffee might grab extra items with higher profit margins. Want a bigger dinner trade? Capture families who are out shopping by offering free meals for the kids, or free drinks for families. You’ll gain a sale today, and they will be more likely to return down the road.

Yes, holiday business can be stressful, but with good planning and the right attitude, you can turn it into a great opportunity to grow your end-of-year sales numbers and boost customer loyalty all year long.

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