If it´s November, it is time to begin decorating your restaurant for Christmas.
Don´t begin with bringing in the tree and stringing holly. Be more subtle and complete the process in stages.
The week before Thanksgiving, we always began to decorate for the holidays. In Minnesota when the wind blows across Lake Minnetonka, snow is fast to follow.
Standing on the top rung of the wooden ladder as I juggled the birch branches was not a fete I enjoyed. The rock-hard-tiled floor of the Bistro at the St. Alban´s Boathouse would have certainly snapped the birch and whichever human branch, collided with it from eleven feet aloft. My recently promoted manager, a chubby chap who only a week before was waiting on tables was there to help. The previous manager was found to have a penchant for Perignon and indulged in it freely, therefore a line up change was in order and my new decorating assistant showed some promise. With less than six three weeks before the holiday party season began an outside replacement for Dom´s best friend would have been a horrendous decision. So while chubby moved up the corporate ladder rapidly, I took to the steps to decorating.
As I strung the yards of Christmas Plaid Taffeta above the windows over looking the lake, my assistant asked me where I had learned such a skillful technique of combining birch with Christmas plaid.
I explained that I once dressed windows at Bloomingdale´s on Lexington Ave. in New York. I described a day of embarrassment, my last Bloomie´s day that shocked him. It was in November of 1983, while readying the windows for a Bloomie´s Christmas that I was aflutter with the Carolina Herrera strapless red cocktail dress I was instructed to place on mannequin number three according to the window design plan-o-gram.
Feeling an almost uncontrollable urge, I made the decision to try the dress on just to see if I could fit into this expense example of Couture. As I prepared to step into the artwork, the paper had fallen down on the window overlooking Lexington Ave. baring all that I had bared. Watching this man-in-the-red dress act, a crowd had gathered behind me and as my shoeless foot caught the hem of the dress, the onlookers erupted in a round of applause heard all the way down to Macy´s.
Rather amazed at the story he proceeded to ask more questions about my decorating talents. My philosophy was simple- set the stage early with non descript elements of decorating- Christmas fabrics, white lights, grapevine wreaths that can all be turned into Holiday decorations with the pine cone here and a red bow there.
There is no need to extravagantly transform your restaurant into a winter wonderland, unless that is what your customers expect and if they do then you have to give it to them. In addition, once you begin the tradition of decorating, you have to continue in that same tradition.
Holiday decorations add to the spirit of Christmas, but they also entice customers to plan parties, reserve dates, give deposits and order catering platters. The earlier you can decorate, without doing so in August, the better it will be for your restaurant.
You will also see your staff rewarded. During the holidays, the average tip percentage increases. The sooner you decorate, the higher the gratuity the customers will leave.
That November night was chilling. We completed the birch and taffeta effect, weaving it between the branches, loosely, to add holiday color to the room. White lights were strung on the fireplace and a wreath was hung high above the banquette giving the feel that the Holidays were approaching.
As the week continued, the two of us finished the basic decorating before Kranston came in just before Thanksgiving to put her finishing touches on the prep work that I had completed with the ladder holder.
It wasn´t until just before Christmas when a tremendous customer who had become a close friend remarked how bad I must have looked in a red dress.
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, Rob told me the story about your experience at Bloomingdale´s. That must have been quite a window."
In joy of the holiday spirit, I had never told Chubby I was joking that I had never worked at Bloomies.