The Mom Spot
Wine and Dine Mom at Your Place This Mother’s Day…But No Whining Allowed
As restaurateurs know, Mother’s Day is the most popular day of the year to let someone else do the cooking. Average sales are neck-and-neck with New Year’s Eve, long acknowledged as the busiest holiday.* As demanding dads and challenging children jam the tables, all with a bit of attitude to make sure mom enjoys the most special meal—ever—how do you lower the stress levels? Whether you’re planning a lavish brunch or a pull-out-all-the-stops dinner, it’s about being over-prepared and overstaffed.
That may sound like advice from your mother, but it’s actually straight from Matthew McCahill, co-owner and managing partner of Chicago Chop House, a popular steakhouse that has served virtually every Windy City mayor from the 1800s to now. His personal history in the hospitality industry began 27 years ago sweeping the floors of restaurants his dad designed and built and progressed to running the food and beverage programs at the Godfrey Hotel, where he famously grew his Mother’s Day “brunch at a bar” concept from 200 customers to 700 customers. We also consulted with Meghan Kavanaugh, marketing manager at Reinhart partner Upserve, a leading restaurant management platform, for five timely tips to sail through the second Sunday in May—the mother of all restaurant days.
Restaurant Inc.: What if your restaurant isn’t a traditional family-friendly locale?
Matthew McCahill: You can make it work anywhere, but you may need some time for the concept to catch on. Mother’s Day brunch at the Godfrey Hotel bar was a slow starter the first year. People associated the venue with a rooftop party scene, but we made it bright and sunny with a real brunch vibe. Even better for parents was our playroom for kids. Our hosts and hostesses kept an eye on the kids for a while to give everyone a little peace, and the parents just loved it. Now, for my debut Mother’s Day brunch at Chicago Chop House, known for great steaks, we’ll emphasize those same amazing flavors we always offer.
RI: What should operators consider in terms of staffing and set up?
MM: Always overstaff, with all managers on deck and plenty of staff in the kitchen to ensure great service. Also make sure you have a number of big table set ups, up to 20 people for true family-style dining.
Meghan Kavanaugh: It turns out, mom really wants wine on Mother’s Day! Experiment with some inventive wine offerings and make sure staff is well-versed in the wine list, ready to recommend pairings with each dish. Also consider scheduling the front-of-house employees who have historically sold the most wine, or having them work with less experienced employees to make sure everyone is comfortable fielding questions and requests.
RI: Any way to tame the crowds?
MM: Prepare well by spreading out your reservations. We always leave room for walk-ins as well. Consider starting brunch early, at 10 a.m., to give families the chance to dine before Mass.
MK: Expect to be busy all day, a good reason to accept reservations and book up early, with spikes around brunch and dinner.
RI: Brunch or dinner?
MK: Mother’s Day brunch is trendy, but our data show that most diners go out to dinner, so it may make more sense to focus on offering a special dinner menu for moms.
RI: Last-minute advice for owners?
MM: Stay at the front door and be part of the initial customer greeting. Offer a complimentary glass of champagne to Mom when she arrives, for a memorable touch.
MK: Consider how to stretch well beyond the day-to-day offering and give guests a truly special experience.
Don’t forget the toast
(we’re not talking about wheat bread!)
Wine sales on Mother’s Day are historically 16 percent higher than the rest of the year, including Valentine's Day, the second highest sales holiday for wine.
*Source: Upserve 2017 Forecast Report, analyzing millions of food and beverage sales transactions for thousands of U.S. restaurants