Should you decorate your restaurant for the holidays?

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There's an upside and downside to decorating your restaurant for the holidays. On the one hand, shiny decorations can make some people happy and more likely to dine in your establishment. On the other, some might find elaborate displays offensive, which can be a hindrance to business. With so many different beliefs and religions that revolve around the holiday season, how can a restaurant toe the line without overdoing it?

Means something different to everyone
Overall viewpoints in regards to each religion are a mixed bag. According to the Pew Research Center, about 81 percent of non-Christians celebrate Christmas in the U.S. – yet it brings a different meaning to each household. The think tank found that two-thirds of Christians observe the date as a religious holiday, while the majority of people indicated that it's more of a "cultural" celebration. 

The Pew also explained that in addition to these discrepancies, religion in America has changed. The number of Christians decreased from 78 percent of American adults in 2007 to 73 percent in 2012. In general, people are increasingly identifying with non-Christian faiths and unaffiliated beliefs. 

These differences reflect in public places that see a lot of traffic, like restaurants and coffee shops. Everyone from the employees to the clients have their own viewpoints, and in both instances, respect is a must. Establishments that are considering putting up decorations should make a number of considerations in an effort to promote peace and diversity.

How to please everyone
Consider your demographic before you put up the Christmas tree. If your clientele is predominantly Jewish, you might want to consider displaying decor that aligns with their traditions or at least some of each holiday. An innocent gesture, like a tree, can get misconstrued and the last thing you want to do is offend someone who works for you or supports your business.

It may never happen, but in the case it does – if a customer becomes offended by decor – it may be in your best interest to remove it and to empathize with him or her. On the same note, you'll want to be clear and concise with your employees when it comes to holiday boundaries. If you don't want anyone to wear festive items, make a decision that's standardized. If you let someone do one thing, and others do another, it can breed a serious problem for your business that can even lead to civil court. If you're careful however, decorations can drive business.  

Winter themed decor may be the answer
You can play on people's love for the holiday spirit with neutral seasonal decor. Certain establishments have found that elaborate displays work wonders for them. Time Out Chicago assembled a list of nine places that deck the halls one way or another without too much religious affiliation.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams not only puts up decorations, but they also bring in seasonal flavors, like pumpernickel bread ice cream and cherry sauce and spices, according to Time Out. Staff at the establishment hang snowflakes and posters on the walls that will stay up through New Years. Osteria Via Stato hangs garland and wreaths inside and out of the building. As Time Out explained, the overall look of the restaurant is woodsy, yet still festive. 

Other places choose to go all out and it works for them. As pointed out, a number of places around The Big Apple are famous for their colorful displays of Christmas ornaments. Rolf's German Restaurant located on Third Avenue covers its entire ceiling with lights, ornaments, poinsettias and garland.

The extremes in decor demonstrate that what works for one location might not work for another. Restaurant owners and managers that are considering sprucing up the place for the holiday season should remember to keep the best interest of clients and staff in mind. When in doubt, a non-religious display, like snowflake cutouts, can be a little way to get festive without crossing any boundaries into personal beliefs.   

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