Trimming The Pub
One of the first things you can do is to involve both staff and customers in trimming the pub. In every pub I have ever run I have always held a pub trimming party for a select number of customers and staff. I believe the best time to do this is on a Thursday night after the pub has closed. Irrespective of when you put them up (for me I have always resisted the temptation to put up my Christmas decorations up until mid-December) by doing this on a Thursday you have the “wow factor” of the place being trimmed in one go and in time for your first real Christmas weekend to start the next day. Not only do you get to socialise with your team and your favoured customers in what is, in effect, an “event” but you also get plenty of help in what can be quite an onerous task. A couple of hours having a laugh with your team and some of your customers proves invaluable in terms of the social cohesion of your pub, although you have to limit the drinking, especially before the job is done!
Christmas is a sensual overload, not only of tastes but smells and psychologists tell us that smell more than of the five senses is important in memory. Just making your pub “smell of Christmas” can improve sales, apple, orange, frankincense, vanilla and cinnamon, are not only warm and inviting, they inspire “Christmas thoughts”. By helping your customers to key into the emotional strength of their Christmas memories (which for the majority of people are pleasurable) and associate your venue and offering with positive feelings they will ‘engage’ with your offering. Customers that are positively engaged with your business will spend more and often.
Top Tips … if you are close to any shops that sell scented candles, why not be cheeky and ask for some samples and provide the shop business cards next to the candles? Oranges studded with cloves and hung from decorative ribbon amongst your trimmings, over the bar, and in the toilets is a relatively inexpensive alternative to room odorisers. A drop of orange blossom or sandal wood essential oil smeared on the odd radiator goes a long way too …
Christmas Food Pricing
For those of you serving food having a traditional Christmas menu for lunches and party buffets will be key. Unfortunately every other outlet in your catchment area will also be looking to exploit this lucrative trading period so once again you must clearly establish a USP that differentiates your pub from those around you. Whatever you decide make sure that you get it right as customers won’t forgive you if you mess up their annual works Christmas do or if you are serving on Christmas Day their whole Christmas.
This is one of the times in the pub calendar when you can take advantage of what the big retailers do all the time and it’s called Dynamic Pricing. This means that for this particular time of the year you can increase your prices and margins with relative impunity just as long as you don’t price yourself out of your micro-marketplace. See my separate article on Dynamic Pricing For Your Pub …
Top Tip – take another leaf out of the ‘big boys’ book – offer a gift card or voucher worth, say, £5 redeemable during January for each Christmas booking. If you can afford more, give more.
The Moveable Feast …
All pubs are different some do very well on Xmas Eve, some do well on New Year’s Eve and some do well both nights. Depending on when the moveable feast of Christmas falls makes a huge difference to trade over the festive period. When it falls in such a way to create two very long weekends it can seem to last forever, if it falls midweek then it seems over all too quickly. I believe you have to tailor your program to which type of Christmas/New Year it is … after all customers have only so much money to spend at the pub irrespective of when it falls.
Xmas Eve falls on a Wednesday this year (2014), which means this is the perfect year, five whole days to offer up your festive cheer and in all probability the majority of people will be off for five more days at New Year.
If Xmas and New Year are falling at the weekends then I tend to go for a big Xmas Eve party, if not then I plan a quieter event for Xmas Eve and have a big Christmas party the previous weekend. In my experience trying to put on a massive party mid-week is more difficult to pull off, so on the midweek Xmas Eves I have tended to go for things such as a Christmas Quiz, carol singers and acoustic live music. For the weekend Xmas Eve’s or the Christmas Party then I have chosen a big live band who can be relied on to do decent covers, especially some of the stock Xmas favourites such as Slade or Wizzard or Kirsty McColl and the Pogues.