Getting your slice of the Christmas consumer pie could really pay off this year, especially if you start early…
Christmas and New Year is an important time in any pub’s calendar and for some businesses trade generated over this period can be the difference between profit and loss for the entire year. Consequently getting your offering right is essential, not only in terms of trade but also in terms of creating and maintaining relationships with customers old and new alike. For many customers it may be the only time they visit a pub (office parties or the traditional Christmas Day or Boxing Day drink or New Year’s Eve) and even for regulars it can be the high point of their year.
It is a time when you can exploit the full extent of your business, food, drink, function room, outside areas can all be put to good use and maximise your sales. Even if you don’t have a function room or a useable outside area and whether you regularly serve food or not planning and executing a varied and interesting “holiday” program is vital.
Advance Planning & Preparation
September is the optimum time to ensure chalkboards are doing their job. You need to ensure they are in all your pub’s hotspots where they will be seen the most, such as high traffic areas such as near the toilets or at the food order point. You need to make sure they are sited at eye level and are clear & concise.
Make your boards festive and inviting and never leave a board blank even if you just have a simple generic Christmas message.
Print some of your menu options on some fancy paper and roll up and tie with some pretty ribbon and stack on the end of the bar. Also, if possible place a small table in your reception area / entrance hall with some festive decorations and copies of the menu.
If you have the ability to change the message of your till prints on receipts, add “BOOKING NOW FOR XMAS PARTIES ASK FOR DETAILS” you will be amazed how this can help.
Top Tip – this in-house marketing method isn’t just for Xmas, use it all year round to help generate footfall. (It’s a perfect job for members of staff at quiet times). If there’s nothing particular on you wish to promote why not put a “quote of the day” on your receipts… if nothing else it could become a talking point and who knows even raise the occasional smile. I’ve even used it to tell “knock-knock” jokes, just remember to tell all your staff the punchline.
Hire a stall at your local car boot to promote your venue or at the town market near you. its only a few pounds and it takes your business out to the wider public. Take some ‘tasters’ to give as freebies, even dress up to make a show, ensure you have menus, brochures and most importantly booking forms to give out.
Ensure all your table talkers are carrying your Christmas marketing message, see the separate article on table talkers
According to an HospitalityGEM’s survey, 69% of people booking Christmas meals said they would be doing so over the telephone and if staff didn’t have information on that first booking call, 84% said they’d expect the venue to get back to them the same day, and almost half within four hours, so staff need to be fully briefed and ready to answer any questions as soon as the phone rings.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you consider that your Christmas menus, promotions and pre-booking party packages will be seen for around 3 months or more, and, that you may have targeted to take somewhere between 15% and 30% of your total annual turnover during the festive season, wouldn’t it make sense to invest proportionally?
Investing isn’t just about throwing cash around, you can get more by spending less cash and spending more time on planning and preparation. One full day of planning and preparation can give you an incredible promotional opportunity and fill otherwise empty seats at Christmas. Pick a number of dishes from the Christmas menu and, on one your “slowest” nights (or days, video the chef and kitchen staff preparing and cooking these dishes, with, perhaps, chef or another member of staff narrating and describing what is being cooked, you can create your own Jamie Oliver moment. It’s a great way to practice the menu and you needn’t waste the food as you get to share it with your staff, ask them for feedback, take notes or even video the feedback.
You can edit this video free in numerous software packages including Microsoft Movie Maker which comes with most Windows packages. Upload it to YouTube, show it on your TVs, embed it into your website and other portals which allow it. It really isn’t difficult and if you have a regular customer who knows about this stuff, engage with him/her and s/he will probably be more than willing to help you.
The positive outcomes for this exercise are that potential customers are seeing what they will get if they book their Christmas lunch/dinner/party with you. The video can be easily spread by social media reaching out to an audience which would otherwise be impossible to touch. Your staff have tasted the food and given you valuable feedback which you have listened to, discussed and agreed on any remedial action together. They have practiced on themselves and not the customers so mistakes in timing and quantities have been ironed out. In addition, your staff are now very knowledgeable about each dish and can guide customers and foster up selling opportunities.