To Ticket or Not?
A thorny question that always arises over New Year’s Eve parties is whether to make them ticket entry affairs and then whether to charge customers for their tickets. This very much depends on your pub and how popular your pub is, especially on party nights. I believe that if you are going to have a busy and peaceful night on New Year’s Eve then ticketing the event is the best policy. By creating an offering of, say, free bubbly at midnight, some free food during the evening and a band (or disco) as the entertainment you can legitimately charge for admission. In most of the pubs I have run the cost of admission by ticket has been kept to the absolute minimum (just enough to cover the cost of food and drink). As with all major events it’s useful to know the level of sales you need to generate to make the event profitable and your breakeven point.
By ticketing and charging for tickets you create a demand for the event that goes beyond normal, in that you are clearly indicating that numbers will be limited, there is added value to the night and most importantly you are creating some exclusivity. You also have the added advantages of almost guaranteeing a full house on the night, being able to control who comes in the pub and limit the numbers to what is comfortable.
Don’t Forget You and Your Staff
One thing I have always done on New Year’s Eve is to ensure the bars are closed for service at the midnight hour. As long as you make it clear, with posters / chalkboard messages that you will be closing the bars for service so that you and your team can see in the New Year, you’ll find this is beneficial for the following reasons:
- Firstly by the time midnight approaches I think most New Year revellers have pretty well reached their respective limits and as such won’t be buying much more from you.
- Secondly, the hullabaloo of the chimes, Auld Lang Syne and the general whooping and cheering that accompanies New Year makes it almost impossible to take drinks orders and serve them.
- Thirdly, with all the exuberance unleashed around your pub this is the moment that is fraught with the most difficulty in terms of order – jostling, split drinks etc all being great causal events for conflict amongst customers.
- Lastly, it’s an ideal time to greet the New Year with your team and your customers; and you will all probably welcome a few minutes break from what is usually a very busy service. Re-opening the bars (if you are licensed to continue beyond midnight) after a short break will give you an opportunity to continue trading but in a much more controlled way.
When The Party’s Over
This brings us quite neatly on to the doldrums – January and February – when trade in some pubs goes through the floor. I have always found the trick to maintaining trade in this traditionally quiet time for pubs is to ramp up ones standing entertainments program – live music, quizzes, pool team activities – should all be promoted to take advantage of the general good feeling you should have created about your pub from your activities over the “holidays”. There are still plenty of opportunities during this period: Australia Day (ideal for a beach party), Burns Night (another good reason for a knees up) and Valentines Day (especially if you serve food).
If you’ve followed my plan and issued bounce back vouchers with your Christmas cards you will have a good start, but offering up such things as a couple of guaranteed jackpots for your Sticky 13s (or other prize pub game) or other decent prizes for your quizzes will help enormously. Think about it, you can spend margin promoting food and drink offerings or you can actually give customers what they really want, a chance to win some cash to help pay for the Christmas they’ve just had. Which do you think will generate more interest, 20p off cooking lager or the chance to win a couple of hundred quid?
See my separate article on Party Nights … also, coming soon, Sticky 13s – bingo with cards …
Don’t Forget Customer Service During December
Of the 2,000 people surveyed 60% of customers wait longer in December for a meal than in any other month and 33% would have ordered more during meals in but didn’t get the opportunity through inattentive staff, 40% of respondents reported having had their food orders completely forgotten by staff and 55% go into the festive period anticipating poor service.
The research also found that forgotten orders are most common in the south-east and south-west with nearly 21% of Londoners and 23% of customers from the West midlands having experienced rude staff. Walk-out rates are highest in Scotland and the West Midlands with 25% of respondents reporting feeling so frustrated with the service they received that they left without paying. 50% don’t look forward to Christmas parties due to a previous experience of poor customer service and 34% would refuse to return to a venue where they had been disappointed before.
With grateful acknowledgement of contributors to the Pub and Bar Network discussion group on LinkedIn for some of these ideas (click the link to see more).