1) Extending Christmas
Extend your Christmas trade and get customers in the mood by running a series of events in the weeks (or even months!) leading up to Christmas. You can use these events to promote Christmas parties as well with ‘book now’ or ‘early bird’ offers for guests. Here are a few ideas:
- Invite local businesses who don’t normally book with you to a lunchtime ‘try out’ of your Xmas party menu; offer free samples and a ‘book your party now’ discount.
- Offer deals on food or wine for late night shoppers from October (‘show us your shopping bags and get X% off’).
- Set up a Santa’s Grotto in your function room in the weeks leading up to Xmas and offer family sharing boards and themed kids ‘cocktails’.
- Hold a ‘decorate the pub’ night where customers come and deck your establishment and tree with festive sparkles (you can then hold a ‘taking down the decorations’ night in January).
- Run an ‘advent calendar’ offer with a different deal for each day leading up to Christmas, or use the same theme with scratch cards for your customers who dine offering a mixture of on the spot prizes and vouchers for January.
2) Your Christmas menu
To make your pub stand out from the competition don’t just rely on the usual Christmas fare. Here are some things to consider to make your menu a winner:
- Contact all your key suppliers before planning your menu, ask about seasonal offers and negotiate discounts wherever possible. You can make savings in your budget, or choose to pass them on to your customers to attract parties in with competitive deals.
- Include seasonal sharing platters for parties who have not booked for a full meal and actively promote them on your party tables. Impromptu parties can significantly increase your takings.
- Do a set menu for larger groups with choices taken in advance at the time of booking to minimise wastage. Offer at least three different per head price points to attract parties with different budgets, and include buffet and sit-down options.
- Consider looking at other countries for inspiration – in Spain seafood is served at Xmas, for example, while in China its BBQ pork and Russia has a traditional four bird roast.
- Make a fuss of your Xmas pudding – health and safety may mean you may not want to set it on fire the traditional way with brandy, but sparklers, using a Xmas theme played while it is served, or asking staff to present and serve the whole pudding at the table to larger parties can add theatre.
- Don’t forget vegans/vegetarians – and it’s not just about nut roast. Get your chef to put his creative thinking cap on now and make the veggie options just as special. Seitan, jackfruit, soya or tofu options are now plentiful.
3) Christmas drinks offers
Customers are happy to treat themselves during the festive season so make sure you have plenty of premium products on offer to tempt them. Here are a few ideas:
- Champagne is synonymous with Christmas so have a display behind your bar and use branded ice buckets on the floor for added theatre. Train staff to make a show of opening champagne at the table for groups to encourage more orders. Don’t just offer an entry level champagne, make sure you have premium brands in stock for those that want to splash out.
- Christmas cocktails are an excellent driver for your drinks GP so come up with some simple and quick ones for your festive menu – then train your bar team so they are comfortable making them and can do so quickly at busy times.
- Include drinks suggestions and pairings on all your Christmas menus and ask staff to upsell wherever possible.
- Hold a staff tasting night for the drinks menu as well as the food menu so staff know exactly what’s on offer. Incentivise them on sales of certain brands/drinks with a good GP.
- Consider adding an ‘after lunch/dinner’ tipple menu of different whiskeys, brandies and ports to the dessert menu as customers are more likely to drink spirits at Christmas. Promote a ‘dessert plus a tipple’ deal for customers.
4) Marketing & Promotion
October is the month to start your direct marketing and social media campaigns, so make sure you have a planned campaign in place with something festive going out to your customers every week from early October. Hopefully you are already quite well booked up but if not, don’t panic, there is still time! You should consider:
- A Christmas competition run on social media (guess the weight of our Xmas turkey, name the fairy on top of our tree, etc).
- Contact your local newspaper and let them know about any events you’re holding well in advance – better still invite the editorial team down for a free Xmas buffet to get them involved.
- Plan a flyer campaign for any events but also consider sending out your Xmas menu and party offers in mid-October to local businesses.
- Make a note of all the individuals who make group bookings and give them a free offer/gift – they’ll certainly think of your pub first when the next office party comes along!
- Use your data! You should have a database of email addresses for your customers. Use a free online marketing programme like MailChimp to segment it by customer type (if you have enough detail) and then plan in a series of mailshots in the run up to Christmas featuring events, menus, party offers and promotions.
- Use the video function on Facebook and Twitter and post short clips of your beautifully decorated pub with Christmas parties in full swing, your chefs cooking the turkey, or pre-Christmas events.
- Don’t forget January! Anyone who visits for Christmas is a prospective customer for January. Place cards on every table offering a discount if customers book to come back for January and include the offer on the bottom of your till receipts (a two for one on wine, free bottle of wine when you dine or just 25% off the bill can work well).
- Get your staff to stand outside the pub with free mini-mince pies to attract passing trade, or take some Christmas cake to local businesses with flyers for your Xmas party offers.
5) Bookings & your team
Your team will be at their busiest so make sure you have a clear procedure and the right people in place to make your operation run smoothly. Here are a few essentials:
- Create a simple electronic form for bookings ideally through your website that includes menu choices for larger parties.
- Add the menu choices for larger groups to the back of their table name cards to avoid confusion during service.
- Keep a hard copy of your electronic booking spreadsheet, updated daily, just in case – if the computer blows up on December 24th you still need to know who is coming and what they ordered!
- Brief your team on the procedure for bookings and put one team member each shift in charge of ensuring the central booking spreadsheet is updated.
- Set a target for staff and incentivise them with a bonus for any Xmas bookings they take from customers in Oct/Nov.
- Think about staffing rotas and let staff know early when they will be needed to work. Make sure you plan for any temporary staff recruitment.
- Incentivise the whole team with a group bonus and January team party if your overall Christmas profit target is hit – post the target on the wall in the back office and let them know each week how they are doing.