Deck the bars with boughs of holly, for we edge closer to Christmas. While this can be nerve-wracking for many a pub landlord in terms of how busy it can get, it’s also one of the most redeeming parts of the cold winter season, for both profits and spirits.
Yet it’s also often that owners fail to make good on the unique business opportunities afforded to them in this peak. So, beyond making sure the fireplace is lit and the obligatory tree is up, what else can you do to make this the most wonderful time of the year for your boozer? Let’s run down the top five solutions for getting the best business possible this Christmas.
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Focus one food
People love to eat, and they love a Christmas lunch. Seems like a fool-proof business strategy, right? Without being so tongue-in-cheek, if your pub already has kitchen capacity, offering Christmas lunch in the weeks leading up to the big day is a sure way to introduce customers to what your enterprise has to offer, and encourage them to get cosy.
If you’re at a limited capacity to do this and have only served small plates in the past, why not shake it up and make these as festive as possible? Forget last year’s scotch egg: this year, pleasantly surprise customers old and new by making pigs in blankets with bread sauce – the perfect accompaniment to their pint of lager or mulled cider.
Get your bars and cellars ready
Before the holiday season really kicks in, make time to put your bars, fridges and cellars in tip-top shape. There’s usually a lot of work that can be done here to optimise restocking and waste reduction:
For your existing stock, keeping an inventory is a good place to start — encourage staff members to make consistent waste log entries to help you stay on track of what gets spilled or thrown away. At quiet times, rearrange the display fridge by bringing remaining drinks forward in order to manage rotation and separate old from new bottles. Otherwise, products can sit in the fridge for weeks on end due to inefficient restocking.
Christmas is a notorious year for demand, but the customer is fickle as ever. While it’s important not to bank on the quantity of customers, having an estimate of how popular a particular beer will be will only get you so far. Being prepared for restocking barrels in the middle of a shift is essential, whether due to a fault in the cellar or underestimating your performance on a specific night. For premium stock delivery, courier services can be on hand for this specific purpose. CitySprint’s courier drink and dray service, for instance, offer “top-up deliveries late into the evening and up until closing time to meet demand.”
Upsell your products
Don’t just make the mulled wine, shout about it! People are more willing to spend freely at this time of year, and upselling can help you significantly boost your takings. Help educate your staff and encourage them to promote certain drinks to customers, varying which ones as the season progresses. Bolster your employees’ enthusiasm by giving them fun responsibilities, such as making festive beverages like mulled wine and cider. Upselling will come far more naturally if the bar person has made the product in the quiet hours of their shift.
By investing in training for your staff, you can show customers that you care about your industry and what they’re drinking, and give your employees authority and knowledge to make great recommendations. On that note — emphasise your display of champagne. Having some premium fizz in your arsenal and making sure that it’s visible to customers might be the prompt they need to push the boat out during their Christmas holiday.
Support your staff
Keep it local
It’s probably the worst time of year to have an understaffed pub, but also the time when it’s most likely. You’ve got to see this from your staff’s POV though — old friends and family returning home, so many holiday events on, and lots of post-work drinks, not to mention flu season. Whether it’s burnout, hangovers or genuine illness and holidays booked in advance, the important thing is to focus on keeping the team united.
There may be many young and local seasonal workers around because of university break. Don’t treat these guys as a first resort, however. Temporary workers from the area can be a good fallback to cover absences and add an extra hand for busy periods, but it’s your regular staff who have local knowledge and relationships with your customers, and are the ones that you trust the most.
Organise a Christmas meal for you and the team before the holidays kick in, and reward them for their hard work so far. You can also incentivise people to pull together by organising their annual leave in advance, and offering them a more flexible working week by asking them well ahead of their availability before each new rota goes out.
Give perks for those who work Christmas Eve (or Day, if you’re opening), such as mince pies galore and sherry. This is great for morale, and letting staff have the odd baileys can spice up their shifts. A positive work environment goes a long way, and you can bet customer service will be enhanced by happy staff members.
This is a complicated route to go down — on paper it makes sense, but there is precious little about Christmas-themed events that is stand-out for the average consumer. You may even find that, aside from some delicately placed fairy lights and a tree, making your pub extra-Christmassy is actually just keeping it competitive. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
Pick your vibe
Firstly, don’t try to be all things to all men. If your venue is used to hosting live music events such as open mic nights, then you can just request performers who will sing Christmas songs. If you’re used to a more humble affair, maybe just having an open door to a merry band of carol singers will be the right amount of festivities for your pub. If you’re not quite sure, why not mix and match with a carol karaoke? Christmas-themed quizzes are also a popular favourite that can entice your clever-clogs customers.
Create slick promotion
Whatever you do, finesse it with a strong digital and social media strategy. Bloc have some excellent tips for managing promotion during this busy time of year, such as Christmas discounts and coupons advertised on Facebook and Instagram. This, accompanied by some jolly pics of staff and customers basking in the holiday spirit, will sell the whole gift-wrapped package of your business.