Forward planning for the forthcoming festive flurry

Too warm outside to start thinking about Christmas? Things seem to be hotting up for the hospitality industry as we gear up for the festive season.

You may have already noticed a flurry of bookings and enquiries for your restaurant, pub, bar, hotel or venue. It would appear that we're ready to make up for last year's yo-yo of a festive season and all set to treat ourselves a little this time around.

According to CGA’s ‘Christmas Report’, a fifth of us are planning our Christmas socializing early with 20% of people intending to get underway in September and October. Peak visits to hospitality venues are expected around Christmas and New Year's Eve, CGA's report indicates around 60% of people are looking to treat themselves this year, with 48% of us wishing to trade-up their drinks in December - 16% more than Christmas 2019's figure.

Having said that, competition for consumers spending may be fiercer than in recent years. CGA's Brandtrack survey conducted at the end of 2020, shows that nearly half (46%) of consumers are seeking both quality and value when they eat out. This was especially true for older people - with those aged 65+ more likely than average to be looking for this combination.

The hospitality industry is still feeling the financial effects of the pandemic, helped in no small way by the ever-increasing problem of no-shows. A recent survey (GO Technology report from Zonal and CGA) shows that 12% more people are no-shows than they were before (the pandemic), with 14% failing to turn up to a reservation without telling the venue. According to the report this is costing the industry a whopping £17.6bn a year and rising.

And let's not forget the ongoing staffing issues, the hospitality industry's rising worker shortages, and vacancies at their highest since records began. Covid-19 and Brexit are cited as the major causes of the shortage, along with people leaving the industry post-furlough (source: BBC - 'Is there a solution to the hospitality staff crisis?').

It all adds to the pressure for venues to get their ducks in a row before we hit this potentially prosperous season. So it's imperative that you start your Christmas planning as soon as possible for your venue.

Here's our quick checklist of 12 things to get working on:

  • Online bookings: make sure that your online booking system is fully functioning, available from your website and social media pages, and configured with the correct opening times, menus, table layouts and so on. Test, and test again! get someone to check the whole process from start to finish - from booking to completion, and ensure your email confirmations and responses reflect any seasonal menus or booking information. Update your booking system to accept deposit payments if required - see below:

  • Booking policy: with the increase in no-shows, make sure you have a clear booking policy or consider updating yours to minimise potential losses over the festive period - booking deposits are commonplace these days, so maybe look at introducing one for your venue, for larger bookings in particular.

  • Menus: once your Christmas menus have been written, ensure you've printed them, displayed them on your website and social media pages & online booking system.

  • Marketing calendar: in a year that promises to be highly competitive, make sure you're ahead of the competition by planning your marketing from October through to the New Year. Create a workable marketing calendar for your online (social media, website, e-mail, PPC Ads) and offline (print, flyers, print advertising, posters, A-boards, brochures, menus) marketing - if you use an agency or have a marketing person make sure they are briefed in good time.

  • Email marketing: plan your Christmas email marketing campaign, starting in October, to ensure you keep your subscriber database informed about your festive offerings, booking policies, events, promotions and so on. Schedule regular (at least weekly) sends to keep your venue 'front of mind' as much as possible.

  • Social media: in-line with your marketing calendar, get your social media content planned ahead of time. Create any graphics or videos that you want to use ahead of time, brief your social media manager or agency so you stick to your calendar and avoid letting this important part of your marketing become an after thought during your busy period.

  • Website: get your website up to date as soon as you can, with your seasonal menus added and easily accessible from your website. Make sure you have access, or that your website manager, is able to do this as soon as you have your menus and Christmas information available.

  • Food orders: we're all aware of the supply-chain issues being experienced across all industries. So make sure your suppliers have your orders in good time, can commit to delivering to you on time and in full to avoid any gaps in your menus or expensive last-minute shopping!

  • Print: print companies have a lead-time throughout the year, even more so leading up to Christmas, so for any design work that you need printing ensure the artwork is ready and sent to the printers in good time. This includes items such as your menus, flyers, brochures, A-board posters, in-venue posters, Christmas cards, promotional offers, decorations, greaseproof paper, takeaway bags, beer mats, table tents, flyers and so on.

  • Point-of-Sale: getting your PoS updated and ready for any new menus can take time, or require the assistance of your vendor. Make sure you know how to, or have the right person on-hand, to make the necessary changes.

  • Promotions & Events: it's the most wonderful time...for events! so get your thinking cap on for how you can optimise your income from your festive events, group bookings, office parties, drink bundles, set menus, live music, bottomless brunches etc etc...people are looking for experiences, group fun and how to make the dreaded office party a little more enjoyable! So bring the good times to your customers & whatever you do, don't forget to shout about it (starting now!).

  • Staffing: an obvious one, but as mentioned earlier, good staff will be even harder to come by this winter, so do what you need to do to get recruiting or scheduling so you've got this side of things covered.

Let us help you.

These are just a few of the things you need to start thinking about - we're here to help if you need us, whether it's updating your website, planning & running your social media, design and print, promotion ideas or even just to lend an ear & help co-ordinate things for you, drop Matt a line on or 07951 470010.

Happy Christmas!!