Add extra incentives
Christmas is a special time of year for most people, so you have to make sure you make them feel it, says Paul West, managing director of Ignite Hospitality Consultants.
“Add value from offering a glass of sparkling wine on arrival to putting effort into the decoration and style of your venue so that when people arrive they feel the venue is in the celebratory mood they want to be in.”
Reward loyal customers if you can afford to, with little gifts like a free coffee, an aperitif or a mince pie. “Customers are always pleased by an offer like this and it goes a long way in building loyalty,” says Peter Backman from foodservice consultants Horizons.
It’s particularly important to add this extra value at hotels, as people staying in a hotel over Christmas want to be looked after, adds West.
“Make sure you pay attention to your decorations, serve a gorgeous smoked salmon Christmas breakfast and a great roast for lunch. Make your guests feel this is a special time of year.”
Themes, events and entertainment
Entertainment is another extra incentive and could tip the scales when people are deciding on their Christmas package. Adapt your entertainment to suit your market. For example a restaurant or bar booked out for an office party could bring in a DJ after 10pm. Or if your target is more sophisticated, invite a cellist.
You could also run a themed event on an evening that would otherwise be quiet and market the event to local businesses and clubs to try to get party bookings, suggests Backman.
“Consider running a special promotion for large groups – ‘book 10 and get one person free’. Price your menu carefully, so it attracts business but maintains your margins.”
Themed menus could inject a feel of exclusivity, he adds. “Put together a special themed menu perhaps a three-course dinner with accompanying wines. Let your customers know this is for a limited period only.”
Vouchers still count
Vouchers and special offers may be old school now, but at the end of the day they still work – especially when people are watching their wallets.
“If someone has got a voucher in their pocket, they are half way through your door already,” says Mark Pearson, chairman of MyVoucherCodes. “This is even more important at Christmas because it’s a busy time of year, people have a lot of social things going on and are likely to just want to go home in the evening and rest. So they need extra incentive to get them up and out.”
“It’s also an expensive time of year, so it’s a good time to discount. And once people are through the doors, they tend not to want to go.”
But the key in vouchers is to be creative and add value rather than selling your brand short.
If you’re discounting in a restaurant, don’t go for 10 per cent off as this won’t grab anyone’s attention. Offer a 50 per cent discount, but do it at quiet times when you can afford the space. Other offers you can think about are a free bottle of wine with a meal for four, or vouchers that target food only so you still get in the extra business you might expect from drinks over the Christmas period.
If you’re running a pub where the average spend is much lower, don’t be afraid of offers as they can be a way to get someone into your venue who might not otherwise have been there. Some bars offer free burgers, which are usually more than paid off by the drinks people buy.
But while you’re doing your best to attract the extra business, be careful not to try to squeeze too much margin out of Christmas instead of offering the expected hospitality to guests. All offerings must still be in line with what people are expecting, or they won’t be back.
Read more articles in this series here.