Profitable Christmas: Cut seasonal costs

Save money: Make sure your Christmas lights use low-energy LEDs

With consumer spend expected to drop this Christmas, the last thing you’d want is for your business expenses to eat away at your potential profits, but there are several small, low cost initiatives you can implement now to tackle your growing outflow.

While all operators look forward to the increased trade that Christmas brings, most would rather do without the accompanying hike in heating bills.

Not to mention the added costs of hiring temporary staff, lighting up the darker afternoons and running festive decorations like fairy lights.

And with consumer spend expected to drop this season, the last thing you’d want is for your business expenses to eat away at your potential profits.

But there are several small, low cost initiatives you can implement now to tackle your growing outflow, from gas and electricity, to staffing and food costs too.

Save energy

“Hospitality businesses could save hundreds of pounds a year, but this will only come from doing a number of energy-saving initiatives. There’s no way of generating a single one-off saving, you have to tackle them all,” says Wayne Mitchell, head of corporate sales for nPower.

This involves splitting your money and energy-saving initiatives into three camps: no cost, low cost and high cost.

“Things that you, your employees and customers can do like closing exterior doors, turning lights and appliances off when you’re not using them are all no cost initiatives. You can also set the heating thermostat to certain temperature, your hot water temperature a degree lower, all at no cost.

“All this group of energy-saving ideas takes is employees being more aware of what they are consuming and the savings they can make. It’s all about changing behaviour.”

The second category, he says, involves small changes like switching from regular light bulbs to energy saving; using LED fairy lights, which also use less energy; and buying small pieces of equipment that will make big changes.

The final category involves making a capital investment into the energy efficiency of large appliances, like fridges and freezers, as well as your business’s building itself.

“Businesses are being advised to leave their heating on overnight to avoid pipes freezing and bursting, but those with insulated buildings won’t need to do that. Insulating a property is cheap, especially roof space.”

Waste not want not

Another no cost way to reduce your outgoings is to monitor the amount of food your business is throwing away.

A recent survey conducted by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SPA) showed that the average kitchen could save between £150 and £1.7k on waste collection each year by reducing its food waste by just 20 per cent.

Almost two thirds of food waste was found to come from preparation alone, while a further 30 per cent was attributed to leftovers coming back to kitchens on diners' plates.

The SRA suggests that if operators want to save money on wastage that they monitor leftovers to eliminate dishes or foods that frequently return to the kitchen, avoid supersizing portions, reuse prep waste for other dishes (e.g. orange peel for marmalade), store produce correctly to avoid spoilage.

Extra help

Hiring extra staff to look after all the extra diners or guests you’ll be having during the Christmas period can also be a costly exercise.

But instead of paying for advertisements with agencies or in local newspapers, Krishnan Doyle, managing director of COREcruitment suggests operators post free adverts at local universities and colleges, where students are likely to have some hospitality experience already.

“No matter where you get temps from you will still have to have some sort of training in place because you’re letting them loose on your customers and they’re representing your business.

“Having that 15 minute briefing session with your whole team each morning or before each service is very important. If you don’t preen your temporary staff to get what you want out of them they may end up letting you down and costing you and your reputation in the long term.”

If at points you realise you have taken on too many staff for the shift, Doyle believes it is still acceptable to send a member of staff home, provided they have worked a minimum of four hours.

By implementing these measures, hospitality operators should manage an increase in their potential profit margin over Christmas, ensuring that they too have a season to feel festive about.

Read more articles in this series here.

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