For the hospitality industry, it seems that every year Christmas is coming earlier and earlier. With offerings getting bigger and better year on year, it’s important not to get left behind and start planning early.
Gail Bridgeman, campaign and activation manager for foodservice wholesaler Bidvest 3663 says: “Our customers are certainly starting to plan now; restaurants and hotels often start in July and August with regards to collating information and doing a bit of research. Pubs and bars are a little bit later, around September time, though it depends how important Christmas is to them.”
With so much competition from other hospitality operators during the festive season, it’s important to make your venue stand out. To help operators find inspiration we tracked down some of the most innovative ideas hitting the industry this season, as well as top tips to make sure the season goes with a bang.
Innovation at Christmas
A number of hotels, restaurants and bars will be trying something different for Christmas this year. This could be as simple as a special Christmas menu, or perhaps some festive entertainment. Many hotels will issue special Christmas packages, which could include overnight stays with a twist.
Director of sales and marketing at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Katherine Gordon says: “With our Christmas packages it’s always about trying to come up with something a little bit different with a fun and creative element. We have a festive afternoon tea, and then with our Christmas delight package those travelling with children can get a visit from Santa."
Other hotels are changing things up by offering slightly different Christmas activities that can work well with groups of friends or colleagues.
This year guests at the Landmark London can book a group in for the ‘Christmas Pudding Club’, which offers up to 12 people the chance to enjoy a personalised cooking experience which includes mixing and steaming their own Christmas pudding and learning how to blend cocktails which are inspired by the festive season.
“When we came up with this concept what we really wanted to do was inject some excitement into the typical offering and do something we could link to the holiday itself,” explains deputy director of conference and banqueting at The Landmark London Katerina Hardman. “People can go for a meal of course, but we wanted to take it to a different level and consider how we could engage people with the hotel itself. At an activity like this customers can interact with their friends and colleagues in a different, more fun filled manner.”
There’s little point putting on original Christmas events and packages happening in your restaurant or bar if nobody gets to hear about them. While bigger venues can use outdoor advertising and listings publications to get themselves noticed, smaller operators can be active in their advertisements too. Using their own websites, keeping active on their social media feeds, and placing adverts on venue advertising websites are all ways that operators can get their plans noticed by the public.
It also important to use the right type of advertising and think about what sort of audience it is aimed towards, with venues having to consider whether they plan to attract mainly corporate or leisure clients. Larger corporate clients tend to book spaces for their Christmas functions earlier, while leisure guests will look later and are often interested in booking weekend slots.
Gordon explains: “Our customers are mostly corporate and we tend to advertise in events publications and issue press releases as well. But social media is becoming an increased part of our advertising, so we make sure to use all channels to promote ourselves.”
Top tips on how to secure Christmas bookings:
BigHospitality talked to Tommy Shane from UK venue advertising website Hire Space, who offered some tips on what has worked for restaurants and hotels who advertise themselves as venues for Christmas parties and events through the website.
1. Great photos win the day.
“This is always the case, but at Christmas time venues need to plan their photos even earlier ahead of time,” says Shane. “Our most successful Christmas venue last year, Montague on the Gardens, had detailed photos of its Ski Lodge pop-up circling by August. It took a huge number of bookings after we put it into its profile.”
2. Get these photos going viral.
“Venues should have a strong social media presence and inventive marketing, with engaging copy, competitions and hashtags,” explains Shane. “More specifically, given that it is personal assistants that will be making the bookings, restaurants and hotels would do well to engage with influential PA social media handles.”
3. Target businesses earlier than you might think
“As soon as summer starts dying down, people start realizing Christmas is soon approaching,” says Shane. “August has been a huge month for Christmas bookings for us. Get businesses in for tastings and showcase the venue and have Christmas package literature ready.”
4. Venue agencies will be doing valuable business with corporates.
Shane says: “Showcase your venue to them and offer an extra commission bonus to set you apart from the rest.”
5. Don't limit yourself to December.
“We saw lots of 'late Christmas parties' last year taking place in January,” adds Shane. “Do some marketing around ‘January Christmas parties’ and have some special deals to entice businesses that want your venue but have missed out on the dates.”
Looking for extra staff over the Christmas period? Then why not use our job board BigHospitalityJobs – click here to find out more.