Get Christmas Cracking!
It’s that time of year again to start scrambling around the store cupboard and dust off your trusty decorations – yes, the annual ‘trim-up’ has arrived! Whether you go for full-on glitzy, quirky and original or just sophisticated and subtle, how you decorate your premises is important. With the number of people anticipated to eat out increasing this year according to research from Horizons, customers’ reactions to your decorations could determine the extent of your sales.
When to decorate?
Christmas preparations are getting earlier each year. According to figures from HospitalityGEM 59% of Christmas events are being planned at least three months ahead of the festive season – however, beware of putting your decorations up too soon, as you may scare off customers. If you have bookings for November then let the dust settle from Bonfire Night before you start ‘decking your halls’, otherwise, mid-November is fine.
Out shine the competition
Customers flock in coach loads to The Hanging Gate at Chapel-en-le-Frith, in the Peak District to see the pub with the most decorations in Britain! It takes landlord Mark Thomas three weeks to decorate the pub, which includes a 160-seat restaurant with 35,000 twinkling lights and 7,000 sparkling baubles. “We’ve been doing it for 25 years,” said Mark. “It started small but because the customers were impressed each year we’ve added to it and it’s got bigger and bigger!” They have different themes each year, which have included a gold room, indoor Igloo and a Frozen room. “It brings in families as the kids love it,” adds Mark. The cost each year is £1,000 – but for an operator to set this beaming operation up from scratch it would cost a dazzling £20,000. “It’s money well spent, as the money we make over Christmas helps to carry us through the following three months,” said Mark.
If Christmas trees and tinsel make you shudder at the thought then opt for something less traditional. Subtle festive ornaments and candles on mantlepieces are simple but effective. The Last Wine Bar in Norwich sticks to minimal decorations. “We have always wanted to be different from other places so don’t have a Christmas tree or tinsel, just a few lights around the bar,” said George Dack, head chef. The Old Sergeant and The Pig & Whistle, both in Wandsworth, South London decorate their pubs with Santa hats! Licensees Keris and Lee De Villiers wanted something that wasn’t traditional, but eye-catching, and the theme raised money for charity because the hats are sold to customers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for £1 – and it means they’ve no decorations to take down.
Doing it for the kids
Christmas is, after all, for the little ones, so why not invite Santa to your premises! Last year, the Prince of Wales in Risca, South Wales built a Santa’s grotto – complete with reindeers – and thanks to its success are doing it all again this year. Landlord Jason Salmon invited the local Salvation Army brass band along and wrapped 100 selection boxes as gifts for the children on 21 December. “We are a little bit isolated so wanted to do something that would put us on the map,” said Jason. “We wanted it to be a community event, and make local people aware that we are a child-friendly environment.” The pub charged each child £2.50 to visit Santa and receive a gift. “While we didn’t make a profit, the activity wasn’t about making money – the idea was to build up the goodwill of the community,” explained Jason. “And we’ve since recouped the cost as sales have increased this year by 50%.”
Your table should be as well presented as your interior. Customers love – and expect – a good table setting when they come for the Christmas menu or to eat on the day itself. The choice of crackers, napkins and tableware is endless, so you can’t fail to make a good impression. And why not throw in some party hats, blowouts and party poppers for the fun of it? If you know children are eating consider festive headbands, reindeer antlers or Santa hats on the table to make them cheer. Little extra touches show the customer you are willing to go that extra mile for their special day and it will encourage them to visit again.
Fun and festive seasonal disposables will encourage customers to spend more. If you are an outlet that serves on-the-go hot drinks then the festive styles will bring a smile to your loyal customer. Equally, to improve sales have a takeaway cup available for your tea and coffee offerings. Adding this option – whatever your outlet – will boost trade, especially on Christmas lunches when people have to leave to return to work and don’t have time to stay any longer. The range of hot cups made in the UK from PEFC Chain of Custody Certified Board has more than doubled in size this year due to its huge popularity in 2015, when each design sold out in the run up to Christmas.