Forget December 1st; Christmas seems to be arriving earlier and earlier these days. But while your house might already look like Santa’s Grotto, the silly season can make or break for many hospitality businesses.
The festive season is typically when patronage could either go through the roof or through the floor. Some hospo businesses expect that the Christmas period is when they’ll earn the majority of their annual income. Sometimes that works out for them, and other times it doesn’t. This unpredictable nature understandably adds a lot of pressure and uncertainty to restaurant owners, produce suppliers and hotel managers alike.
Do Christmas Differently This Year
If last year was a bit of a fizzer, this year could be the one that boosts your bank balance. As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Plan ahead, and plan something different that sets you apart from your competitors, not to mention what you’ve always done.
For example, if you’re a cafe or restaurant owner, you could put on a special Christmas event complete with a feast, entertainment, mulled wine and festive cocktails. Think outside the square; Christmas carols might be lovely and traditional but a festive-themed bingo night might be more fun.
If you’re a hotel manager, it might be common for patronage to die down around Christmas. Create a special overnight package that encourages couples to put their feet up or let their hair down at one of the most stressful times of the year. It could include one night’s accommodation, a festive dinner for two at the hotel restaurant, and a class to learn how to make your own Christmas puddings or mix your own boozy cocktails at home.
Tell the World What You’re Doing
Once you’ve figured out what you’re doing for the silly season, it’s time to get the word out. Remember: it doesn’t matter how awesome your offering is; if you don’t tell anyone about it, no one will turn up.
Think about your audience and who you’re trying to attract most. You might get more end-of-year staff party bookings if you send emails to your database, while social media might be more suitable for those smaller, more intimate functions.
Upping Your Staffing
Having enough staff to manage the influx of patrons is essential at this time of year. Start advertising for Christmas and summer staff early; don’t wait until the rush has already started. Sign seasonal newbies onto casual contracts to give you flexibility around staffing, especially if the expected rush doesn’t happen and you need to let some people go. Staff training should also be a priority as it will improve productivity and profitability.
Filling Your Fridges
While it can be tempting to over-order for predicted rushes, don’t go overboard with your food orders unless you know you’ve got loads of big bookings already confirmed in the diary. Partner with great suppliers who can deliver more products and produce quickly so everything in your fridges remains fresher for longer. Avoid food wastage by instilling good food rotation practices, and make sure every staff member understands what they need to do if they see something running low.
Don’t forget to stay on top of your compliance obligations during this busy time too. While it might be tempting to focus on patrons when they’re lining out the door instead of staying on top of your record keeping, you also don’t want to get in trouble three months down the track when an inspector asks you for the records that you forgot to take. Managing your food control plan (FCP) digitally using software like Safe Food Pro will make your life easier and your business more compliant.
Go Back in Time
If you’re not sure what this silly season is going to look like, look back at how your food business performed this time last year and the year before. Of course, nothing in life is guaranteed but if you can see a pattern you can probably predict that the trend will continue this year.
Stay in Touch with Everyone Else
Keeping your friends close and your competitors closer is not a bad idea the closer we get to Christmas. Being informed about what your competitors are doing during this time will help you stay ahead of the pack. That’s not permission to copy what everyone else is doing though; be creative and innovative.
Finish the Year the Way You’d Like the Next to Start
With the end of another year on the horizon, it’s time to start looking beyond Christmas and summer and into the new year.
Tell us about how your food business is preparing for the silly season - in the comments below.