Restaurateur Alert: My Top 5 Christmas Planning Tips

I’m spending a lot of time at the moment advising my clients on what they need to do to make the most of the Christmas period. I thought it would be useful to share some of my top tips because, quite frankly, it’s hard enough for independent restaurateurs at the moment and often the ‘now’ is so consuming, there’s no time to look ahead..

BUT it really is SO important to be prepared at this time of year. If you leave these few simple tasks for another month I guarantee you will have lost out on potential business. If you do these things now, you are bound to reap the rewards with a busy bustling festive season and a solid January.

So don’t delay, don’t be afraid of writing to your customers, engaging and telling them what you’re doing for the next few months. Believe me, they want to know and are looking for reasons to book parties, dinners with friends and sort out their Christmas plans after all, right now, with summer holidays well behind us, we all need some fun stuff to look forward to..

So here are my first 5 Christmas Planning Top Tips for restaurateurs, these are the fundamentals. I’d love to know how you get on with them & well done if you’ve done them already!

1. Get, Set (menus) & Go!
Get your menus ready and on your website! If you haven’t already done this don’t kid yourself it’s ok, because, quite frankly, you’re already late.. as soon as people got their feet back under their desks after the summer hols, they started talking about the Christmas party and mulling over ideas, venues & budgets. So don’t dilly dally.. get on with it and put them up online.
Ideally create at least two menu price points – a basic three course and a higher value set menu for parties over the Christmas period. This can involve extra drinks/more luxurious ingredients or a complete package, a welcome drink, 3 courses, ½ bottle wine, water and tea/coffee etc – Corporate party planners will be very grateful!
2. Layers of Luxury
Consider what special menus will appeal – luxury items are a must at this time of year, as is the obligatory turkey dinner, but try and customise this perennial favourite to reflect your establishment and style of cooking, even if it’s just a few special touches, it really makes a difference. I’d also advise avoiding controversial ingredients for parties and larger group menus – foie gras, for instance, is fine on an a la carte, but could well put off party planners. If you’re the type of establishment that offers a menu gastronomique make sure you have one of these on offer that will really whet the appetite – everyone likes a bit of Christmas decadence so don’t be afraid to have a full blow out option available – just make sure you price it correctly to make your margins.
3. Don’t be Shy!
Email your database with your party, Christmas and New Year menus as soon as possible and don’t forget to add your festive season opening hours. Also advise booking early or face missing out on key dates, it’ll help you plan if you can get some dates in the diary well in advance.
Make sure your email is succinct, snappy and reflects the tone of your business. Don’t be too stuffy or formal – people switch off instantly. And don’t forget to add direct links to the specific pages on your website regarding party bookings, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve etc for ease of booking. Keep a short version of these details on all your emails from now till December 25th.
4. Table It
Get yourself some tent cards or some other collateral for your tables that highlights your event spaces, Christmas party, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve options, whatever’s applicable. ALWAYS also make sure you have space for them to fill in details to add to your database (which of course you’ve been updating meticulously throughout the year anyway!) and incentivise where possible – a monthly draw for a bottle of wine or free dinner – that sort of thing.
5. Incentivise
DON’T get so carried away with Christmas that you forget about planning ahead for January, as this can be a lean month for many operators. Put in an incentive offer for guests returning in January who hold a party or dine with you in November/December. Consider real value propositions – a complimentary bottle of wine with dinner for 2, a complimentary starter etc – whatever you feel is appropriate and absorbable within the business but that will truly make an impact for your guests. 5% off just ain’t gonna cut it these days.

And of course, if you need any help planning, writing or doing any of these tasks, you know where to come..