How to prepare your pub or restaurant for the Christmas holidays buzz

Festive Season

How to prepare your pub or restaurant for the Christmas holidays buzz

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Holidays are coming…

But is your pub or restaurant ready for them?

There’s no denying Christmas can be one of the happiest and busiest times of the year for pub and restaurant owners.

Bookings are hopefully full. Customers are merry. It’s what you went into business for, right?

So, to help make sure you’re fully prepared for a profitable Christmas, here’s an inventory of essential areas you need to be thinking about now.

Invest in a decent booking system

Christmas is a social season and between office parties, friends catching up, festive date nights, and family gatherings, you’ll likely see an influx in bookings - not just in the days running up to Christmas, but December as a whole.

To make sure they’re all manageable and nothing - or no-one - slips through the cracks, don’t fall at the first hurdle. Invest in a reliable booking system. 

Taking it digital will make it much easier for you to manage bookings, changes, and cancellations without worrying about the ramifications, as well as enable you to seamlessly see and organize things like staff rotas and stock in one place, too.

Looking to upgrade your booking system? We’ve got a POS system for that.

Promote, promote, promote

There’s no use in investing in a fancy booking system if no-one knows to book!

Think about your promotional strategy and plan far, far in advance. Supermarkets started stocking their shelves with Christmas deliciousness back in September, so the earlier the better (we would perhaps draw the line at August, though!).

When you’re planning your promo, think about the various channels available to you too:

  • Your website
  • Social media (incl. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, even LinkedIn if you’re thinking office parties)
  • Email
  • In your windows/on your tables
  • Putting an ad in local papers/businesses
  • Flyers in other shops’ windows (with permission, of course).

When it comes to your social media strategy, don’t worry if you’re not an absolute pro. No-one expects you to be winning awards for the best social post of the year anytime soon, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

If you’re looking for some inspiration consider:

  1. Scouting out nearby pubs or restaurants on social media who you know do very well when it comes to getting bums on seats,
  2. Scrolling through their social archives to last Christmas, and
  3. Seeing how they went about drumming up interest.

Make sure you’re all stocked up

Okay, so you’ve booked people in and promoted your Xmas offering, the only way you can fail from here is if you don’t have enough stock to give your customer what they want…

Enter a savvy POS stocking system.

Use your bookings to gauge whether you need to order extra turkey, spuds, yorkies, beer, and so on, and plan ahead using the data at your fingertips (factoring walk-ins into the equation too, of course).

Think about repeat business

Getting more customers in for Christmas is great. But don’t forget to plan beyond Christmas, too.

While you’ve got people dining or drinking at your establishment, think about how you can encourage them to continue returning in the New Year as well.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Offer a 15% discount on another meal in January (be sure to put a time limit on the offer so they return soon, before they forget).
  • Start a loyalty card scheme whereby if they dine with you four more times, they get 50% off their final meal. 
  • Let them know about exciting offers and plans you have scheduled for the New Year.

The world’s your oyster - get creative.

Don’t scrimp on the decorations

Who doesn’t love a restaurant charismatically dressed head to toe in Christmas decorations, eh? It provides the perfect backdrop for any meal or drink and if done really well, the word of mouth on your decs alone can spread like wildfire and drive more people through your door.

Now we’re not saying you need to pay an arm and a leg for high-end Christmas decor - far from it. In fact, sometimes, the cheap and cheerful stuff can actually add more personality. But just don’t hold back.

We know the good old saying is ‘quality over quantity’ but on this occasion, our advice is to flip it on its head.

Triple-check your rotas

We’ve all been there. We’re at a restaurant. We’ve ordered our drink. Before the drinks even arrive, we’re asked for our food order. 15 minutes later, the drinks arrive. An hour after we’ve arrived, the food lands on the table. The food was nice and afterward, we want a dessert. But we question if we have enough time to wait 45 minutes for the dessert to arrive.

The drinks were lovely. The food’s delicious. The staff perfectly polite. But the service time was loooong.

Don’t let understaffing be the reason customers walk away with a bad experience. 

Make sure you’re keeping an eye on what bookings are coming in, bearing in mind walk-ins, and planning ahead to ensure you’ve enough staff on the rota.

Especially during the festive period, you can often get a lot of last-minute curveballs. You might get a call on Thursday about a last-minute booking for a table of 15 on Saturday and you’ll not want to turn that down, right.

To mitigate this, before the busy spell begins, have a conversation with your staff, let them know this kind of stuff might happen, and that you’d really appreciate their flexibility if it does. A little conversation can go a long way.

Make sure you can take their payments

We don’t need to tell you we’re heading towards an increasingly cashless society. Paying by card is commonplace in this day and age and to ensure ultimate customer satisfaction, you need to make sure every customer can pay exactly how they want.

Contactlessly. At their table. It’s table stakes these days.

You can probably see where we’re going with this one...but our POS systems facilitate just that - plus so much more.

Seasonal up-sells

Christmas t’is the season of giving, right?

With spirits high and wallets perhaps a little looser, the festive season is prime time to get people to splash a little bit more cash, so have a think about how you can subtly encourage your customers to order a little more.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Adding a glass of wine to anyone who orders a three-course meal
  • Giving away mince pies to anyone who orders a pudding
  • A glass of port with any cheeseboard
  • Buy two glasses of wine and get the rest of the bottle on the house

The possibilities are endless. 

If you put a deal out there and it doesn’t get much traction, try not to feel disheartened - it could be right deal wrong time, or wrong deal right time. Play around with a few different offers on different days until you find one that hits the customers’ spot.

Customise your menu

Have a think about how you can have some festive fun with your menu. Christmas tree-shaped crackers on your cheeseboard, add Xmas puddings to your dessert offering, sprout-based starters, cranberry brie bites, and of course, the full Christmas dinner shebang in all its glory.

As well as customising your standard menu, consider introducing a standalone, Christmas-themed menu too. It doesn’t need to be extravagant and put a strain on your kitchen, but perhaps just a couple of starters, mains, and desserts for people to pick from and start the festive feeding frenzy early.

Having a separate Xmas menu can help give your festive efforts more focus and if people are looking for places to have a Christmas meal with their mates, hopefully, your establishment will come straight to their minds.

Bonus: you can often charge a little more for themed menus, too.

Accommodate office parties

Throughout December businesses up and down the country will be throwing office shindigs - be sure to capitalise on it.

Have a think about how your pub/restaurant can house office parties - whether it be reserving a separate room or pushing tables together to create one big seating space, and what kind of offers you install to entice them in - i.e.: 

  • X bottles of wine for £XXX
  • Three-course meals for X employees for £XX per head
  • A free glass of prosecco for every person in the party.

Once you’ve worked out how you’ll accommodate office parties (and don’t rush this phase, the last thing you want is to do a half-arsed job and leave a poor impression on dozens upon dozens of customers), don’t forget to shout it from the rooftops! If you want businesses to consider you when hunting for their festive venue, they need to know you’re an option in the first place - promote, promote, promote.

And that’s a wrap. All that’s left to do now is wish you a pub/restaurant packed Christmas!


Jodie Wilkinson

Head of Strategic Partnerships

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