The mornings are getting darker, the temperature is slowing creeping back down to single digits and you’re sure you can hear Mariah Carey defrosting. All of which can only mean one thing; winter is coming! And for that you need to prepare.
Winter can often be a quieter trading time compared to summer for mobile businesses and bricks and mortar premises alike. As such, it is vital that you plan ahead, make the most out of your winter trade and address that festively clad elephant in the room; Christmas. It may seem too early to begin planning for Christmas but planning ahead for the festive season will give you the best chance of optimising your Christmas trade. Pre-emptive preparation for what is often a hectic and fast-paced time of year, will help you to deliver what you’ve promised, attract new customers and share in some festive fun with your regulars. Christmas planning could include taking deposits for Christmas Day bookings, updating your cancellation policy to cover unexpected no-shows or testing the efficacy of your equipment if it’s not been used since last year.
Read on to find some useful tips on how to make your sleigh ride smooth this winter:
Staffing – Have you got enough staff for the festive period? Planning your rota well in advance can help you to manage your staff levels which is especially important since Christmas can be a time of increased travel as people set off to see friends and family in all corners of the world. If you employ a lot of students maybe they are going home for Christmas, or coming back to your city from university. Either way, it is important that you ensure that you have enough well-trained staff on hand to see you through the festive season. It’s also important to remember that it is their Christmas too and they will be missing their own festive social events to support your business. Incentivise your staff with small but meaningful gestures to show your appreciation and motivate them to keep supporting your business.
Menu Prep – Tailoring a pre-existing menu or creating a new seasonal menu is a great way to increase profits and bring in new custom. Engaging with the seasonality of certain ingredients shows festive cheer (sprouts it’s your time to shine) and can be as simple as adding pigs in blankets as a side or renaming your staple fries to ‘Fries á la Frosty the Snowman’ for a few weeks. Menu preparation can also be helpful if you are planning on serving Christmas meals on or around the big day. Not only is it a chance for you to make your menu unique, exciting and enticing, encouraging customers to pre-book with their choices ensures you can better manage your stock and staff needs and have the day run smoothly.
Stock Supplies – If you are planning on hosting Christmas dinners or other festive feasts during the period, have you checked the lead time from your suppliers? Many suppliers are very busy at this time of year so ensure that your supplies will arrive on time and in the expected quantities to secure plate after plate of your seasonal delights. Consider asking customers to pre-select their menu choices so you know exactly how many portions of each dish you are expecting to make and can order your stock accordingly.
Deck the Halls – Engaging with the festive season need not be an expensive redesign of your menu or premises. Think about what small changes you might want to make to better engage with the season. Do you need to rearrange your seating so as to accommodate larger parties? Do you want to put on entertainment as well and if so do you have the space for it? Multi-experience spaces have grown in popularity and this is the perfect time of year to work with other independent businesses and provide your customers with more whilst benefitting from a shared customer base. Moreover, look to see what is happening in your local area and where possible get involved with local Christmas markets either with your own set up or some promotion that directs customers to your business.
Offer Deals and Discounts – Deals and discounts grow in popularity during the Christmas season and customers often expect some sort of set meal or promotional offer to entice them into new places. Set menus, happy hours and other promotional offers can encourage customers to try out new places, with less concern about expenditure. This then gives you the opportunity to create a lasting impression that will have people coming back to your establishment again and again in the new year. To encourage return custom, you could also offer January discounts to those who dined with you in December.
You might also want to consider:
- Offering gift cards/vouchers that people can purchase as presents.
- Staggering bookings so that you do not overload your business with more customers than you can handle.
- Submitting your details to local/city Christmas guides (such as Visit Birmingham or Visit Manchester etc.) as a must-visit for those in the area.
- Upselling by adding seasonal sides or Christmas cocktails to your menu.
The Christmas season can be as fruitful as your Gran’s Christmas pudding and planning ahead is the first step to making it a profitable time of year. Taking small cost-effective steps to engage with the season can be an easy way to increase footfall thereby increasing your profits during a typically quieter period. As the old adage says ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ so take the time to consider what works best for your business and you’ll be rocking your way around the Christmas tree in no time!
Keep an eye out for more useful tips on optimising your trading here.