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How to make the most of Easter at your pub

By Emily Sutherland , 19-Feb-2016

Keeping children happy is the key to a successful Easter event
Keeping children happy is the key to a successful Easter event

With two bank holidays book-ending a weekend, Easter is potentially one of the most lucrative dates in the pub trade calendar.

This year, Easter comes relatively early (25-28 March), giving pubs another big weekend of business just three weeks after Mother’s Day. But the shorter lead time also brings the possibility of getting caught on the hop if plans aren’t ironed out at the earliest opportunity.

Easter is very much a family occasion and it’s the pubs that recognise this that stand to maximise the profit opportunity. Amy Ledger,
marketing manager at Italian wine and liqueurs supplier Continental Wine & Food (CWF), says: “Easter is the first really big opportunity for a family celebration after Christmas and it is a great chance to generate incremental revenue.”

Food is the biggest single sales opportunity according to Ledger, who recommends easy-to-understand offers, such as kids eat free with a booking for a family of four or more. Seasonal spring produce, themed specials and an Easterised kids menus are all ways the package on offer can be made more attractive during the holiday weekend.

Bestway Wholesale urges licensees not to arrive at the big weekend unprepared, and has a number of items on two-month price-hold deals to allow pubs to plan well in advance. These include fresh lamb and gammon joints for family lunches along with desserts and sparkling wine.

Ron Hickey, catering and on-trade sales director of Bestway, says the early Easter potentially makes it more challenging to secure bookings this year, and suggests special food promotions to attract families.

“The offer of a set price per head for a family meal can make all the difference,” he says. “Our price-holds for March and April will enable customers to promote menus with confidence the prices will be guaranteed.”

While food offers great margin and profit opportunities, family Easter dining occasions can also contribute significantly to wet sales.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) trade communications manager Donna Pisani says: “Family gatherings often include sitting down to enjoy a meal together, and sales of beverages alongside food can be a key way of providing incremental growth.

“CCE research shows that two additional drinks for each person at a table of four can help to increase a total bill by an average of 43.7%.”

The family nature of Easter presents publicans with an opportunity to make soft drink serves special, not just those for alcoholic drinks. And Pisani suggests that bank
holiday breaks are the perfect time to tempt customers with a range of mocktails.

She adds: “In Europe, many consumers are personalising Coca-Cola by adding other ingredients, such as fresh mint, ginger slices or elderflower. This may be something bar staff could try to add some theatre to their soft drinks offering.”

It’s also a time that pubs can get creative with grown-up drinks by offering simple Easter cocktails, especially using creamy or chocolatey liqueurs such as Baileys (see box below).

Ashley Moore, category development manager at brand owner Diageo, says: “Ensure cocktail menus are interesting and visually attractive with enticing images and appealing descriptions. Using chalkboards and eye-catching menus can inspire undecided consumers to choose a profitable cocktail.”

Hi-Spirits supplies Brown Cacao and White Cacao varieties in its Volare cocktail liqueur range. They can be used to make Easter-themed cocktails or hard shakes, and add a kick to desserts when mixed with cream. “A chocolate Martini is a really simple premium Easter serve,” says managing director Dan Bolton.

Chocolate can also play a part in your beer range. Charles Wells produces the famous Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, made with the addition of real dark chocolate, while US brewer Brooklyn makes an intensely flavoured Chocolate Stout, achieved through heavy roasting of malts. Its beers are sold through importer James Clay.

Farnham, Surrey, brewer Hogs Back Brewery has turned the chocolate beer thing on its head with its Chocolate Lager, which results from a collaboration with the chocolate brand Montezuma’s.

Roasted malts produce dark beer, but instead Montezuma’s was made with an essence extracted from the chocolate to achieve a beer that’s lighter in colour and based on the brewery’s Hogstar lager.

Chocolatey drinks will keep the adults occupied but, as every parent knows, it’s keeping the kids happy that makes family occasions fly.

Easter egg hunts are the go-to entertainment for this holiday and can be repeated across the
weekend, as a late morning lead-in to lunchtime, or as a
post-lunch activity to increase dwell-time.

Ledger at CWF advises using ceramic or plastic eggs for the actual hunt which can then be exchanged for mini-chocolate eggs when found. The fake eggs can then be hidden again for later visitors.

Kids’ eagerness to find the prizes can sometimes mean hunts are over in a flash, so Ledger advises that a range of other activities are lined up.

“If you have outside space and are looking to attract families, make sure you have a range of outdoor games to keep the kids entertained,” she says.

“If the weather is poor, consider allocating a corner to create a kids’ activity zone. Kit it out with paper, crayons, felt-tips and print out lots of Easter-themed colouring-in pages, quick and easy quizzes and simple-to-make masks.

“The cost is small compared with how pleased families will be that an effort has been made to engage and entertain their children.

“The more enjoyable the experience, the more likely parents are to stay and enjoy a dessert or an extra bottle of wine — and the more likely they are to come back another time.”