Stocking up for Christmas: Planning & Equipment

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Hamlet hopes for happy ChristmasHamlet is a cigar called Happiness - at least it will be for Christmas. Gallaher is temporarily rebranding its market...

Hamlet hopes for happy Christmas

Hamlet is a cigar called Happiness - at least it will be for Christmas. Gallaher is temporarily rebranding its market leading cigar for the duration of festivities in a move that reflects the narrowing marketing options available to tobacco companies.

Christmas is a big time for cigars but this will be the first one under the advertising ban that came into force last February.

Although, in a market that's been declining for 10 years, it's too early to say what impact the enforced "dark marketing" is having overall, latest sales figures suggest that smokers are sticking with what they know. Brands that, over the years, have built up a strong personality can continue to glow through the ad black-out.

Hamlet is seeing the benefit of four decades of award-winning, memorable advertising. Over the past year its share of the quaintly named "large whiffs" sector has grown by 1.8 per cent to reach 55 per cent, the highest since 1996.

"The advertising ban means it is up to us to innovate, to do things differently and make use of our heritage," said brand manager Michael Cox-Hill. "More than 80 per cent of smokers recall Hamlet's advertising strapline."

That strapline - "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet" - is cunningly evoked in the Christmas rebranding - Happiness from Hamlet - to make a link between Hamlet and happiness that would probably not be possible in any other way.

Although the giant "smoking kills" warning on the pack might arguably detract from the happy feelings.

Top cigars

On-trade market share last Christmas (large whiffs)

  • Hamlet:​ 60%
  • Castella Classic:​ 24%
  • Henry Wintermans:​ 7%
  • Panama:​ 6%
  • Others:​ 3%

Avoid an ice crisis

A busy bar is just what you want at Christmas - but are you sure you're completely prepared? According to Hubbard Ice Systems the thing licensees are most likely to run out of is ice. And these days, as the company points out, customer expectations mean that if you've no ice you might as well have no spirits.

"Bars will make plans to cope with extra demand for drinks at Christmas, they'll plan to cope with the need for more glassware - but they'll forget about the ice until it's too late," said Hubbard's commercial director Chris Davis.

Chris offers the following tips:

  • Keep your ice-maker working at optimum efficiency by cleaning it properly and regularly.
  • The cooler the water going into the machine and the more ventilation there is around it, the faster it can make ice.
  • Although you shouldn't rely on it completely, a cache of ice in the freezer can provide a useful emergency back-up. Use clear, tough freezer bags, date them and seal them tightly. Remember ice can absorb food smells, so don't use old ice.
  • Bagged ice is more expensive than making it in your own machine but if you do buy some make sure it's good quality from a reputable supplier. Remember thimble-shaped "cubes" melt more slowly than tube-shaped.


Play it cool in the kitchen

Have you noticed how, as the weather gets colder, your kitchen needs more refrigeration?

Whatever the weather might be like outside, seasonal parties and the insatiable desire to celebrate pushes up demand, and that has an impact on your cold storage space especially in the few weeks before Christmas when it can be hard to find fresh produce.

Now is a good time for an upgrade and with that in mind refrigeration firm Apuro has brought out a dramatically expanded range in time for Christmas and is advising licensees to urgently review their needs.

And if you're not sure how to do that, Total Refrigeration is offering a free refrigeration audit.

The company will visit your pub, establish your refrigeration needs, recommend any additional equipment and estimate the cost of managing your system. If you're happy with what you've got you should also check out your maintenance contract to make sure it doesn't need updating.


Time to raise the bar

Christmas brings more cash over the bar, but it also creates extra pressures on your business. You have got to both maintain high levels of customer service and make sure your staff don't get too stressed. You also want to improve your efficiency to maximise the opportunity that's there.

Now is the time to think about how efficiently your bar is operating and whether it can be improved.

Bar designer BarOlympic has launched a new service called Bar Upgrade, essentially a makeover for your bar that aims to maximise efficiency and improve drinks service.

BarOlympic promises that it doesn't so much mean buying new equipment as rearranging what you already have.

"It may mean replacing some pieces of kit, it may not," says the company. "It may mean adding to your bar, it may mean taking something away. But what it will certainly mean is that your bar will end up working harder for you - and that you will work more easily."

Bar Upgrade starts with a visit from BarOlympic to audit the bar and assess equipment, layout, traffic and demand. A brief report will give a menu of recommendations plus prices.

If you want to go ahead with all or part of the work you will get a more detailed quotation and a schedule designed to minimise disruption of your trade.

Of course, without major works there is no way to expand the physical size of your bar to cope with the demands of the season - or is there?

BarOlympic has also come up with a possible solution in the shape of a mobile bar which can be wheeled in and out as and when you need it. You can set it up in minutes for the whole Christmas period or just for parties.

The BarOlympic Mobile can be tailored to your outlet and the size you need. It features a full under-bar system that can include everything from bottle dumps to cocktail stations, sinks, water and waste.

And if you buy a larger one made up of multiple sections you can also split them up to use in different rooms.


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