Braced for the Christmas rush

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A steady but unspectacular pre-Christmas period has not dampened the spirits of Yates's manager Paul Robinson ­ especially when the phone's at the...

A steady but unspectacular pre-Christmas period has not dampened the spirits of Yates's manager Paul Robinson ­ especially when the phone's at the Newcastle outlet started ringing off the hook with festive season bookings. Ewan Turney reports

Robinson refers to the past couple of weeks' steady sales as the "lull before the storm". The storm being the run-up to Christmas due to begin from thelast week of November. As usual, the footballhas helped to lift sales, with Newcastle having home matches on two consecutive weekends plus a mid-week UEFA Cup tie. "If it hadn't been for the football, we probably would have suffered quite a bit more."

He adds: "Bonfire night is traditionally bad for business across the estate and this year was no exception for us. People tend to go out with their families to organised fireworks displays. For us,it was a case of baton down the hatches and make sure we only had the staff levels we needed. Wesaw quite a dramatic drop in sales from a usual Friday night."

However, it wasn't all doom and gloom as Robinson was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from HQ at the beginning of November informing him that the company had just recorded its best ever food sales for a single week. This coincided with the introduction of the winter menu which is going "very well" according to Robinson. All Yates's managers are kept constantly updated on what is going on at the company, whether it be good or bad.

Robinson is also chuffed with his Christmas bookings. "I just counted them all up and we have taken £600 in deposits so far and I think we will get a lot more. The phone has been red hot this week." The pub will not be open on Christmas day as there isn't enough demand in the city centre. "It's a nice thing to be able to give something back to the team though," says Robinson. "They will have worked so hard in the lead up to Christmas they will deserve to have the day off." The bar will re-open at 6pm on Boxing Day.

Tomorrow (Friday) will see a winner emerge from the pub's pool competition. The regional winner will have fought off competition from 25 rivals and will not only earn the top prize of a pool cue, but also a trip to Solihull to compete in the Yates' national finals.

The company's social responsibility policy, BarSafe, went live on 1 November and one major change in Newcastle is an increase in the range of soft drinks. New additions include orange and lemon Fanta. The bar now offers half-price soft drinks on Friday and Saturday nights and free soft drinks to designated drivers in a group.

Robinson enjoys his work and is proud of his city-centre pub but there is one aspect of running a "local" pub he would like ­ closer contact with his customers. "We don't really have regulars in the traditional sense of the word. Sure, there are familiar faces but you rarely get the time for a one-on-one chat as it's usually too busy, so I suppose there'slittle chance to build a rapport."

But it's a different matter when it comes to creating team spirit. Second chef John Magnone is providing some light-hearted entertainment after hours. "He is a lovely lad who has been with us for over four years and he will do anything for you. But he thinks he is John Travolta or Michael Jackson after a couple of drinks. He likes to dance."

Robinson will be spending his Christmas day at home with his wife and three young kids, just hoping "the kids don't wake me up too early".

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