Christmas Checklist: 12 ways to profit

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If your summer was washed out, Christmas could be your last chance to make up for lost revenue, so it's especially important to get it right this...

If your summer was washed out, Christmas could be your last chance to make up for lost revenue, so it's especially important to get it right this year. But before you deck the bar with half a holly tree and chuck a mile of tinsel at your chalkboards, it's worth taking time to plan your marketing and promotional activity to make the most of the opportunities the festive season brings.

'Tis the season to make money, so bring some festive cheer to your business and get the tills ringing with these 12 tips - one for every day of Christmas.


In terms of your decorative scheme, it doesn't matter whether you've gone tartan mad or minimalist silver and white, it's important to differentiate between aesthetic material that makes your pub feel Christmassy and anything carrying a selling message. So keep sales hotspots like the centre of the back-bar and your chalkboards free from clutter. Use these prime spaces to concentrate on a few key brands and offers to make decision making easy for your customers when the Christmas crush at the bar kicks in.

Up for promotion

It's not too late to ask your drinks suppliers what branded decorations or promotions they can supply or even to devise your own promotions. Keep it simple to avoid tying up staff or selling space - snacky meal deals like 'a pint and a mince pie' are ideal and would work really well with one of the brewers' festive specials.

Driving indulgence

Don't disregard the softs - make sure your range of premium soft drinks is visible on your back-bar to stop the designated drivers opting out to go home after their umpteenth half of cola. Family-focused pubs could look at kid-friendly non-alcoholic cocktails to satisfy the festive treat occasion.

A special something

It's not just parents who will be in an indulgent mood - many of your customers will be more willing to trade up and treat themselves to something special, so make sure your range of liqueurs, sparklers and cocktails is prominently on display.

New faces

Christmas will bring a higher than usual proportion of non-regulars, so it's important to clearly signpost things like your service points and outside smoking area, and to brief staff to be on the look-out for anyone who seems a bit lost.

Dress up outdoors

To make the most of all the distant relatives, work dos and Christmas shoppers looking for somewhere to take a break, get the outside of your pub looking suitably celebratory and use external signage to flag up what's on offer in the run-up to the big day - including events like party nights, carol singing or even a visit from Santa.

Snacking and sharing

Moving back inside, look at using tent cards on tables and your chalkboards to promote snacking and sharing options. This will tempt groups to stay a while longer for something to eat (and drink). This is also an opportunity to push seasonal favourites like mulled wine.

Team effort

Don't forget your staff - at this frantic time of year they'll appreciate some incentives to keep smiling (and selling). Try simple-to-measure and achievable goals like increased sales of puddings or liqueurs during the festive period, with tangible rewards such as high street gift vouchers up for grabs for the top performers. You could even put a 'fest-o-meter' up in the staff room to measure everyone's progress.

Target diners

By now, if you have a formal dining offering you should hopefully have healthy bookings for Christmas. Particularly if your dining area is separate to the main bar, make sure that the tables carry information about current and upcoming events and promotions. It doesn't have to be brash - a tasteful postcard or leaflet tucked into the menu holder should do the job and could even continue your decorative theme.

Keep it clear and simple

If you regularly put flyers round your neighbourhood or advertise in the local press, make sure your communications in December make three things clear: when you're open, what's on and where you are. Sounds simple, but you'd be amazed how many publicans miss out this crucial information in the frenzied atmosphere of the Christmas build-up.

If you have a website, now's the time to update it with information on seasonal events, menus and opening hours.

New Year's Eve

It's well worth planning a few hours in your diary now between December 27 and 30 to refresh your decorative scheme and back-bar, and get your selling messages ready for New Year's Eve. It's an opportunity to focus on more of a party atmosphere and to promote big sellers like champagne.

Bouncing back in January

Looking forward, both your Christmas and New Year's Eve marketing efforts should include some 'bounce-back' activity to encourage your customers to return in January 2008. So make sure any events you have planned for then are highlighted on menus, flyers and so on.

Food-led venues could consider giving diners in December a discount voucher against a meal taken in January. Drinks promotions are obviously more problematic so the emphasis here might have to be on promoting upcoming live entertainment in January to draw people back in.

Gemma Teed is a strategic planner at marketing communications agency Brahm

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