Christmas can ring the bells on profit

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Economic pressure can hold a silver lining3663 client development manager Tim Doran has been working with the pubs, sharing expertise on the current...

Economic pressure can hold a silver lining

3663 client development manager Tim Doran has been working with the pubs, sharing expertise on the current market and advising how outlets like the Sell More Save More pubs, can make the most of the current market by planning carefully.

He says: "While consumers are still enjoying what's left of the British summer, many of our customers are already making great strides towards completing their festive offering. This year could prove to be a watershed for some outlets - consumers are currently facing mounting financial pressure, which is making them more watchful of their spending. In turn, eating out habits are changing with consumers dining out less, but spending more on each occasion.

"But the outlook is certainly not gloomy. Our research1 suggests that eating out is still the most popular out of home leisure activity - twice as popular as visiting the cinema or theatre - which gives caterers an opportunity to maximise sales this Christmas by offering a premium, indulgent and well thought out menu and festive experience that the consumer can't necessarily recreate at home.

"There are some key factors that need to be considered to ensure success: holding on to festive favourites, offering a diverse menu and making sure that customers are aware of your Christmas feast."

Festive favourites with a modern twist

Tim continues: "Turkey will remain the dominant meat, but we are seeing a shift towards part-prepared, premium, organic and free-range turkeys, as well as a renewal of interest for novelty birds like goose, and roasted poultry stuffed with other birds such as pheasant and partridge.

"For some, Christmas is all about indulgence and many people go for more premium, luxurious options when choosing their festive meal. But there is also a segment of the market who maintain their healthier eating regime throughout the festive period. Those trying to eat healthily at Christmas tend to steer towards salmon, but they will also consider duck, ham or bacon joints. Natural ingredients, ethical choices and provenance of meats and puddings are also likely to be hot choices this year."

Tim Robinson at the Rose & Crown near Faversham, Kent has incorporated a number of local and traditional flavours and seasonings to liven up some of his existing best selling dishes while at the same time adding festive stalwarts to create exciting and popular dishes as an extension of his existing menu.

Tim from 3663 adds: "Customers are still keen to see their favourite dishes at Christmas and visitors to the Rose and Crown will not be disappointed with the menu. Pubs need tried and tested menu items that use good raw, premium ingredients. Lamb confit and pork belly, which are proven good sellers, are also sensible choices as they can be seasonalised with traditionally festive sauces and accompaniments.

"Planning your Christmas dishes around your year-round menu will help you minimise wastage and ensure that you're not targeting customers with dishes that are too niche for their tastes. It's also important from an operational point of view to make sure that whoever is cooking the dishes is able to manage the Christmas menu operationally - too many extra dishes to prepare, and complex recipes can affect the quality of your offering."

Tim recommended that the Rose and Crown incorporate some traditional Christmas flavours and seasonings - some of which are current superfoods - such as cranberries, redcurrants and ginger as well as cinnamon, mixed spice, star anise, and mulled wine.

"Where you do choose to go for a really innovative and exciting dish using love-or-hate ingredients, like a chestnut soup for example, it's good to have an alternative offering with a broad appeal available, such as a soup made with winter vegetables like butternut squash, pumpkin, or honey roast parsnip, so that your menu still appeals to a wide audience."

In the spirit of sharing

"According to 3663 data, consumers are starting to pick up on the sharing occasion - a phenomenon that's proving popular elsewhere in Europe," Tim says. "This trend is a perfect opportunity to offer smaller or lighter portions to customers, not only with your starters offering but also your desserts. Sharing will help encourage upselling without making the consumer feel that they have overspent or overindulged."

Graham Bulpett from the Priory Arms - representing community pubs in Sell More, Save More - agrees. He is launching the Christmas menu this week at www.theprioryarms.co.uk and has taken smaller portions into consideration as part of the menu planning process.

"We have a number of customers who prefer the children's portions to the larger servings, especially when it comes to our Sunday roast and we have taken cognisance of this in the design of our Christmas menu. Sharing platters have also been doing well in our pub for some time now and we are retaining them in the long term."

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