Enticing consumers to make their booking is the hard part and once they are in, encouraging them to part with more money is easier as long as the offer is right and the marketing material is in place.
Get the bookings
With venues fighting to attract customers more than ever this year, a little added incentive could make all the difference. Mitchells & Butlers’ high street brand O’Neills is giving away a bottle of Valloro Merlot Cabernet or Catarratto Chardonnay for groups of four or more booking before 1 November. It has two or three-course set menus or two party platters for parties to choose from.
The Hope in south-west London is also tempting customers to book early with the promise of a bottle of Prosecco when dining before Wednesday 14 December.
“To drive sales make sure that you’re offering customers real value for money; quality food at reasonable prices,” says Adéle Bird, channel marketing manager for Bel Foodservice UK. “Customers are conscious about the high cost of Christmas but are willing to spend money in order to enjoy the festive period. Keep people interested and coming back time and again by refreshing the menu, decorations and by building a rapport with customers.”
Ashton Hall at Lancaster Gold Club, part of the Bowland Village Inns estate, has a comprehensive Christmas offer. Prices start at £19.95 for a three-course meal and entertainment. On Christmas Day a six-course “deluxe” menu will be served from 12.30pm to 4pm. It costs £49.95 for adults and £24.95 for children and includes dishes such as roasted sirloin of British beef with all the trimmings. There are up to four choices per course.
Another three-course private Christmas luncheon menu is avail-able at a cost of £16.95 per head and includes three courses and coffee with dishes such as pan seared teriyaki tuna steak. Party menus are also available.
Christmas and New Year are traditionally the peak times for UK Champagne sales, according to wine supplier ViVAS. The company has launched a number of deals for the season in-cluding bottles of Bollinger Special Cuvée Champagne for £24.99 when buying two or more and cases of six Lanson Black La-bel Champagne are £120 — down 20%.
For licensees looking to get the best deal and consumers wanting to enjoy the festivities without breaking the bank, Prosecco and Cava are perfect Champagne substitutes. Cases of Prosecco di Prosecco are down by 28% to £39.99 and still provide a sense of occasion.
“Christmas is a great time to encourage trading up to boost profits through perceived added value,” says Henry John, marketing manager. “For example, simple cocktails make great festive drinks and offer attractive margins. A buck’s fizz (Champagne or Cava and orange juice) or a simple Moscow mule (vodka and ginger beer served over plenty of ice with a wedge of lime) make great wintery themed drinks.”
John also suggests licensees bring “a bit of theatre” to their pubs with a jug of hot mulled wine on the bar. Being in customers’ eyeline will prompt impulse buys and glasses can be sold with a 25% mark up on a glass of red wine.
It is also important for licensees and pub chefs to get in on the food and drink matching concept that is becoming more prevalent in dining venues. Christmas party menus can be matched to wines for each course to boost consumer confidence in the venue and push more expensive wines.
John recommends pairing smoked salmon with a crisp Chardonnay and classic turkey with a French Pinot Noir. He reminds licensees not to forget sale opportunities represented by desserts, such as sweet wine by the glass or port with cheese boards. Cheese boards are particularly profitable. They need little work to serve and customers are willing to pay 10% more for them than a dessert, according to Bel Foodservice. Add seasonal fruit and crackers for an attractive display.
Get the food right
Of course there will be a solid section of customers after the traditional turkey with all the trimmings. According to independent research Christmas is not Christmas without turkey for 87% of people, which means chefs needs to stock up on the classics.
Bernard Matthews has made it easier, particularly for smaller venues, by supplying smaller cuts instead of f
orcing caterers to cook whole birds. The Golden Norfolk range includes cooked and raw turkey breast saddle and raw single turkey breast lobe, all boneless and easy to cook from frozen or ambient temperatures.
“Turkey has a strong, value image and is, typically, cheaper than other meats,” says general manager Duncan Marsh. Turkey also offers a high protein meal while being low in fat and saturated fat. “Christmas is the perfect time to try British turkey out in a range of dishes, testing its potential for use on menus all year round,” adds Marsh.
He suggests adding a leek and onion sauce as a thick and creamy alternative to bread sauce or rubbing the turkey with a whisky, honey and orange glaze.
Four-site operator Forum Cafe Bars is covering all the bases with traditional and adventurous dishes. Its venues, all in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, have logged aroung 40 Christmas party bookings already with Friday 9 and 16 being the most popular.
A three-course traditional Christmas dinner will be served at the York for just £21.95 and parties dining on Mondays to Wednesdays also receive a complimentary Prosecco reception for every guest. Dishes include langoustine and pancetta salad at the York, salmis of guinea fowl at the Forum, and turkey & cranberry stuffed empanadas at the Common Room.
The Pony and Trap in Chew Magna, Bristol, which has just been awarded a Michelin star for the second year, has introduced a Yuletide Fayre menu available from 1 to 24 December. Two courses cost £20.95, three £25.95, with starters such as game faggot, and mains like rabbit stew and pheasant & marjoram Kiev featuring on the menu.
Many foodservice suppliers are gearing up for a sharing Christmas this year and have launched foods to that effect.
Moy Park Foodservice is encouraging pubs to offer food that reflects the social nature of Christmas with products such as breadcrumb-coated baby Camembert and Brie wedges.
Jayne Hall, marketing manager at Moy Park Foodservice, says: “Christmas is the most sociable time of the year because it is the period when friends, work colleagues and families meet up for social occasions that often revolve around shared eating occasions.
Darren Cheesman, licensee of the Hit or Miss pub in Stamford, Lincolnshire, has used the company’s festive buffet package to great success.
“The menu was very popular,” he says. “We fed 192 people during six separate events resulting in us receiving additional Christmas party bookings. Feedback from the customers was very positive and the products are quick, efficient, with no waste. I can highly recommend it as an incremental sales tool over the Christmas and New Year period.”