Don’t be complacent, plan for the summer

By Steve Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rain Essex

Don’t be complacent, plan for the summer
What a difference a year makes — and I’m not talking about the economy, changes in legislation or anything else directly related to the industry. No, it’s the great British weather. April 2011 saw wall-to-wall sunshine, Easter, Mothers’ Day and a royal wedding thrown in for good measure.

Though we weren’t to know it, April would be as good as we’d get; that was the best of the weather for the reminder of the year. For us it was our highest grossing month and what we thought was the perfect start to summer.

From May onwards, weeks ebbed away, and glimmers of hope for an Indian summer lapsed as good weekend weather deserted us. This year March saw record takings as the back end of the month gave us the much-needed sunshine, but it was also time for the Budget.

We knew that getting April right was key and duly predicted a cataclysmic drop over last April as comparables were just not going to cut any ice. For once I would have loved to have been wrong, but, sadly, the prediction for a near 40% weather-related slump was correct.

With circa 1,500+ outdoor seats unused, it was going to be a bitter pill to swallow.

For many operators with outdoor areas I’m sure my comments will be echoed. Thankfully, even at current levels, trade is still good, but a bit like a cake minus the cream and cherry on top.

Now, however, is not the time to sit back and stagnate. More mistakes happen when businesses are quiet, so now is the time to plan and put our houses in order as there are  many things to look forward to — the Euros, Olympics and jubilee, and maybe even a summer.

Despite conditions, we’ve reinstalled all of our marquees, redecorated one venue inside and out, and the summer menus are in print. We’ve lined up all of our ice-cream fridges and taken delivery of the new Cornetto ice-cream dispensers, so we are ready to go as soon as lady luck shines on us.

Many hours of customer service training have also been completed; we know winter can breed a little complacency, so a refresh is always good. Regardless of the weather, never forget the people who pay your wages; they always expect to be treated well, come rain or shine.

We’ve had a couple of Brucie bonuses too: The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) has filmed us twice and this Sunday sees our Grand Central bar in Basildon make its first appearance on TOWIE.

A few staff members have had cameo roles delivering food to the tables and the cast have been brilliant with our guests. So, all in all, great publicity and marketing on ITV, which is usually well out of our reach.

So have a ‘reem’ summer (as Joey Essex might say) and make plenty of hay when that sun shines.

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