Spring provides a succession of money-spinning opportunities for pubs — and no sooner will Valentine’s Day be out of the way than thoughts will turn to Mother’s Day.
If it hasn’t already been marked off on the year planner then 6 March is the day to make a note of this year for what has fast become one of they dining occasions on the pub-trade calendar.
Planning early is one of the keys to success, allowing pubs the best opportunity to ensure that Mother’s Day is more than just a name stamped on top of the regular menu, but an event that generates a feel-good factor among mums and families.
Top tips for Mother’s Day success
■ Take a long view on marketing, starting now with publicity on websites and boards, both inside and outside of the pub, and building the momentum through regular social media updates as the day nears.
■ Pep up your offering beyond just sticking “Mother’s Day” at the top of the menu. This could include appropriate live music, free flowers for all mothers, mum-eats-free offers, free prize draws for bottles of fizz or other suitable giveaways, all-in food and wine deals or a free glass of wine for mothers.
■ Ease pressure on the kitchen and front of house and extend the sales opportunity by running the Mother’s Day package on Saturday as well to create a whole weekend of activity.
■ On the day itself, the rush will be the early afternoon lunch slot, but logistics can be simplified by offers that give customers an incentive to come in the morning for brunch or early evening for dinner.
■ Consider sticking to advance bookings only to make planning easier — and allow dining families a comfortable two-hour slot on what is supposed to be a special day. Make sure that service is efficient so
they don’t feel rushed.
■ Use the day as an opportunity to show what you and your team can do with the best potential reward coming in repeat business from satisfied families through the rest of the year.
■ Give mums with young children a genuine break by providing colouring books, crayons and games to keep them occupied. The children that is, not the mums.
Sean McClements, licensee of the Tally Ho, at Aswarby, in Lincolnshire, took on the pub last June and advertised Mother’s Day on its website from January, and is confident of a full house for his first Mother’s Day in the premises.
He thinks simplicity of the offering is important. The pub’s chef has created a special one-off set menu of £13.95 for two courses and £15.95 for three courses, but has stopped short of add-ons such as drinks promotions or entertainment.
“To be honest, you don’t need to go too mad because you’ll get fully booked anyway,” says McClements. “Obviously, you’re always in competition with other people, but there are two days you’re guaranteed to get a full restaurant: Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.”
The Robin Hood Inn, at Drayton, in Worcestershire, is another pub that advertised its Mother’s Day menu early, with popular starters and puds book-ending a roast-driven main-course selection, with a set price of two courses for £17 or three for £22.
Co-owner Jon Roberts says: “We’re always fully booked over four sittings on Mother’s Day, which is between 200 and 250 meals. It’s comparable with a reasonable Sunday in the summer but it is certainly the busiest day of the year in terms of bookings.”
Events such as Mother’s Day can prove tempting for hospitality operators to bump up prices, on the assumption that they’ll have a full house. But it’s important not to rip customers off on the big occasions because their repeat custom when things are quieter at other times of the year could be more valuable in the long run.
Amy Ledger, marketing manager at supplier Continental Wine & Food, says: “Many families can often be deterred by the prospect of paying exorbitant rates for a meal in the current economic climate when there are so many value-led offers available to dine at home for considerably less.”
Choice of menu is important, with crowd pleasers top of the list for an occasion where the age range will go from the very young to the very old.
Research carried out by Maggi in 2015 found that more than half of adults would take their mum out for a meal on Mother’s Day and nine out of 10 will celebrate the day with
Unilever Food Solutions research also saw roasts come out on top at Mother’s Day, though less convincingly, preferred by 40% of respondents in its 2015 survey. Steak was second, chosen by 19%.
But Mother’s Day is meant to be a break from the norm for mums, step-mums and grandmothers, so the specials boards should also come into play for those who want to try something different.
“There is now a huge range of exciting pasta dishes available that lend themselves to a more celebratory occasion,” says Ledger at CWF, who suggests seabass raviolacci — filled with fish, potato purée with citrus, chives and garlic — as one alternative. Bauletti ripieni all’astice, made with lobster, crab, mashed potatoes and herbs, is another pasta suggestion from Ledger that has a luxurious feel to it.
She also suggests that pubs pay special attention to the all-round ambience of the day. “Music should be kept low to allow for conversation,” she says. “However, do think about the type of music you will play, something quite easy-listening as mums will vary in age from the relatively young to quite old indeed.”
Drinks promotions should focus on mum-friendly brands and categories.
The post-dinner drink could be one of the prime opportunities for a Mother’s Day up-sell for pubs, with sons and daughters looking to treat their mums.
Diageo’s Baileys has tapped into the growing trend for coffee cocktails with the creation of a Baileys Flat White Martini and suggests, as a simpler alternative, a coffee and Baileys, combing 450cl of the liqueur with 110ml of coffee and chocolate shavings to garnish.
Janel Fatania, commercial planning and activation executive for the on-trade at Diageo GB, says: “Licensees can make the most of the occasion by planning well in advance and bringing in must-stock premium variants to make spirits the perfect partner to the food-led occasion. They can also extend the importance of the occasion by offering customers a spirit combination they might not expect to see, such as Baileys in a coffee or in a dessert.”
Celebratory fizz is also sure to be a winner on Mother’s Day, and Prosecco has become the ubiquitous choice in the on-trade over recent years.
On-trade sales of Champagne were up 13% in the year to last July [CGA] with non-Champagne fizz ahead by 17%.
CWF supplies a cheaper Prosecco DOC lightly sparkling wine with a useful screw cap from Casa Gheller and a more upmarket boutique Prosecco style from Bortolomiol.
“Prosecco really is a must whether being served by the glass or as bottles to share,” Ledger says.
She also suggests single-serve bottles of wine from CWF’s Simply Yours selection “for those dutiful sons who prefer a beer or lager and whose mothers may not want to consume a whole bottle of wine”.