OPINION: Mum’s the word

Alastair Scott talks about improving on Mother's Day

Related tags Alastair Scott Malvern Inns Food Events Pubco + head office Technology

During the past 10 years, we have been trying to get Mother’s Day right and I am still not sure we have.

In terms of covers, Mother’s Day is our biggest day of the year. At our busiest pub, we had 753 booked this year. Sadly, we served only 688, resulting in a day that netted us £18k, which was slightly less sales than Christmas day, when we served around 230 covers.

It has become clear there are several specific challenges when it comes to Mother’s Day, which can perhaps be better remedied on normal trading days. The first is no-shows. Despite ringing every customer up beforehand, our no-shows were still around 9%.

Next year, I think we will have to start taking deposits and we are switching to LiveRes to enable us to do that.

Too much of a risk

The reason no-shows are a bigger problem on a day like Mother’s Day, is that walk-ins are few and far between – it is too much of a risk.

On other days, when we are busy, people not turning up matters less because we are a big enough restaurant and can compensate with walk-ins. So, it is likely we will start taking deposits next year so we do not lose that 9% again.

The second challenge on Mother’s Day is price. We are in a constant dilemma about what to offer. At one end, we can stick to our Sunday roast pricing but we seem to then waste the opportunity of being full.

If our regulars were the people coming to us on Mother’s Day that would be great but it tends to be those who visit less often and are looking to go somewhere slightly different than usual. It feels like a day where everyone trades up.

Planning and organisation

Is the right approach to have a more expensive Mother’s Day menu? Do we offer three courses at a fixed price, or maybe two courses?

Our reluctance comes from knowing there are likely a fair number of people who do not want to eat that much. Our preference is to have a separate Mother’s Day menu, which we send out early with each booking so that our customers are well informed ahead of time. Better planning and organisation are crucial for days that feel slightly harder to forecast.

We also want to look into Mother’s Day gifts to extend our offering – what about flowers and fizz? What about a box of chocolates on the table to take home? It feels as though creating a whole Mother’s Day experience and going beyond the meal is something we ought to do. It is certainly another one to consider for next year.

With all this in mind, what could we take next year? Deposits could add 10%, an enhanced menu could add another 10% and offering more of an experience could add 5%. We probably won’t get it all right, but there is a decent chance of growing by 15% next year, which is another £3k we need.

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