After a few too many pigs in blankets and countless celebratory Christmas drinks, January is viewed by many as a chance to kick-start a healthier lifestyle and reduce spending on food and drink after an indulgent festive period.  

Over 3 million people have said that they plan to give up alcohol during the first month of 2018 as part of Dry January: a government-backed initiative to reduce the UK’s alcohol consumption. Dry January took-off in 2013, aiming to improve people’s health, reduce the amount of money spent on alcohol, raise awareness of the negative effects of alcohol consumption, and fundraise for their partner charities.

With almost a fifth of British adults pledging to avoid alcohol, and many more counting their pennies, January can be a difficult month for hospitality operators. After a busy December, footfall and sales will be reduced in most sites, but with intelligent management, this time of year does not have to be damaging for your business.

To combat a likely decline in visitor numbers, operators must consider fresh strategies to bring customers through the door.

The average Brit is predicted to spend more than £200 on alcohol during the week prior to Christmas, meaning consumers’ purse-strings are likely to be tightened in January. Attracting customers into your sites with promotions and entertainment is key to minimising the effects of the looming January lull.

Attractive promotions can provide an incentive to venture out of the house for food and drink, even when cost-saving is a high priority. Modelling their offer on January sales in department stores, JD Wetherspoon have offered a price reduction on a variety of their alcoholic and soft drinks from 3rd-8th January for the last fifteen years, helping to keep the January blues at bay for their 900 sites.

As well as Dry January, general trends suggest that more and more people are turning away from alcohol. Research predicts that consumers will choose soft drinks over alcoholic drinks, even during the Christmas period. However, a third of consumers don’t think that there are enough premium soft drinks available at pubs, bars, and restaurants. With a rising demand, along with the typically high yield that soft drinks bring, licensees can offset the effects of Dry January by increasing the range of non-alcoholic drinks available.

Avoiding alcohol doesn’t require losing the taste and atmosphere that comes with drinking out. No or low alcohol is the fastest growing category in beer, with sales doubling in the last ten years. Mocktails can also be a great way to boost January sales, providing customers with exciting tastes without the guilt that alcoholic cocktails may bring.

Rising numbers of health-conscious consumers, along with those suffering from Christmas guilt and possessing hopeful New Year’s resolutions, mean that it is important to increase the number of healthy dishes, such as salads, on the menu. Being high-yield menu items, these dishes are also attractive for managers looking to boost profit margins in January. However, many customers still want warm and indulgent food during the winter months, so it is important to offer balanced menus.

2017 saw a rise in entertainment-led food and drink venues such as escape rooms and mini golf bars. In addition to revising food and drink offers, a great way to boost sales this January would be to host a range of events, from movie nights to live comedy, to convince customers to venture out to your site.

S4 Labour’s event feature is a great way to ensure that labour deployment remains correct during periods of unfamiliar trading patterns that events may cause; this will lead to the smooth running of events and happy customers.

It is important that news of any January promotions and events is shared on social media, as this is a great way to get people through the door. Show off the exciting new products/events that you’ve got on in January with #TryJanuary, the Morning Advertiser’s campaign which looks to rebel against the idea that January will be a quiet month for hospitality. With most operators now using social media to market themselves, failure to do so can leave you behind.    

As well as driving increased sales through new products and events, managers can also boost January’s profitability by turning their attention to internal processes to increase efficiency 

Effective labour scheduling is the number one way for managers to increase efficiency in January. Managers should consider greater use of split-shifts, staggered start times, and shorter shifts. The effects to trading patterns brought on by trends such as Dry January and healthier eating require greater consideration of labour deployment within sites. With the expected fall in late-night drinks sales, managers might want to consider redeploying staff from the bar to other areas of the business or from evenings to daytime hours.

S4Labour provides a site’s previous year’s food and drink sales. This feature acts as an advisor to a manager when forecasting their sales, leading to the S4Labour graph suggesting labour deployment that will be reflective of January trading patterns. By splitting sales by food and drink, the graph reflects changes to requirements by trading area.

Encouraging staff to upsell in January will make a big difference to business. With customers less keen to part with their money in January, it is important that staff are active in driving sales. A good way to encourage staff to upsell is to implement a reward scheme for the number of starters and desserts sold with main dishes during busy food-led periods of trading e.g. a Sunday afternoon. Not only will this increase staff interaction with customers, leading to greater customer experience, but will also encourage staff to play their part in boosting revenue.  

January is a good time to focus on tasks that are not directly linked to serving customers. With key dates such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Easter fast approaching, January provides a great opportunity to get ahead with the planning and marketing of events and promotions on social media. This preparation will help to boost sales after a quiet start to the year. As well as preparation, a quiet trading period will provide a good opportunity to catch-up on any tasks, such as cleaning and décor work, that may need doing after a busy festive period.  

Whilst January may be a daunting time for many operators, it has the potential to be a healthy month for the business as well as the customer. The introduction of new and exciting items on the menu that cater for a health-conscious market, alongside attractive events, will allow hospitality venues to remain appealing during the first month of 2018. An active presence on social media with effective marketing and planning will ensure that the hard work to boost January sales won’t go unnoticed.

Get in touch today to find out more about how S4Labour can promote the health of your business in January and all your round.


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