December is a blessing for hospitality. Bookended by autumn’s dwindling trade and a cold, baron January, the “festive season” represents a sparkling opportunity.

Increased footfall and a party atmosphere mean a revenue-boost is all but guaranteed. The best operators will exploit this further, both by maximising immediate profitability and using December to promote the long-term health of their business. Here are our top tips to do just that.

Special occasions warrant exceptional service

Special Experiences Drive Repeat Custom

Christmas brings countless new people to pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality sites. The goal is to convert these seldom-seen seasonals into year-round regulators. Delivering exceptional service is key to this, so adequate staffing is integral.

Rotas should always be written with sales forecasts in mind, but with large, profitable party bookings likely, this is particularly apposite in December. Enough staff should be working to provide guests with truly memorable experiences that will keep them returning long after the decorations are stashed in the attic.

Maximise Spend Per Head 

Jovial, festive customers are more willing to treat themselves. Premium drinks upgrades, extra desserts, and mince pies with coffees are all common indulgences that yield high gross profits. Upselling these items is a simple way to lift spend per head, but failure to do so represents a big missed opportunity. Table checks and upselling are common casualties when team members feel stressed, so a little additional initial outlay on staffing can bring great rewards, delivering as much as a tenfold return on investment.

If you are taking bookings for large parties, an effective way of increasing spend per head with minimal labour requirement is agreeing the sale of bottles of wine for the table ahead of time. Wine typically sees one of the highest margins of any product, and having bottles on the table will reduce the need for staff to fetch drinks to the table, allowing them to focus on upselling in other areas.

Festive menus are often preparation-heavy

Stagger Start & End Times

A large Christmas booking will justify having additional team members on shift, but if you know the party will only be on site from seven till ten, there’s little point having everybody working from five to midnight. Staggering start and end times will reduce unnecessary labour spend, keep staff feeling fresh, and promote flexibility of working hours. This is best scheduling practice that can be applied all year round. On a cautionary note, festive menus are often preparation-intensive – be sure to bring your kitchen staff in early enough to be fully ready to serve when bookings arrive.

Around Christmas it’s always a good idea to check your licensing hours and apply for extensions if necessary, as the late drinking trade can be very profitable. Staggering start times will make team members more receptive to a later than usual finish.

Consider Your Team’s Composition

To maximise December’s potential, it is a good idea to spend some time considering the composition of your team, both in terms of the different areas of your business, and employees’ contract types. Christmas menus may bring unfamiliar items, as well as a need for quickfire service, so it’s important to make sure you have enough manpower and expertise in the kitchen to cope.

The month of December is also likely to be see busy shifts seven days a week. If your team largely comprises part-time employees, who are only able to take on a couple of shifts a week, hiring temporary staff for the busy period can ensure you’re never left short. Students returning home for the holidays can be a welcome source of cheap temporary labour.

It doesn’t cost much to boost morale

Reward Your Team! 

Moreso at Christmas than ever, employees in hospitality sacrifice their own social lives so guests can enjoy a special occasion. Appreciative words, and the odd drink on the management after a busy shift, cost little but can make a huge positive impact on staff morale at what can be an exhausting time. Happy, motivated staff are much more likely to deliver exceptional service, earning valuable repeat customer into the spring and beyond.

Following the above advice in tamdem with S4Labour’s insight and tools for superior business management will put your business in the best position to truly maximise December’s potential this year.  


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