Christmas 2020 – 10 tips for driving profits in hospitality

Are you prepared for Christmas 2020?

With government regulations and policies under constant review, it’s impossible to predict what Christmas is going to be like this year. Regional lockdowns, rule of six, curfews and a rising infection rate mean that no one really knows what the next few months have in store.

Whilst we can’t predict, we can plan and be creative and agile in our approach. Putting ourselves in a position where we are able to respond quickly and efficiently is imperative; and to that end making sure our sales mix will cater for all eventualities is key.

Here Michelin starred chef, John Wood, shares his insights into how best to plan for pandemic proof profits this Christmas…

Christmas 2020 – what we do know…

The Christmas landscape is already uncertain. Turkey farmers are reducing stock levels by 25% compared to previous years, anticipating a steep decline in office parties pre and post Christmas.

Typically, between 23rd November and the 05th January most hospitality and catering businesses will take up 30% of their annual revenues, so ensuring you get this year right is more important than ever before.

The hospitality industry needs to look at ways that they can make the most of this typically huge revenue and profit generating time of year. We need to be creative and those that are first out of the blocks in announcing what they are going to do will see the benefits.

Here are our 10 tips for a profit making, pandemic proof Christmas….

1. Extend opening hours over the Christmas period

Restrictions on numbers and social distancing measures may mean that whole families and groups of friends can’t get together at once on specific days like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. This means that people are likely to extend the celebrations, seeing family and friends in fewer numbers over a longer period of time. Why not think about extending your hours of service for the month of December? If you normally run lunch from 12h00-14h30 and dinner from 19h00-22h30 this would give you a combined dining slot of 6 hours to safely sit probably 60% of your previous capacity.

To push the capacity up. think about increasing your hours from 12h00-17h00 and then from 18h00-22h00. This will give you an additional 3 hours of trading which could easily take you back up to close to 100% capacity.

There’s no rule that Christmas has to begin and end in December. Another option is to offer a tempting Christmas menu for family and friends for the last 2 weeks in November until the first 2 weeks in January. When customers can’t get the booking that they wanted they will look at alternative days.

2. Control payroll costs

Additional staff to cover extended opening will mean additional costs – not ideal at the moment. However, with carefully costed menus that deliver a few more % on margins, you can make an additional £2 (or €’s/$’s) per cover with some small price tweaks. This should more than cover the additional wage costs. With product cross utilisation across the festive menus and your à la carte and daily menus, you can considerably reduce man hours in kitchen. This will take the strain of additional payroll, overtime and special holiday pay away from your costs.

Carefully thought out staff rostering, working on covers per server rather than servers per area is the best way to make any additional staff requirements work for you.

“Don’t be afraid to source good quality pre-made products for the festive season to help the need for additional payroll.”

3. Order + pay at Table

With time and space at a premium, you want to ensure that your team are working at capacity, turning tables around quickly and serving food, rather than taking orders. By offering digital menus accessed by link or QR code, your customers can order and pay at table, using any discount codes that you’re offering, freeing up staff to get on with serving drinks and food.

4. Pre-ordering

Asking customers to pre-order is a great way to reduce service time and to turn tables quickly. By using a digital menu, your customers can see what’s available, make sure any dietary restrictions are catered for and select what they’d like to eat. They can even pay for it in advance.

With pre-orders coming in, you’ll be in a position to negotiate with suppliers for better prices, buy in bulk and make a bigger profit.

5. Carefully planned menus

It’s never been a more critical time to ensure that your menus are going to be profitable.

Take the time now to review every dish and make sure that you are going to achieve the maximum amount of profit from each one. Small undetectable portion adjustments and product changes could make a huge difference at this stage.

As a financial example if you were to take £45,000 net per week for the festive 6 weeks, with some small manipulations; you could easily increase 2% on your margins with detailed live costed recipes and menus. That is £5,400 more to the bottom line. A nice Christmas bonus with very little work.

Look at your menu as you plan and see what items could be used or easily adapted for click + collect or delivery.

6. Delivery and click+collect

Many creative businesses are used to adopting a takeaway and delivery part to their business now. Why not do this over the festive season? If your customers are not able to come to you, bring Christmas to them! This can increase your covers and revenue very easily. There will be a large customer base that aren’t able to get a table due to restrictions and reduced capacity, but also don’t want to cook.

Plan carefully and consider all risks involved, ensuring that the health and safety of your customers and your delivery staff.

Consider whether food will be delivered hot, ready to be eaten immediately or whether you’ll offer food delivered cold to be cooked/reheated by the customer. If you’re going to be delivering hot food, this will typically be when you are busy in your business with seated customers. It may be that a cold food delivery service makes more sense, but this must of course come with clear instructions for cooking/reheating.

7. Encourage, promote, incentivise…

As soon as your menus are ready, start promoting on your website, on social media and ask your regular customers to spread the word.

Think about discount offers for early dining, for Christmas meals booked in November or January, for pre-ordering and for booking NOW. Make sure you’re using an ordering system that will accept discount codes. Also try to vary your discounts, so you have plenty to promote on social media as the festive season draws near.

8. Time slots for increased cover capacity

Make sure you have an ordering system that allows for time slots, both for click + collect / delivery, but also for in venue dining. With time slots in place, you can ensure that you are reaching your maximum cover capacity and that the kitchen can cope with the orders that are coming in.

9. Be unique, be flexible, be collaborative

This time of year is always competitive, but Christmas 2020 will present challenges that will make everyone have to think on their feet. Think of ways you can stand out from your competitors and the ways in which people may have adapt their celebrations.

  • Create fun and interesting party menus. Don’t just stick to a typical 3 course lunch; consider creating mini individual buffets platters, carving at the table for families, party bags for desserts.
  • Look at food and beverage packages to entice people in with a known cost before they arrive.
  • Individual tapas/ party food platters with wine flights.
  • Beer tasting menus with Bar food platters.
  • Think about the concept of takeaway parties. Packages that will cater for a work group or small group of friends at their own venue.
  • Team up with other local businesses. A takeaway party needs more than food and drink. Can you work with another local company to provide decorations for example? Then cross-promote on your social media accounts?

10. Technology to help you to make a success of Christmas 2020

With the right team and perfect menus ready to go, it’s imperative that you have the technology to help everything run smoothly. F+B To Go is a feature rich, free tool that is simple to use and quick to set up. Online ordering is seamless, whether from home on in venue.  Users can create branded, digital menus that can be embedded on their website, or accessed via link or QR Code.  There are fully customisable delivery and collection time slots. Item counters are in place so that the system will stop taking orders when stock has run out. Delivery areas can be defined and a live production dashboard fully tracks and monitors the order process.

In order to keep customers incentivised, businesses can offer promotional discount codes. These can be created and processed simply and quickly on the system. Payments are taken online so that the whole process is completely contactless and safe for both staff and customers.

There are no set up fees, no subscription fees for the software and no limits to the number of products on offer.  This tool is free to use for the whole of 2020, irrespective of EPOS, Stock system or menu management system.  Businesses of any size and any location can sign up on any device and be operational within the hour. 


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