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David Charlton

August 13 2019,
David Charlton

While everyone else is on their summer holidays, you can start taking those all-important Christmas bookings.

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Christmas is coming (sooner than you think)

Every year without fail, people will start commenting that the Christmas adverts on TV are starting earlier than ever. It’s the first sign that autumn is ending and the countdown to the festive season has truly begun.

However, anyone who works in hospitality knows this isn’t true. Christmas preparations begin while most of us are still on our summer holidays. While the general public is thinking about getting up early to reserve a sunbed, hospitality operators are thinking about picking up those early Christmas reservations.

There’s a good reason for this. Just like the TV ads, customers are making their Christmas plans earlier than ever. And there’s even better news – more people than ever are choosing to eat their Christmas meal out of home.

Recent research reveals that the number of people dining out at Xmas leapt from 3% to 10% in 2018. It makes good sense too:

  • Christmas dinner with all the trimmings takes time and effort. Why not let someone else go through the ordeal?!
  • It’s often a family affair, which puts space at a premium. Why squeeze nana into the garden chair when you can have adequate space in a bigger venue?
  • The last thing you want to do after stuffing your belly full of roast potatoes and Christmas pudding is clear up and wash all the pots and pans. Easy, leave that to someone else!
  • Christmas dinner also carries a certain level of expectation. Dry turkey and burnt veg is sure to disappoint, but with a professional in the kitchen you have quality guaranteed.

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The Christmas do

The big opportunity for big revenue at this time of year is, of course, the Christmas party. According to a new survey, one-fifth of consumers find a suitable Christmas party venue in September, with one in seven confirming the booking in the same month.

56% chose a restaurant to host their all-important party, while 29% opted for a pub or bar. Just 8% picked a hotel.

Most importantly, the survey gave us some insights into why customers booked these venues.

  • 64% said the key priority was the ability to preview a menu in advance
  • 49% said it depended on the venue’s ability to accommodate the group
  • 39% said it came down to how well the venue could deal with food allergies

So what does this mean for your venue? And what can – or should – you start doing now to start to get the bookings rolling in?

Showcase your Christmas specials

Christmas is a magical time, so customers expect something extraordinary. Work with your chef to set up your menus well in advance, so that people can see exactly what’s on offer when they make a booking at your venue.

Ensure menus aren’t downloadable PDFs, but show as web pages for browsers. It’s a sure-fire way to keep them engaged and offer a great booking experience.

Highlight special menus and drinks packages, so customers know they can expect to be amazed! You can also brand your emails with a festive feel to get better open rates and really stand out.

Offer real-time availability

In today’s on-demand society, no one wants to wait to get confirmation of your availability. Customers want to know there and then whether you can accommodate their group or not.

So ensure your reservations platform can handle large groups and events as well as couples and smaller parties. liveRES Events & Pre-Order shows customers live booking availability, even for large groups. It’s the industry’s only truly EPoS-integrated solution, offering a wide range of benefits for you and your customers.

Customers can browse your menus and order and pay for their food and drink in advance. Thanks to EPoS integration there’s no rekeying required by your team – everything goes straight into the till. And there’s no need to walk around on the day taking everyone’s orders or trying to settle the bill. Instead, your staff can focus on delivering a great customer experience.

You even have dedicated communication portals, allowing you and your customers to view all event details and make any changes as necessary. It’s the smart way to make Christmas go with a bang.

Personalise your offers and marketing messages

As the famous song goes, “He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…”

And although it might sound a little creepy, you need to have the same in-depth knowledge about your customers as Santa does about all the boys and girls. What does each like to eat and drink? How often do they visit? How long do they stay, and what do they typically spend.

With a smart, EPoS-integrated suite of technology solutions it’s easy to get this information. Data from your booking platform can be linked with spend at the till. You can combine that with additional data such as wifi logins and loyalty transactions, and suddenly you know a lot more about your customers than you realise.

Put this information to powerful use when planning your Christmas promotional activities. You’ll know who to contact about your nut roast special, who’s likely to be interested in your seasonal cocktail menu, and who’ll be tempted by your two-for-one Boxing Day offer.

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Ask for feedback

A whopping 78% of respondents in the Christmas survey said they were likely to book the same venue again. And over half welcomed post-event comms.

In other words, get it right and you’ve gone a long way to booking next year’s Christmas as well as this one.

Send personalised feedback requests, based on what each person has ordered, to get valuable insights into what they really think about your offering. Use that information to improve your menu and service, while also keeping your venue top of mind for a repeat visit.

In fact, with January notoriously quiet, why not include a discount offer in your feedback request to entice them back sooner rather than later?

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