A Moving Feast
For many operators once they have been open for a year or two they get into the swing of planning for key calendar events across the year. When they actually start their planning will vary from business to business but there is usually some sort of natural flow. The great advantage of course is that Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and even Burns Night all happen at the same time, year in year out. Ok, the day of the week may change, which could have an impact in what you do, but the date always remains the same.
However the same can’t be said for Easter. In 2020 Easter Sunday was on the 12th of April, in 2018 it was on the 1st of April (no joke) and in 2022 it will be on the 17th of April. In fact the date for Easter Sunday can vary by over a month. The earliest that it can be is March the 22nd, although the last time that happened was 1818, and the latest it can be in April is the 25th, which won’t happen again until 2038. So what is driving this?
The rules which govern when Easter falls go as far back as 325AD when they were agreed by The Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church. Without getting too technical the decision was made that Easter would always be on the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon that follows the spring equinox. A twist is that the ecclesiastical full moon isn’t always the same as the astronomical full moon we recognise today. Thankfully a fixed date of the 21st of March was set for the spring equinox, so there is a degree of logic, which we mere mortals can now follow.
So why is this important to operators?
Weather or not…
There is an old English proverb “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers”, and although it is quite simplistic it does highlight the potential difference that we might expect to see during these months. Along a similar vein the average temperature in March in the UK between 2015 and 2020 was 6.8oC, whereas in April it was 9.1oC. While that might not seem a lot, it’s probably the difference between wearing a coat or just a sweater. If nothing else there is also likely to be a psychological difference in how people feel when they go out to eat and drink if the weather is just that bit warmer.
From a practical point of view it might also be the difference between setting tables outside or not, assuming that is one of your options.
While trying to predict what your local weather is likely to be, especially if you are in the UK seems like a fool’s errand, it’s always worth keeping an eye on it, even if only over the short term. The nicer and warmer the weather is, the more popular lighter summery dishes and drinks are likely to be. Conversely colder and wetter weather is likely to boost the sale of more traditional wintery menu items. The key here is to have dishes on your menu that you can dial up or dial down at relatively short notice to take advantage of any prevailing weather which might impact your guests’ choices.
Probably second only to Christmas, Easter on balance is all about families. And just like Christmas operators who ignore or pay lip service to their children’s offer are likely to miss out big time. Of course there will always be some venues which will focus on a more adult offer; however I would suggest that you think very carefully by going too far down that route when it comes to Easter, and especially during your daytime sittings.
The footfall and spend that couples or adult only groups may bring you may not off-set the money you may miss out on from attracting families with children. At Easter these family groups can often be multigenerational so all things being equal you could get the best of both worlds.
For the children, most notably the younger ones, Easter is all about fun, colour and of course eggs. If you haven’t the room or the weather isn’t good enough to run Easter egg hunts, then you can substitute these with colour books, menu’s or puzzles.
Themed table dressings are another way of capturing that Easter feeling. For example why not use different table clothes and napkins as well as perhaps adding flowers as part of your table or outlet decorations. In some cases you may also encourage your servers wearing egg shaped badges or other items of clothing which might help make the occasion feel even more special.
Easter is not just Sunday…
Clearly Sunday is the focal point for most operators when it comes to Easter, but they shouldn’t ignore the opportunities which Good Friday, the Saturday and indeed Easter Monday may present. Remember in most parts of the UK the Friday is still a bank holiday and although flexible working patterns have diluted this somewhat, many people still have the day off work. Therefore venues need to make sure they tap into this occasion wherever they can.
Although the Friday and indeed Saturday don’t quite have the cache as Easter Sunday, there is no reason why outlets can’t provide an appropriate level of fun and excitement in keeping with their Easter theme. For instance a focus on fish dishes or the inclusion of hot cross buns, either quite basic or jazzed up is worth considering.
In the same way that many venues seem to treat Christmas Day and Boxing Day as one in the same, there is no reason why outlets can’t do the same with Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Just because it is a day later doesn’t mean you can’t offer the same or at least a very similar menu and experience.
Have a plan…
So when planning your Easter offer there are a number of things you need to take into account.
When is Easter and when do you need to start planning for it? Depending when it is, make sure that your staff know that their usual rota might need to change. Depending where in the calendar Easter falls, you may need to change your offer from the previous year? Don’t just focus on Easter Sunday, you need to plan all four days not just the one. There is nothing wrong with tweaking your offer slightly between the Friday/Saturday and Sunday/Monday to maximise its appeal to the widest audience.