Step into Christmas
Many years ago I visited a friend, who had moved down to London to work, for the weekend. Living in the Midlands at the time I had taken Friday afternoon off and had travelled down to meet up with him and a couple of other friends for drinks after work. He was working in the ‘city’ at the time so the pub we arranged to meet in was surrounded by banks, offices and other businesses. I arrived at about 4.45pm and was surprised that there were already a few people enjoying a drink. My friends turned up just after 5.15pm during which time the number of people also in the bar had steadily begun to increase. Not something I was use to or expecting at that time of the day.
Over the next hour or so the pub became busier and busier to the point where it became impossible to get to the bar to order a drink. Such was the noise that my friends and I were almost compelled to shout at each other in order to have our selves heard. Then as 7.30pm approached the bar began to empty almost as fast as it had filled. It’s fair to say that by 8.00pm with the odd exception there were only my friends and I left. As we discussed what was happening it became obvious to me that this wasn’t a one-off but the natural flow of business in these ‘city’ centre pubs on a daily basis. In fact it seemed that many of the pubs in the area didn’t even bother to open up most weekends as there simply weren’t enough people around to make it worth their while. Unlike a typical pub they made their money in the week.
It may seem obvious but being aware and tuned into what your local market is all about is a really important part of running a pub, bar or restaurant. And this isn’t just about what you do on a day to day basis. It is equally important when you come to run events and what plans you have when it comes to things like Christmas.
Which brings me to the question; do operators give enough thought into how their Christmas offer needs to reflect circumstances?
Last train to Clarksville…
Clearly the example above feels quite extreme, and of course to a degree it is. That said the insights it reveals are equally true in many other situations. Anyone who runs a pub, bar or restaurant in a major town or city will know that the profile of the customers who visit them will often be quite different during the week compared to weekends. These differences can often be magnified when it comes to Christmas.
Depending on your location some bigger towns or cities can almost seem to empty during ‘holiday periods’ as many commuters look to stay more local to where live rather than venturing further afield. Long commutes can often be quite expensive as well as time consuming and that is often the last thing people want to endure at Christmas. It can also be quite difficult to get back home using public transport at the end of a late night in some cases, with the cost of a taxi being too prohibitive.
For outlets in these more urban settings when it comes to planning your Christmas activities here are just a few things to consider. Make sure your festivities start early. It’s not uncommon for some office ‘parties’ to actually take place in mid-late November. Starting in December may mean you miss out on some events. I would also look to focus on lunchtime or certainly early evening offers. Not only is this likely to be more attractive to would be customers it has the added benefit of providing the opportunity for more sales should your guests decide to stay longer than expected.
Another important thing is not to forget to follow-up. Hosting a Christmas party should be a great revenue driver but that shouldn’t be the end of it. For example I have known outlets who give all their customers a ‘Christmas Card’ which is actually a bounce back offer for January. Thereby building on what hopefully has been a good customer experience.
What a difference a day makes…
So how does this work? In 2020 the 25th of December is on a Friday. That means that many businesses will still be working that week. It is also likely that many workers may be more pre-disposed to having lunchtime or evening drinks in the week before Christmas than they otherwise would. For example if the 25th falls on a Monday or Tuesday many businesses will look to close down on the previous Friday. No real Christmas week as such plus it could also mean that the opportunity to host Christmas parties’ stops 3 or 4 days earlier than it might otherwise have done.
Similarly if the 25th falls on a Saturday or Sunday the dynamic changes again. It may also mean that outlets effectively loose a weekends worth of trading.
It is therefore really important for operators to know what day of the week Christmas Day falls on in any given year and how that may change the dynamics of trading. Too often operators can just try and replicate what they did last year without appreciating what a difference a day makes.
Don’t forget your regulars…
At Christmas it is most likely your venue will have an influx of customers who you have never visited you before. And while you should do everything you can to welcome them and give them the best experience you can, make sure that you don’t do this at the detriment of your regular customers.
That’s not to say you need to lose any business to accommodate them but be mindful of their needs and wishes. Remember keeping them happy over Christmas will also pay dividends in quieter times of the year.