The jingle of bells can be heard and the festive season is upon us. Its show time! Be well prepared, end the year on a high & set yourself up for a strong 2017.
Detailed & Organised Plan
On the whole seasonal trends stay fairly constant. Detail your plan, utilise historical accounting/sales/stock information, review your previous year’s bookings and events calendar for the festive period and learn from it. Map last year’s food & beverage (F&B) sales along with expenditure, and forecast this year’s expected sales for F&B, along with expected expenditure based upon your current cost of sales. Tweak everything you wished you had in the past. If you weren’t in the same role or site last Christmas, challenge your suppliers to provide you with the information from last year. With reference to beverage, it is unlikely your customers will suddenly change their drinking habits from a pint of lager to numerous double red vermouths and orange juice. If a drink is slow moving during the year, it is not likely to become a top seller at Christmas either.
Study & Account for Menus Early
Speak to food suppliers. Explore seasonal pre-portioned items and ranges to support your kitchen team, increase efficiency by introducing fixed costs, reduce prep time, trim and prep waste. When planning menus always adapt the use of seasonal produce for your event and special menus rather than increasing & over complicating your stock range and levels. Always ask your suppliers for some samples for your chef to trial products and quality in advance. Be sure to make a note of any closures or changes to your expected delivery day for all suppliers, and plan for those changes.
After spending all year building up a rich customer database, it’s now time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Be sure to let your customers know about your Christmas offers and packages and entice them to spend with you rather than your competition – via email, social media, notice boards, verbally etc. Remember that during busy service periods things don’t always go to plan. Occasionally orders might be lost of take longer than expected. If the kitchen is backed up and orders do take a while let your customers know about it. Apologise for the delay and offer a complimentary drink or nibble to make up for it – make diners remember your attentiveness not a delay.
Ensure all your staff (including casual staff) are fully trained and tested on their knowledge of seasonal menus, promotions, the pouring of drinks, upselling, garnish and accurate food portions. Can they make liqueur coffees and do they have enough knowledge to recommend a wine? Once you have diners in your venue it’s important to maximise spend. The average customer will be persuaded by suggestion so politely make some! (It is the silly season after all!). It might be a simple starter to begin with while the group orders drinks or it could be an additional side, salad or a drink to compliment a certain dish, a coffee or a liqueur. At peak time’s roster on your A-team – it is time to impress first time diners and turn them into customers for life.
Control Preparation & Waste
Control the amount of pre-ordered drinks and food prepared based on expected sales levels. Make sure any high cost and volume dishes have an easy to follow predetermined portion size to control costs and enhance profitability (e.g. traditional cheeseboard). Consider how you might alternatively serve ‘seasonal food items’ which may be left over e.g. mince pies, brussel sprouts, stuffing, pigs in blankets etc. Trimmings from the food preparation and production chain should be recycled observing HACCP to make sauces, soups, curries, pie filling mixes etc.
Are you able to display some desserts? – They say we eat with our eyes! Revitalise your in-house displays, chalkboards and posters so they showcase indulgent items – calorie counting is often shelved until New Year!
It’s worth considering any existing liquor you could utilise during the festive period. Take a look at your slow moving lines – could some be utilised to make a Christmas cocktail or Punch? Thereby reducing your stockholding and freeing up space. Mulled wine/cider is always a festive favourite. Do you have old bin end wines which you can no longer sell or some random bottles left over? The scent alone will add to the festive feel.
Think through and monitor any packages or deals you offer, such as ‘two courses with a glass of wine’, jugs of cocktails or ‘organiser goes free’ during the festive season. Consider how these should be rung through the till. How will you account for the stock? Do your staff know what to do? Allocation of revenue from specific deals can often be overlooked, resulting in much confusion and disappointment come January when there is a drop in GP and a deficit.
The first couple of weeks of the Festive Menu are most often in November and this will… be a key indicator as to the popular dishes so order accordingly. Don’t just blanket order assuming every item on the menu will be popular.
Wishing you a successful festive season and a prosperous New Year!
James Shanks is Senior Food Consultant for Venners Consulting, the UK’s leading specialists in Profit and Control for the hospitality industry. You can set up a no obligation meeting with Venners by calling 01279 620873 or contacting [email protected]