Countdown to Christmas: preparing your business for the silly season

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The silly season is in full swing, but by taking these 6 steps, you’ll be able to get through to the other side with your sanity intact and a thriving business to boot.

1. Sort your staff

Hospitality staff have the ability to make or break your business. During the crucial Christmas period, you need to put as much effort into your employees as you do your menus, ordering or anything else. Plan ahead – lock down rosters as far in advance as you can. Ask employees to delay leave if possible and hire/train additional staff if necessary. Prepare them for the onslaught, offer incentives and let them know they are valued. Get them involved with choosing/naming specials or making suggestions and most of all, encourage them to have fun!

TIP: Get your head around penalty rates. You’ll possibly be faced with more overtime, public holidays and later nights than usual so you need to be prepared. Underpaid staff are unhappy staff, plus you don’t want to get caught short if/when wages blow out.

2. Plan special menus 

Adding some festive flair to your menu can really set your business apart. Speak in advance with suppliers and make smart choices when it comes to planning menus or special items around seasonal produce or placing bulk orders. Allow for design and printing if necessary as well as any servingware requirements. Factor this into cash flow and make sure new menu items are set up in your POS system. Educate your staff and get them to sample new items prior to launching.

3. Get social

Plan your Christmas social content well in advance, and schedule it early if possible. You want your focus on serving customers during the busy period, not worrying about posting to Facebook or Instagram. Plus, it’s a huge opportunity to promote your business to prospective customers looking for a different venue, or to plug new menu items to existing customers.

4. Maximise trade

Fortunately, the climate in NZ during December encourages people to get out and about for Christmas celebrations. Plan in advance if you need to extend trading hours to meet demand, and think about the best times to do so. Promote this as early as possible so regulars and prospective customers alike can factor it in. Finally, make sure you have the staff available to accommodate the extra hours.

TIP: If you don’t already, think about structuring your service around sittings to maximise turnover in peak times. If you already have sittings, consider adding in an additional sitting.

5. Decorate 

We’re not saying you should take out the tinsel and mount the mistletoe in September, but – regardless of your beliefs – any venue lacking a festive touch come December feels a little flat. Pick a theme that suits your establishment. It can be as simple as some ornaments near your register, or you can go all out with a window display or tinsel hanging from the ceiling. 

TIP: If your venue is a bit quirky, don’t be afraid to quirk up your Christmas display!

6. Look ahead

While many café and restaurant owners focus on the lead up to Christmas as an opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, many overlook the business opportunities in the down time that follows. Many hospitality businesses, particularly suburban or smaller operators, will close down entirely between Christmas and the New Year. This creates a massive opportunity for those who do stay open to capitalise on that market, as it forces people to go further afield or try something other than their “usual”. If they have a pleasant experience, it’s possible to retain those customers into the New Year. 

TIP: Capitalise on the increased patronage during December with an offer or incentive that encourages a return visit during the quieter January period.

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