In Australia and NZ, good weather combines with the festive season to make Christmas a busy time of year for most hospitality businesses.
The silly season may bring a bit of extra stress, but by observing a few golden rules you’ll get through the other side with your sanity intact and a healthy profit.
1. Use the festive season to secure new year business
Both restaurateurs and café owners will know November and December can be one of the busiest times of the year, so the temptation is to make hay while the sun shines.
But by focusing purely on the present, business owners may be doing themselves a disservice says Sally Neville, Deputy Chief Executive of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association.
“It’s worth remembering to create an offer for your customers that will incentivise them to come back at a quieter time of year,” said Neville.
“Your offer should arrive with the bill (or even on it), and be a discount or a free giveaway that will entice them to come back for a January booking.”
2. Carve out your own version of holiday festivities
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the way people celebrate the holiday season in Australia is incredibly varied, and this is already reflected in the hospitality market.
“The restaurant industry is incredibly broad in its demographic,” said Neville. “Operators come from every walk of life and every age band as well.”
For this reason, there’s no call for subscribing to any one version or denomination, but rather consider what’s the best fit for you, your staff and your clientele.
For example, Greek restaurants and cafes might consider showing off Orthodox traditions at this time of year, while non-traditional establishments may choose to avoid any reference to religion during the holidays.
But above all, don’t forget to celebrate in some way!
3. Create an events-friendly business
“In Australia we’re fortunate that people want to go out to celebrate,” said Neville. “We have increasingly smaller houses and we’re time poor, so entertaining at home isn’t as popular as it used to be.”
This makes celebrating at local restaurants, bars and cafes a popular alternative — so people may be seeking to book such events for their workplace or private social groups.
Any hospitality business seeking to capitalise on this trend should make sure their website includes details about booking events, including any special offers or packages for large groups.
4. Improve your yield with upselling and increased sittings
Christmas is a time of giving, and one of the most important things you can do for your customers as well as your business is to offer choice.
“If you can offer choice to your customer that will naturally improve your yield, as you’re offering a customer service,” said Neville.
“And your staff should be encouraged to upsell in such a way that highlights the availability of choice, rather than trying to push something onto them they don’t want.”
This may be as simple as highlighting a higher quality wine option, or perhaps pointing out the available cake choices that aren’t listed on the dessert menu.
Businesses can also look to improve revenue by increasing customer turnover. At such a busy time of year, this can be done by introducing a double sitting system for bookings.
“We’re seeing more and more restaurants offer a 6.30pm and 8pm sitting, which helps to streamline bookings while also increasing yield compared to a restaurant that offers an open booking schedule.”
5. Be generous to your staff
During summer, and influx of tourists on working holidays offers many hospitality businesses a steady supply of casual labour for hire, but this doesn’t mean workers should be treated as a commodity.
The performance of hospitality staff as a direct impact on a business’s performance, and Neville recommends that business owners should be proactive in finding ways to help out your staff wherever possible.
“Some businesses create labour sharing schemes, as in any given area you’ll have some businesses only open during daylight hours while others are only open in the evening,” she said.
“And with Australia’s current issues with underemployment, job sharing works well for the employer and the staff who are looking to put their own gifts under the Christmas tree.
“This time of year, hospitality staff are working long hours and a good employer will work to keep their staff engaged and healthy; some offer competitions with incentives, and this can be a good way to keep staff focused on the prize.”