Christmas isn’t cancelled!

As we all know, expectations for Christmas in Hospitality this year have been reduced to a state of almost collective despair and uncertainty. Normally Operators would already be sitting on 70% of pre-booked sales for the month of December, with key dates fully booked and replete with deposits. The flurry of activity would include weekly meetings, and sales teams/reservationists would be working around the clock to respond to enquiries and customer pre-orders. Private rooms would be booked out and the early Christmas parties would already be in full swing, and no one would dream of having any time off as holiday. We should be gearing up for the busiest and (in my opinion) the very best month of the year to be in hospitality!

But it is very different this year and the uncertainty of how this trading quarter will end is making planning almost impossible. In spite of good news about vaccines, we still do not know when the lockdown will end, and ‘second guessing’ how consumers will behave when some semblance of normality arrives. Christmas is always an opportunity to claw back reduced sales from earlier in the year due to issues in or out of a venue’s control. So why on earth do I still believe Christmas isn’t cancelled?

Call me an eternal optimist but I Believe in the Christmas Spirit!

The Christmas spirit – and desire to celebrate with loved ones – is Covid proof. There is strong evidence to suggest that as soon as our customers start to plan their visits with venues once again, they will seek to do so with enthusiasm and careful planning of their own. I predict a Christmas upturn, and whether that is 3rd; the 8th or the 16th December 2020 (and in whatever Tier we are given), Christmas is NOT cancelled!

HOWEVER, we will need to continue to think – and act – differently, and we must continue to sell and promote each venue throughout the current Lockdown. To succeed it’s imperative that you remain at the forefront of your customers thoughts, more so now than ever with festive adverts on the increase; mince pie sales rocketing; festive films out on Netflix; and a general feeling of ‘Cheer’ beginning to fill the air. What’s more, a Vaccine is imminent and although it will not benefit the general public for a while yet, it is going to protect the vulnerable and restrictions will start to ease. Our customers are already planning for their release into the world of hospitality they value so profoundly, seeking out Christmas for their souls, for their mental wellbeing, and (unselfishly) to help both the Economy and the much-loved Hospitality sector to rejuvenate.

Creating business resilience

This is the time for Operators to bolster their marketing and work to extend the Festive period through to the end of January (at least). You can encourage business resilience by planning your Christmas now for all scenarios – and all possible Tiers – so there are no more unwelcome surprises.

Operators can be bold, spread the festive cheer, and skip the discounts. By far more important and effective is the need to focus on re-engaging with your Customers in the most personable way you can. Christmas this year is no longer simply a corporate booking occasion because there will be  smaller groups of friends and families seeking a safe and enjoyable environment. Many of these will also be ‘Bubbles of Two’ and lower spenders, but they will visit you more frequently if you get it right. But do not disregard your corporate contacts and local businesses – Perhaps they will buy a gift voucher for their staff or a Festive party box or meal kit from you? Perhaps they will still go out in smaller groups of up to 30? Perhaps you will build such a genuine and long-lasting relationship with your Customers that they will pass on your contact details to other Department Heads and Social committees? If you get the basics right, they WILL be loyal Customers in 2021!

Our Customers want us, so make sure that it’s your venue they choose to visit and celebrate the Festivities in. How do you do this? By getting the basics right, and this means ensuring that every contact – especially pre booked sales – is warm, genuine, and helpful. I am always amazed at how many venues still don’t deliver on this basic requirement.

Matt Hancock’s latest statement was (and I quote), “We will inject hope into people’s arms”. Well I say that our Industry injects ‘Fun, Life, and Wellbeing’ into people’s hearts.

So please continue to innovate at every turn, remembering the essentials first and foremost: your interaction with Customers which must be responsive and genuinely warm. There are many new ideas being tried, such as Business to Business party boxes and experiences. I believe this new revenue stream will grow throughout 2021. By all means prioritise your Gift Vouchers and sell your unique experiences (such as Brunch and Afternoon Tea, and Cocktail Masterclasses) seeking opportunities to secure pre-bookings. Gift vouchers are especially useful as a way to reward repeat December visitors and encourage loyalty: yet another way of getting bums on seats now and in the future! Doing this is simple: contact Bums on Seats who have partnered with an Industry leading gift voucher delivery business (Toggle) who said:

‘I’m delighted to be working with Amber and the team at Bums on Seats. Toggle is all about driving visits to venues, whether through a shared experience, a gift card or a corporate sale. Bums on Seats does the same job and I know that with Amber’s energy, any clients engaged with them will undoubtedly see a massive return on investment – especially when using our two businesses in combination.’

Dan Brookman CEO Toggle & Airship

Hospitality Christmas Sales
Bums on Seats & Toggle's campaign "Give the gift of hospitality".

For more info or to arrange a virtual coffee with Team Bums pop us an email to contact@bumsonseats.org.

Amber Staynings

Amber is the founder & CEO of Bums on Seats, which she launched in January 2019.
With 20 years experience in the industry, Amber’s career has been characterised by a passionate belief in Hospitality and its influence on individual wellbeing and happiness.

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