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Christmas private hire & events top tips.

We’re basking in glorious sunshine at the moment, but enquiries are starting to come in for that all-important Christmas party season!
Jennie has shared her top tips on how to nail the Christmas party journey and turn first-time clients into loyal customers.

How to seal the deal with a standout venue show around.

You’ve impressed the client with your venue and offering – now they’ve booked a show around. Time to wow them and seal the deal!

Sell the Experience
  • According to KAM Media research – 66% of the driving force behind a booking is based on atmosphere & guest experience. This tops budget and location considerations. Experience is based on emotion – not logic.
  • Think of how Christmas adverts make you feel. You need to create this magical, festive feeling for the client when they come to visit your venue (even if it’s in 32 degree heat in August!)
 
Show and Tell
  • Make a great first impression by being organised – have your brochures, menus and plenty of pictures of Christmas parties in action ready for the meeting. I used to bring an ipad with me so I could show them what the space they’re standing in looks like when it’s decorated at Christmas.
Creating a magical, festive feeling when clients visit your venue is key!
  • Ensure the venue is clean (don’t forget toilet checks!) the lighting is right, and put some upbeat background music on. Or, ask them to visit during times there will be an atmosphere without it being overcrowded, so they can imagine what it’s like for people to be in the space.
  • If it’s a restaurant, have a sample table set up, looking beautiful, so they can see what it’ll look like for their party.
  • Talk them through the customer journey from the moment they walk in, to the final hours of the party. Talk about your décor plans, explain how you’ll cater for the operational logistics, mention fun extras that worked really well in your space in the past. Use anecdotes and descriptive language to allow them to imagine the whole experience and buy into it.
  • Remember – have faith in your offer. If you believe in your venue, your enthusiasm will come across.
Go the extra mile
  • Show them how great you are at hospitality! Offer them a drink as soon as they arrive, offer to stash their bags somewhere safe for the visit if it’s a bigger venue so they don’t have to lug them around.
  • Arrange a sample tasting. If you have a few knock-out canapes or an amazing dish that always go down a treat – tell them to come with enough room on the day to try them out (remember to ask for dietaries)
  • Offer them a table and a cheeky drink before you leave. If you have a great festive cocktail menu, knock them up a couple as a surprise.
  • Make sure you follow up the next day to thank them for coming to visit you, to get their thoughts at this point and remind them you’re there to help with any questions or queries. Check what the decision-making process is and how long it takes, and arrange another follow-up if they don’t confirm straight away.

Common Christmas party pitfalls (and how to avoid them).

Here are the common Christmas party pitfalls I’ve heard over the last 15 years – and how to avoid them!

Not enough food

So many event bookers are afraid of the food side of things going wrong. Bad quality food, food being late, or coming out too slowly – but the most common complaint is that there simply wasn’t enough of it. I remember one client telling me about her guests queuing by the kitchen doors, waiting for a tray to come out so they could pounce on it. Everyone left as they were so drunk and hungry. Nightmare!

Solution

Make sure your menu offering is appropriate and deliverable against that number of guests. Ensure your delivery logistics make sense, and you have enough staff to cope. Christmas revelry in particular makes for very hungry guests.

Manage expectations by letting the booker know that whilst you’ll be working hard and fast to get the food out ASAP, feeding hundreds of guests takes time – but don’t worry, your team are pros, and you’ve got it! Market using testimonials from previous clients that specifically mention great things about your food and service.

Disorganised cloakroom/long entry queue

Guests often get changed at work and come straight to the venue, en mass, with lots of bags and coats. The door and the cloakroom forms their very first and their very last impressions of your venue, so it’s important to get it right!

Solution

It know it sounds a bit trite, but it really is a case of the 7 Ps! Prior Proper Planning Prevents Painfully Poor Production…

Get your cloakroom team early to print off tickets and get everything set up well in advance. Use digital guest list software such as Gateme on the door, this really help to take the stress out of it – 300 names on an excel sheets printed across 3 clipboards…argh!

If it’s a big party – ask the organiser to stagger guest arrival times to ease the pressure. Explain why – they’ll be as keen to manage this situation as you are! Again though, manage their expectations –it takes time to check guests in and get them settled. Offer a trayed drink service to those waiting for the cloakroom.

The bar was too busy/not enough staff

It’s the busiest night of the year, there are hundreds of thirsty guests and only so many people you can fit behind the bar!

Solution

Insist on welcome drinks for larger bookings – make it part of your package. This gives the bar team time to prep the drinks, ready to deliver to tables – and staggers queues at the bar.

Ask the booker for everything to be ordered against a tab and settled at the end of the night, rather than processing individual transactions.
Arrange for certain drinks to be kept replenished on their table against an agreed budget to minimise the need for guests to go to the bar.

Minimise your cocktail offer on busier nights and prep well in advance.
Train your bar teams to acknowledge people and let them know where they are in the queue. That will put anyone waiting at ease – if they know they’ve been seen they’ll be happier to wait.

Making sure guests get their drinks quickly & efficiently is so important...

Building long-term relationships with your clients.

They’ve had a brilliant Christmas party with you! Now, how do you secure that long-lasting custom and keep the relationship going?

Early bird offers/first to knows.

Offer them an early bird discount if they rebook their Christmas party with you now!
Hosting a venue launch or running a particularly great offer? Let them know. Extend them a personal invite wherever possible.

VIP time for showcases.

If you are hosting a showcase, reserve a 45 minute window before the official start time to dedicate to previous customers. This will give you time to catch up with them and hand them a drink personally.

“Ask for me!”

If they want to book an event for 100, a meeting for 10 or a table for 2 – tell them to ask for you so you can take care of them personally.

Value-added extras.

Of course offer preferential rates for repeat visits, if and when you can. Value-added extras though can make all the difference at little cost. An extra round of teas and coffees for their meeting, a surprise glass of prosecco on arrival for dinner. It’s the little touches that make clients feel valued.

LinkedIn.

Connect with your client on LinkedIn and engage with their posts, when appropriate.

Personal check-ins.

If you haven’t heard from them in a while, drop them a line to say hello! Of course don’t bombard them or be overly-personal, but it’s good to check in and keep in touch 😊

Consistently deliver.

It’s a no-brainer! If you deliver every time, they will keep coming back to you.
If you’re in sales and hand over to an operations team – flag them as an important booking. Make a note of their favourite wine or dish so front of house can make their experience more personal.

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