With Coronavirus still a main concern in the world, many hospitality businesses have been affected in their sales and growth. Others have been able to preserve profitability by adapting very well to the restrictions and offering quality catering and takeaway options. This can mean great sales produced by fewer staff, adding up to healthier profits and we want to ensure we can help make it an easy and profitable Christmas for your cafe or restaurant.

Understanding this may be the key to helping your business recover faster from the impact of restricted trading. Even if you’re in an area where restrictions have been lifted, the many months of changed conditions are potential sales that are now lost forever.

With Christmas only around the corner, people will be ready to celebrate the festive season after going through this pandemic. There are opportunities to ‘go with the flow’ of people having become accustomed to having events at home. This is the best time to either optimise your business for take-home opportunities or get ahead with educating your customers on the need to book spaces. This will help to make everyone enjoy, relax and celebrate stress-free.

As Norris Industries has been around for over 60 years in the hospitality industry, we wanted to share you our hot tips and opportunities which we think can help your business get a head start on maximising trading and operating results from Christmas festivities for your business.

Update the Christmas Menus & Booking Options. In addition to the usual Christmas food and set menu options, there’s a new appreciation of what restaurants can sell beyond the traditional sit-down booking. If your business is only able to take smaller bookings due to the room capacity, think ahead in taking deposits for bookings – customers will have become accustomed to these firmer conditions from the pandemic. There is also an opportunity to create pre-made takeaway meals to send out for Christmas Eve or ingredient boxes for your customers to recreate their favourite secret recipe meals on your menu for their family on the festive day.

Track down previous bookings. If you haven’t heard from or seen your regulars, phone, fax or write to them – this year needs to be more personable with what everyone has gone through. Make this the season of list and relationship building with your customers and other businesses. Our hot tip is to use: The Silver Chef Guide to Finding Customer Contacts in your Cafe or Restaurant.

Put safety at the centre of Christmas events. Assess your risks and government regulations on events, crowd size and distancing. Communicate these to customers and event organisers. Have staff trained and ready to manage sign-in registers, table spacing and customer behaviour. Another hot tip to check out is the: Eventbrite Safety Playbook for Events is a very useful guide with excellent checklists. Hot tip number two: our sister company, Zexa, has put together some mini hand and surface sanitiser sprays and hand creams that smell AMAZING and would make excellent customer ‘thank you’ gifts. Check them out!

Upgrade your ordering system: The pandemic has dragged most operators into the digital world! Now take it further with new menus and, if possible, a better website experience. Menu ‘modifiers’ and add-on items can make a big difference to the value of each sale – this is the new language of menu design. The good news is that most customers are now ready to order online and accept that there are stricter conditions for pre-payment and cancellations. Use the promotional options available with your system – they usually have options to contact existing customers via email or SMS, for special deals or reminders.

Create special deals for off-peak times. These could be during late November, Sunday to Wednesday in December or possibly a late Christmas party idea in January. Don’t miss the opportunity to add extras as a bonus rather than discounting so  – such as party favours, wine or canapés – or the small gifts from Zexa mentioned previously. Set minimum spend for rooms or spaces, and stay firm. Make sure staff who take bookings understand why you do this.

Prepare a Christmas photo shoot! Get your business or cafe ahead and ready for non-stop posting on Instagram and Facebook – go hard on your posts and stories! Set up a day to shoot a variety of Christmas subjects, and use images from last year with a message overlay. Avoid stock photo cliches! Create the nostalgic memories from previous years for your customers to not want to miss out on this event event. Even think about taking photos of food or the hampers/vouchers you will have available during Christmas! The cameras on phones are just as good now and can be done easily, but make sure you have the right lighting. By doing this, you will also be building a photo library to use in the future!

Use Facebook advertising! Promote your Christmas specials, bookings and/or events. Make sure you target your local area and include your ‘Custom Audience’. This should include your customer database of emails you have on file from previous bookings as well as your subscribers from your newsletter list. Make these advertisements very specific and aimed at attracting party bookings.

Remove discounts in December. Keep the focus on special Christmas packages you may have, which of course have a big focus on value to your cafe or restaurant. Make sure other deals or coupons you may have such as $12 meals don’t undermine this peak revenue time.

Maximise revenue on the most popular dates. Key Fridays and Saturdays in December, or whenever you know is most in demand. Set minimum spend for rooms or spaces and try and stay firm – remember with the restrictions and higher demands your venue will have during these tough times, you need to look after yourself. Make sure you communicate this with your staff who take bookings so they understand.

Promote Gift Hampers and Vouchers! For corporate customers who haven’t been able to take their colleagues or partners out for Christmas luncheons, gift cards or hampers to purchase through your business would be a great idea for a gift. If you haven’t done a Hamper before or promoted one before, try making one and run a raffle to promote and add the option on your website. This can also be done for vouchers if you haven’t explored this path before. For those in lockdown or working from home, this will create new and thoughtful gift opportunities – the boss who wants to send Christmas packs to her 50 staff, or canapé boxes for everyone to enjoy with a Zoom party! Hate to say it again – but the Zexa gifts are amazing for this!

Find and connect with office party organisers. These guys are the hard-working coworkers in every office who arrange the farewell gifts/parties, wedding presents and the birthday cakes. Once they have booked, you may want to reward them with a small gift, drink or voucher – treat them like your very best friend and of course for bringing you business!

Connect and collaborate with Event Businesses. Event businesses have really felt the hit hard during COVID-19. A best way to create businesses is supporting other businesses, if you have the space or opportunity to create a one/two night event, why not collaborate with your local events business. Create the most epic and dreamy Christmas event for your cafe or restaurant with beautiful decor. With all their contacts and your followers, this will create a lot of engagement and promotion for your event.

Send out a copy of your Christmas menus to every customer. Get these menus designed in a postcard size so it can be easy to mail drop, make sure you include any special deals you have in conjunction with Christmas as well as most importantly link to the menu download in every email you send (add it to your footer or your email signature!).

Spread the love and send out some Christmas Cards! Send out real Christmas cards to your regulars and suppliers and let them know of your Christmas opening hours and special deals – hand write your signature for the personal touch. Start to hand write these now!

Promote community spirit with a charity donation. Groups such as World Vision and Oxfam promote gifts that build lives – school books, agricultural programs and water pumps. You may like to organise a group donation from your business.

Consider your non-Christian customers. There may be a large number of customers who don’t celebrate the religious festival but want to enjoy time with friends. Fortunately, Santa has universal appeal! Make sure within your promotions, social posts or any form of communication you are doing, you are keeping these customers in mind and not over doing the Christmas promos!

We hope you all have a safe and Merry Christmas and if you are in need of an upgrade or repair, please contact us today on 1800 803 569 or alternatively email sales@norris.com.au