Ah, the holiday period.
Such an unpredictable, mixed bag of a season, but one with the potential to make or break your bank balance.
And regardless of your observations come the end of the calendar year, one thing that seems to be universally observed is people dining out, and spending time with one another.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a handy list to help you not only make the most of the holiday period financially, but also socially.
We are, after all, humans (I hope).
So, without further ado, here are my 7 tips to make the most of your holiday period:
- Smarter rosters
- Loosen your trading hours
- Killer merch
- Expand your marketing
- Special events
- Keep it fun
Let’s get this one out of the way first.
There’s not many more polarizing elements in the hospo landscape than the classic surcharge. And it’s not just a holiday thing either. Dominos has been whacking a little extra onto their prices every Sunday for as long as I can remember, the added cost rubbing salt into my wounds come payment time (shoutout breakfast pizza).
But they do this for a very good reason.
You see, even billion-dollar multinationals have to pay reward rates to their staff on Sundays, and the surcharge helps absorb some of those costs.
And the holiday period is a good time to pay your staff a little extra. They’ll be more inclined to accept their shifts if they know they’re getting paid more, and with the busy season in full swing, you’re going to want to be well staffed to handle the extra trade.
Which leads us to our next tip:
2. Smarter rosters
The holiday period (particularly December-early January) is traditionally the busiest time of year for hospo. Everybody’s finished work for the year (or are at least finished trying), school’s out, and that leads to one thing: more customers.
Whether it be people taking a breather from their scramble to get their last-minute Christmas shopping in; taking time to regroup over a coffee or a quick lunch before heading back into the retail warzone. Or families finding themselves with nothing else to do than head out for a spot of brunch on a rare weekday off together. They’re gathering as we speak, and they’re coming for us.
Okay, that sounds a bit ominous, but with the right roster, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way.
And although rostering more staff might seem counterproductive to making more money, hear me out.
With more staff on, that means more availability to your customers which means better customer service. You can serve them quicker, cut down on wait times, and clear their tables faster meaning more customers can come in in any given time period.
Use the tools at your disposal to see when your busiest periods are, and roster accordingly.
And make it worth your staff member’s time to come in. By this I mean, if you operate from 7am to 2pm, and the 11-1 period is your busiest, overlap some shifts. Have your opening team go home at 1, and your closing team start at 11. That way there’s not 2-hour shifts that barely cover their commute, and everybody’s happy.
3. Loosen your trading hours
Another way to boost sales is to have holiday period trading hours.
This means you’d look at when your trade traditionally begins to fade, and then you create special trading hours to maximise your profits.
This is particularly useful in January as people begin to go back to work and the frantic, weekend-esque weekdays of late December fade away. You know the days I’m talking about; the type with one customer on a laptop being your only trade for an entire afternoon, meanwhile the 2 staff members you’ve got on are checking their phones covertly because every surface has been wiped so much it’s beginning to remove the varnish.
Once you identify these periods, adjust your opening hours so that no more wages go to staff who are bored and unoccupied. The kitchen can close, the air con can get a rest, and the lights can turn off, saving you money on utilities too.
Some places can even close for a few extra days per week, or even altogether, although this tactic should only be employed if you have enough money squirrelled away to cover the rent, or you’re really in need of a break after a hectic holiday trade.
Just make sure you update anywhere where your opening hours are displayed, including Google (they have an option to do this if you’ve claimed their listing of your business), your own social media and website, and of course, your own window. Also, give your customers the heads up in the lead up to any adjusted hours so as not to inspire any ill will.
4. Killer merch
Merch should already be a part of your offerings, but the holiday period is when this arm of your business should go into overdrive.
Think about it, how many times have you been banging your head against a wall because you just can’t think of a good gift to get somebody? I know I’ve been there, so much so that I almost hit the studs.
Now, imagine they call in for a coffee, and there, right on the counter, is a little hamper filled with everything your business is good at. This could be anything from pickles and preserves, to keep cups, t-shirts, totes, baked goods, preserves, stickers, keyrings, patches for the battle vest, anything you want! My point is, give them something they can buy as a gift that looks like they put a lot of thought and effort into, and is conveniently available to them.
And ramp up production as early as possible to give you enough time to get enough stock ready for December.
If you’ve already got your merch budgeted for (this means all money made from selling merch feeds back into producing more merch) then this is essentially free money.
5. Expand your marketing
And when it comes to that merch, make sure your branding is all over it, however, don’t overdo it; keep it classy, people.
That’s just one way of marketing your business, but there’s a lot more.
Consider investing in some sponsored ads for your social media posts. These not only get your business in front of eyes that might not have seen it before, but it also gives you an opportunity to push any holiday period messaging to them.
Want to drive sales for those hampers we talked about? Post them on Instagram and put a little coin behind it. Link to where they can buy them online and hey presto, you’re now dipping a toe into the pool of eCommerce. Look out Jeff Bezos.
Put the camera on your phone into portrait mode and take some shots of your food and your venue and post those, enticing people to visit with professional-looking visuals.
You can even create events and run a marketing campaign to attract people to those too.
6. Special events
What was that about events?
The holiday period is the perfect time to try something different—something special. Think about creating an event, or multiple events to get people through the doors.
These can be as little as putting on an afternoon tea, and can go all the way up to the highest levels of debauchery. It’s up to you.
Consider what your business is known for and lean into it harder than Valentino Rossi on a hairpin bend (God, I hope that’s a good reference, motorbikes terrify me).
Are you the cutesy cafe that everybody takes photos of? Get the doilies out and assemble the 3-tiered cake stands, because you’re about to host the life out of an afternoon tea. Take bookings and offer a set menu (payable in advance) to increase the feeling of exclusivity.
Are you a restaurant known for its particular country’s cuisine? Get ready to drunkenly croon your national anthem to a room of perfect strangers because you’re about to get real homesick (but for money). Showcase what makes your particular culture so special and share that with your customers.
One of the best dining experiences I ever had was when a hatted American chef put on a Thanksgiving dinner. He pushed the tables together and made all of the traditional foods (albeit, to the highest standard you’ve ever seen). All the food was put in the middle of the table, and we served ourselves. By the end of it all, I was ready to sing ‘Star-Spangled Banner’, but I was strangely thankful for it.
7. Keep it fun
The holiday period can be an awful, gruelling slog with little respite until mid-January. So make sure you keep your venue as positive as you can.
Encourage your staff to get excited about what they’re doing that year, and to chat a little with the customers. I’m not saying they should abandon all of their customer service responsibilities, merely that they be allowed to relax a little and show their human sides.
Happy staff will be much better workers than if they were stressed out. We’re all in this together, which means that if you’re feeling stressed about a frantically-paced shift, they will be too.
And whilst I’m not saying that mistakes won’t be made, just try and go easy on them when they happen.
Customers can feel when the staff aren’t happy, and the happier the staff, the happier the customers, and that’s something that will show in the takings as they keep coming back for more.
Go and make that money
So, there it is: my 7 tips to boost sales in the holiday period.
Whether it be via a little surcharge, a smarter roster, killer merch, or the absolute top-tier of afternoon teas to make all others cower in reverence, there’s plenty of ways to make the most of the busiest time of the year.
And suddenly, a period where once there was dread is now full of that end-of-year cheer and goodwill that people will remember long into the new year, making it the greatest gift of all.