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In this issue, Conor Kenny, head of hospitality industry advisors Conor Kenny & Associates, looks at 10 simple, effective, low cost, high impact ideas that can help you make Christmas special for you, your colleagues and your customers.
 
Let’s be honest, a big weighty manual on how to make magical Christmas moments will gather dust and lie happily on that even dustier upper shelf. Instead, at a busy time of year, 10 simple but effective ideas that will have a high impact on your customers. Time Gentlemen, is of the essence!

(1) What’s The Plan?

Before you rush headlong into Christmas 2008 it’s not a bad idea to pause, think and plan. Sometimes that dreaded ‘staff meeting’ can be the most profitable use of your time. In other words, a simple Christmas Strategy with your team, by your team.
But first things first, round up your people and get them involved. Straight away, that creates energy, focus and a new purpose. Ask them for ideas, create owners for ideas and set deadlines with a date to review progress.
The mission is to make Christmas different and a real alternative to your competitors.
Then, define ‘your Christmas’ and what makes it attractive. Now you are ready to sell, sell, and sell again.

(2) What’s new?

If you give me a message that says… “Come to my Pub for more of the same as last year, and the year before. Come to my Pub where the only real difference is a few tired decorations. Or come to my Pub where nothing much has really changed”…Guess what? I’m not coming!
How we send out a message is very important. If your Christmas production is as exciting as… “Christmas at Murphy’s”… please don’t be surprised when the masses say ‘no’.
On the other hand if you promise me… “An actioned packed Christmas full of fun, great home cooked food, laughter and entertaining surprises”… I’m already interested.
If writing is not your thing, find someone who can.
We have all made decisions by reading that enticing mouth watering menu, and we have all said no to “today’s special”.
Spot the difference?

(3) Bring the mountain to the masses.

Ever see a Publican standing proudly constantly polishing the bar counter with nobody there? Ever hear a Publican talking anxiously about the customers he hopes will come in at Christmas? Do you like the idea of leaving your fate in their hands? If the answer is ‘no’ read on.
Enough has been written about changing markets. In short, times have changed and a Pub is no longer just a Pub, it’s a business. Just like every business your product and Christmas fare needs to be sold. People won’t just guess that your place will be better.
Find your unique selling point from your team meeting, capture it and package it. Once you have done that, pick out your best people to spend at least one hour a day ‘selling’ your Pub. But beware, if you run around aimlessly selling your incredible ‘features’ I won’t come. Sell me ‘benefits’ In other words “What’s in it for me Buddy?” Answer that and I’m on my way.

(4) Judge a book by its cover.

Wisdom says “Never judge a book by its cover” but we do and we will.
Christmas is a time of low light, cold, grey dark skies and a natural desire for warmth. The outside of your Pub will make me decide to explore further.
It’s Christmas and a beautifully decorated tree, windows, candles, car park and door will tell me lots. Your written messages will lure me further. Your promises will get me peeking around the corner and the atmosphere that really says ‘Christmas’ will seal my fate.
Invest in your outside, your windows and that snug warm glow. It works, it’s how you have decided in the past. Now consider the alternative?

(5) First impressions.

As the saying goes; “You get one chance to make a first impression”. The secret for every Pub is to capture that rare moment and make hay whilst Christmas shines.
At Christmas several people will come to your Pub who might not otherwise have reason to. The Christmas Staff Party is your opportunity to impress and make sure they discover your unique and special character. How you use that opportunity will determine if new customers will become regular loyal devotees. There is no magic formula or one single thing. It is your unique DNA and how you create it. The answer lies in everything being one per cent better than your competitors, not one thing.
We make instinctive decisions very quickly. The first 30 seconds will be subject to heightened senses. Make sure they get the right messages.
Great infrastructure is secondary, not primary. Invest and focus in the sensory things up front.
Make sure your Pub is warm, well lit and cosy. Make sure you and your staff work really hard at smiling, it is Christmas after all. Make sure you acknowledge and quickly. Make sure everything is clean and make sure the atmosphere says Christmas.
If you are going to do any of that the cheap or half way, don’t bother.
Now work twice as hard at greeting and smiling, it will forgive a multitude.

(6) Its all about me.

There are many superb reasons why things are not done. We know, we hear them every day. Most Pubs are operationally focused, successful Pubs are customer focused. In other words, what comes first? Your need or the customers?
If you can make your staff adopt a culture where going the extra mile (even for Christmas) is the norm, you will stand out from the crowd. It’s not your Pub, it’s my local. At Christmas, after 50 weeks of ‘giving’ I expect to receive.
Many years ago I remember sitting in a charming rural Pub. It was Christmas. The owner was in a jolly mood. One of his regulars ordered a coffee. Without batting an eyelid the owner said in a loud voice “No Tom, I insist, the coffee is on me. After all, you are here every week and it’s my Christmas treat to you”. He lost 4 regulars that night - for good.

(7) Bright ideas.

There is a great saying “Ideas are only ideas until they fly into action” It’s one thing to brainstorm great ideas, it’s another to implement them. A simple idea is to set your team a task. Gather them up for one hour and lock the doors. The mission is to find 10 simple, low cost, high customer impact ideas that will make a difference. If you have 5 team members make them responsible for 2 each. Encourage them; create an atmosphere of “let’s do it and so what if it fails” set targets, deadlines and goals and, most importantly, give them their head. Your agenda might cover; (1) Welcoming ideas. (2) What we ‘hand out’ ideas. From food to Christmas Cards to loyalty incentives. (3) Different, fun and innovative decorations. For example, ‘Christmas by kids’ a local drawing competition that depicts your Pub at Christmas. (4) Food Ideas. (5) Service Ideas. (6) Bathroom ideas. Candles and atmospheric things you could do. (7) Upselling Christmas ideas. (8) Tea and Coffee ideas. (9) Home cooked complimentary ideas and (10) Goodbye ideas.

(8) Your shop window.

Actually, Pubs don’t have shop windows, they have shop fronts. Yes, a shop front must be well lit, warm, inviting and have all the right messages about what goes on inside. But, unlike high street windows, the Pub window does little to tell me what you offer.
The pub shop window is your back bar. This is where you sell me your product and the bar tender becomes the salesperson.
First off, if it is not on your back bar you don’t sell it, that’s what the retail specialists say. What you sell and what you want to sell must be displayed.
Those beautiful little Eiffel Tower models you brought all the way from Paris generally don’t sell well. Get rid of them and use your precious retail ‘shop window’ to sell what sells.
At Christmas, just like every other occasion (Valentines, Easter, and Mother’s Day for example) your Back bar should reflect the event. That shows relevance, change and that you care.

(9) Festive food.

Many people won’t go to the Pub just to drink at Christmas time. They will want to eat and a great Pub dining experience can recruit new customers.
Festive food should be about ‘giving back’. But, avoid dividing your customers quickly and easily with noisy “food for our loyal customers” proclamations. New customers are even more important and their money is worth exactly the same.
Festive food must reflect Christmas so out with the mince pies (complimentary of course) and lots of other festive fare.
Keep it simple but keep it generous. Years ago cocktail sausages were the norm; today they would make a very pleasant first impression.

(10) Christmas means parties.

Ask your staff for ‘entertainment’ ideas and ‘music’ will be their first response. Expensive, not new, not different nor easy. Instead, at that brainstorm session, ask for ideas but ban the word music.
We have worked with many Pubs that have created memorable magic moments at low cost. From local actors to poets, from art competitions to male waxing, there are many ways to amuse, entertain and make merry.
The mission is simple; entertainment but at a low cost, different and make sure it makes you smile.
It can be done; your competitors are already doing it.
 
We are in recessionary times and it’s not a bad idea to factor that in. Your customers are going to be even more discerning about where and how they spend their money. It is never going to be about ‘price’ it is going to be about ‘value’ Everything you do should acknowledge “how would that feel if I were in their shoes?” Put it another way, what would they say about your Christmas night in your Pub in their car on the way home?
 
Finally, Christmas is that time of year when we all over spend and over extend. Wouldn’t it be memorable if that were your mission for your customers for Christmas 2008?