How to plan and manage expectations for the Christmas season

Christmas 2020 was a season of instability for the hospitality industry. The promised ‘5 days of Christmas’ were swiftly revoked and replaced by a confusing 3, then 4, then 4+ tier system and, finally, a complete shutdown of London, leaving many alone for the festive day. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that all over the country, restaurants are ready to be filled with company parties attempting to compensate for their lost Christmas of 2020.

The hospitality industry tends to take almost 40% more profit over the festive season, in comparison to the rest of the year. So, naturally, restaurants and pubs are trying to make the most of this season too, using their dynamic teams to serve excellent meals to those hungry for a celebration after an exhausting year. But, there is still a difference in the festivities this year in comparison to pre-COVID celebrations, and it’s the sense of caution lingering in the air, especially with the new Omicron variant emerging a month before the big day.

Some companies are postponing Christmas celebrations to January, to avoid any chance of taking home something flu or COVID-related for Christmas. Most parties are going ahead with smaller celebrations in teams, rather than company events. So, as the bookings come flooding in, how can you prepare to optimise resources and efficiently provide an excellent Christmas experience to your guests?

The changing Christmas party

The forced break last year has provided an excuse for a change in perspective. The ‘traditional Christmas booze-up’ is no longer as appealing, and it seems this year, groups are focussing on booking smaller, higher-quality meals. This is great news for restaurants as the spending per head is going to increase. Creating Christmas menus that serve specialised dishes and drinks manifests a ‘limited edition’ experience to the diners’ orders. Check out The Grove Balham’s Christmas inspired menu for some ideas. The desire to order something which indulges themselves further into the festive mood is almost irresistible, so present them with well-curated Christmas specials.

Companies are looking for an evening filled with cocktails arriving with a trail of smoke, and our professionally trained Brigaders can produce these for you. As Brigaders come onto the platform with an abundance of experience, we can guarantee high-quality and professional staff for your restaurant.

Freelancers are ideal for events and short-term periods, as they can jump straight in. If you have a season of bookings ahead of you, post a proposal offering a period of shifts and the Brigader will be able to learn once and serve for the whole period, saving you time in the long run!

Smaller bookings but greater celebrations

Although the bookings may be smaller in numbers, groups have time to make up for and companies will be promising a bigger and better celebration as a reward for all their hard work through the pandemic.

Companies are planning smaller celebrations for departments which means smaller bookings. These teams can still be large, but the probability of entire restaurant bookings is less likely. The plan to hold staggered celebrations, hosting multiple parties for one company reflects how office attendance is still operating. Working in smaller groups reduces the risk of entire companies catching COVID and therefore ensures a safer working environment.

Employees are still COVID-wary, which is understandable, with cases reaching higher numbers each day. But, smaller tables does not mean less revenue, but it does mean more staff on your end to maintain the evening.

The meticulous organisation of sections in advance will allow you to estimate staff in advance, and the sooner you are aware of the tables lacking available staff, the sooner you can find the staff to fill the holes. Brigad works best if you post the proposal in advance, giving Brigaders time to plan their schedule, and accept your mission. It is not uncommon for Brigaders to want to call in advance to prepare for their shift and provide the best service possible. This means you will be able to answer any questions they may have and ensure they are well prepared for the shift ahead.

Optimising costs for last-minute bookings

Avoid calling friends, family, or neighbours mucking in last minute and paying them extra to apologise for ruining their Saturday night at home, through planning in advance. Read the news to stay updated with COVID and other relevant information which may affect your week ahead. By planning accordingly and reacting to current events you can estimate when you need extra staff to support, or when regular staff can take an evening off.

Many companies are postponing Christmas parties until January, (an idea we are certain will brighten one of the gloomiest months of the year!) and this becomes more likely the higher COVID cases get in the UK. By planning to consider any staff taking time off and using a Brigader to replace them, will ensure they get the well-needed rest after a busy Christmas period.

Getting an estimate for a shift could not be simpler - log on and follow the steps provided by Pauline in this video here, to find the estimated cost in less than 20 seconds. This allows you to plan your finances, and ensure there are no nasty surprises. Support your permanent staff by using a Freelancer to give them the break they deserve. Then, they will return rested and revitalised ready for their next shift.

By postponing their parties, it allows you to prepare in advance for a busy January by planning rotas and menus. Although the deferral of reservations is disappointing, it means that the bookings which remain in December will be easier to manage with the staff you have available. Therefore, the season will be staggered and easier to handle.

Plan, plan again and then plan once more.

As we move towards Christmas and more festive plans come into action, it is clear that after the 2020 lockdown over Christmas, everyone is desperate for any kind of celebration. It is important to recognise the change in everyone’s plans; we are experiencing a wider variety of more local and more compact Christmas parties. The traditional plan of booking entire hotels in the Cotswolds is out of the question. The COVID situation is simply too precarious, greatly affecting travel plans and insurance liability.

More relaxed parties are being planned, without any tuxedo rental costs and as companies cancel their larger parties, independently organised drinks within teams will happen instead. This is an excellent opportunity for the restaurant industry as it means a higher financial take per table, and more last-minute reservations or walk-ins.

So, take advantage of this opportunity and prepare your rota in advance to avoid missing any opportunities to provide companies with their ideal festive experience. Design exceptional seasonal menus to entice smaller groups to celebrate together and provide them, not just with dinner, but a performance of pure festivities!

A final word

Using Brigad ensures you can continue providing exceptional service when you are struggling to fill your rota. Our hospitality staff are qualified, professional, and perfect for events. Don’t waste time and use our app to plan, estimate costs, and find the ideal individual for your vacant shifts. We have a wide selection of fully trained profiles including Head Chef, Chef de Partie, Kitchen Porter, Bartender, and Waiter.

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