SEASONAL ADVICE FROM SEASONED PROS: THE ULTIMATE ROUNDUP
We’re on the home stretch, just a few days to go until you sign off for the year and slide into that well-deserved, much-needed rest. As much as you want to switch off and never think about work again, now is the BEST time to take stock of the season – the highs and the lows, what worked and what didn’t, what you aced and where you feel you might have done better. Christmas can be a tough month, but it can also set us up for the year ahead – both financially and organisationally, filling our coffers to get us through the leaner months and giving us a little re-set to set our intentions for the new year.
We’ve rounded up some incredible seasonal advice from brilliant industry insiders just in time to tide you through the final push, and to give you some thoughts about how to make the very best of next year – and the months in between.
Widen your customer base AND make your team’s lives easier
The Christmas period in hospitality is notoriously tricky for many reasons which have been widely covered over the last few weeks, but it’s important to understand that it’s also a great opportunity to set yourself up for the new year, both financially and in terms of team morale, service standards and future goals.
Getting through the Christmas season requires planning as early as September, to make sure you have systems in place for large bookings and private takeovers, but also that you have managed staff holidays in advance, so you have adequate staffing levels both FOH and BOH as well.
With this being said, it’s a great opportunity to also develop an entirely new customer base through private events, and showcase just how great you are as a restaurant. The number of Christmas bookings (as well as other private hires) year on year at Legare has grown organically almost entirely through word of mouth, and customer experience from previous events. We often hear ‘we were here last year with X’s party, and we loved it!’.
More importantly, with proper planning and management, large events require less staff, are easier to manage, and are less wasteful than regular dinner services. In many ways, it’s an opportunity for you to show off just how good you are as a restaurant, develop an entirely new revenue stream (and arm to the business) and a new customer base! Pushing through a busy period requires a fair amount of grit, but having a positive mindset about how it can directly benefit you makes the whole Christmas period a lot easier to deal with!
Leaning into community over Christmas to ensure a successful 2024
Pasero opened in November 2022, and we were only just getting going in December last year, so in many ways this feels like our first Christmas. As a small neighbourhood restaurant, we aren’t super booked-up with corporate parties, our December bookings are more a case of ‘a christmas catch-up with friends’ and small bookings of local businesses celebrating.
Because of our location we aren’t really a destination restaurant, but the advantage of this is the knowledge that almost everyone who is visiting is doing it because they are local, meaning we have a really great opportunity to turn them into regulars for the long-term, if they aren’t already. With this in mind, whilst we do of course have our eye on the sales, we are favouring a super service-focused approach, challenging our staff to always look for ways to go above and beyond for our guests. We have been working on all the minutiae of service points, on expanding our team’s food and wine knowledge, and on ensuring consistency – all whilst maintaining a relaxed and totally unfussy service style.
We are also focusing on the connection with the guest, we have a lovely charming team, but to add a bit of structure to this we have some focus questions that we are encouraging our team to ask to help spark a personal connection. As all of our team live locally it’s always easy to find some common ground, so the team report back and it has been a really great way for us to get to know our guests better, and with the help of reservation notes to have some personal recognition on their next visit (if appropriate!). We have been doing this for a few weeks and it is already really showing results, in the feedback that is coming through on reviews and in person.
Pasero operates the kitchen with quarterly chef residencies and pop-ups, this means that as brilliant as our head chef is – we need to give our guests a strong reason to come back in the new year when he is gone, even if the food is something entirely different! We hope that this service-focused approach will help us to have not just a merry Christmas season, but will also ensure our continued success into 2024.
The power of positive communication – and ditching Whatsapp!
At Crispin Group, we want to ensure that our people feel valued, so we’re creating more opportunities for meaningful relationships and engagement within our teams. To better connect with our team members we’re introducing 121’s to encourage open conversations and come to grips with everyone’s experiences within their roles at this particular time of the year. They can then tell us what their world looks like and what they want to learn, allowing us to determine how we can support that development to ensure that their learning and engagement is tailored to their needs.
We’re all at different stages of these conversations. Some are already taking part in two or three new learning activities a month, others are having more in depth conversations about their roles to detail what their workload looks like so we can understand how to relieve the pressure points. We’re noticing the benefits already. Our aim is for everyone to feel empowered to learn new skills, and seek out fun things to do as part of their engagement. We’ve also recently deleted our multiple WhatsApp groups, as we feel our 121 time and in-person meetings offer more structure and are far more meaningful. This has meant we’ve become more considerate of each other’s time, thinking through who needs to know what and to what degree of urgency, rather than bombarding people with messages irrelevant to them. It’s been so lovely seeing our teams get together in person, and has been helpful in terms of supporting our mental health going into Christmas.
As experienced as we are in the industry, the roles and needs of our people are constantly evolving. We want to empower a new culture of self-led learning, so that each team member feels confident to say, “I need help with something” in order to implement growth. That growth runs the gamut across our teams – from wanting more culinary experience, menus that are easier to work with, and better access to industry events. Sometimes it means learning to support our staff when they want to move away from the restaurant and hospitality altogether. We’ve had members wanting to follow their dream of becoming a recording artist, or others who simply want to move into an administrative job. We want to help our teams so they can have meaningful and fulfilling careers, no matter their goals.
Ensuring that teams understand the value and purpose of their own roles is essential, and that same respect for each other is equally important. It’s also hugely important to remind ourselves that, during a challenging economic landscape and an expensive Christmas season, looking after one another is free, so spend it liberally!