With Syft, you connect with a diverse array of hospitality professionals who’ve honed their skills through years of industry experience. We want to show you the people behind the profiles, and share actionable tips that’ll help give your business a competitive edge. We spoke to one of our top-rated Chefs to get insight on the matter.
Head chef and former restaurant owner Simon Taylor-Lane, whose profile biography boasts of ‘over 35 years of experience in the trade, from butchery to bakery’. Returning to the UK after time in Spain, Simon joined Syft and has been active for over a year, completing shifts to a top standard at gleaming corporate venues and plush hotels.
“According to the Bank of England, in December, households spend 19% more on food and 39% more on alcohol than in an average month.”
As Simon is currently working on revising a restaurant’s menus in time for Christmas, it’s vital to remember how important Christmas time is for small hospitality businesses. According to the Bank of England, in December, households spend 19% more on food and 39% more on alcohol than in an average month. In a survey of consumers, nearly 19% of respondents say they expect to eat out on Christmas Day in the future, plus 27% having done so in the past, so hospitality venues have a fantastic opportunity to tempt customers from the presents and mince pies. We spoke to Simon to learn how hospitality and events SMEs can optimise their menus and processes in time for Christmas.
Remember your key dates and costs
As soon as bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes pass Halloween, the festive peak season gets into gear. Your venue will most likely have sorted the festive menu, booked in Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years Eve celebrations, and confirmed the staff rota. However, despite this preparation, Simon observes: ‘Prior to Christmas, a lot of restaurants leave things to the last minute, as it comes down to cost.’
He explains that reviewing the budget is important point to start to see if there is flexibility in contingent expenses, ranging from ingredients to staffing. The restaurant should be in a position of confidence in regards to forecast, while taking the performance of prior years into account. Consider if there are small savings decisions, that could potentially end up not being as cost-effective as intended in the long term sight.
It’s not just your costs to consider; think from the consumer’s perspective. Simon explains: ‘I know a small pub chain that offers a Christmas menu for £60… it’s not become more expensive than the year before, which is really reasonable for Christmas day. On Boxing Day, they charge the menu for £22.50… you can’t get a table, they’re fully booked.’
“In a survey of consumers, nearly 19% of respondents say they expect to eat out on Christmas Day in the future, plus 27% having done so in the past.”
Consider your local competition, your menu on offer, your costs and projected profits; ensure you have made your menu reasonably priced for the clientele you’re aiming for. Don’t forget, despite venues receiving many bookings in advance, consumers can research online, utilise seasonal discounts, or simply stay in if they feel it’s not worth going out. Additionally, Simon cites the ‘last two weeks of November and all of December’ to run themed promotions; you still have time to attract last minute Christmas parties and family get-togethers.
Be responsive to today’s diets
Christmas is notorious for indulgence. The British Nutrition Foundation states that an adult can eat a staggering 6000 kcals on Christmas day alone, so it’d be reasonable to assume that healthy eating is the last thing on most people’s minds during the festive season. However, the last couple of years have seen massive changes in people’s dietary habits. Almost one in five respondents say that they are eating less meat than they were in 2017, and that the changes are mostly driven by healthy living, plus one in ten people avoid gluten.
Simon has witnessed this firsthand, ‘The restaurants that I’ve worked at have been doing it for nearly a year, concentrating on vegan, gluten-free dietary requirements. Where I am now, we’re doing a lot of gluten-free meals… There’s a massive sector of the business that you can corner, but they just don’t because they see veganism and gluten-free as a pain! People are eating less meat for health reasons… Veganism and gluten-free isn’t going away, so you have to tailor your menus if you want those customers to come into your restaurant’.
Is your venue as accommodating to contemporary consumers as it can be? You can take some simple steps to make sure your menu is much more attractive to people with different diets. For instance, ensure your waiting staff mention the gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan options available; keep your clientele aware! Think of the dishes you serve that could be slightly altered to have more appeal; for instance, taking meat or cheese out of salad, or combining vegan dishes to create a platter. Have full nutritional information available to offer people with allergies peace of mind. Even if your venue still serves animal produce, you’re demonstrating awareness of people’s different lifestyles – a real boon for your brand.
“Almost one in five respondents say that they are eating less meat than they were in 2017, and that the changes are mostly driven by healthy living, plus one in ten people avoid gluten.”
Get your dishes looking good
Simon says, ‘We’re just redoing Christmas menus now… we’re making it look more upmarket… You eat with your eyes.’ Surely a good meal should be all about the quality of food, venue ambiance, and customer service? Wrong. According to research by Zizzi, 30% of 18-to-35 year olds would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.
We only need to consider the immense popularity of hashtags like #foodporn and #cleaneating to remind ourselves that people take the way their food looks seriously. With so much choice on offer, the fact that a premium is being paid and, of course, to show off, consumers want to feel like they’re having an experience when they sit down to eat, and have something to show for it.
“We’re just redoing Christmas menus now… we’re making it look more upmarket… You eat with your eyes.” – Simon Taylor-Lane, Head Chef & Syfter
Look at the menu you have now; do the images look mouthwatering to you? Does your venue include its wifi details, social media handles and hashtags? Are you as active as you can be on social media? As so much marketing now happens online, it’s vital to have strong branding in your premises and social media equally. Next, take a look at your dishes. Ensure they’re visually appealing and memorable. Consider using distinctive tableware, assess your dishes and how your competitors present them online by searching as a hashtag for instance. Get your dishes looking tip top and you could be attracting many new Christmas customers!