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For me, Christmas begins when Pret launches its red festive coffee cups and its classic turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwich, but it seems this year we’re all being forced to think about it a bit earlier. 

And so the ads have started, the cards are in the shops and the tins of chocolates are already filling the cupboards at home (and, er, needing restocking). So we’ve put our little Santa hats on early too and got thinking about how you can make the most of the run-up to Christmas. It’s been a tough year for everyone, so why not go the extra mile and end on a high?

First of all, get over the fact it’s not too early to think about Christmas! Start planning now. 

  • First thoughts probably go to theming the menu with festive recipes so go for options that are quick, simple and take a similar time to cook as your usual items.
  • Adding something home-made and heart-warming is always a great way to pull in that extra sale at Christmas so think about putting a twist on something you already serve – like your gravy, a fishcake, croquettes or a pie. All these things have the bonus of being made ahead of time so they won’t interrupt service. We’ve got a host of Christmas recipes that are sure to delight. 
  • Limited edition items are another great way to boost sales and reduce wastage, so make small batches and once they are gone, they are gone. If an item proves particularly popular you can always increase the quantities you make or make them a permanent feature during December. Limited edition items also work really well if you want to push online sales. Simply offer something that customers can’t get in-store. Or even better, something customers can only purchase by going through your own app and not the aggregators.
  • To make service even easier, put your festive foods on at set times during the day rather than having them available all day. This pushes people to order them when it suits you. 
  • Remember, your menu doesn’t have to be gimmicky – you don’t have to batter a whole Xmas dinner or risk spoiling your oil with battered chocolate bars – do something that will genuinely delight customers and that won’t hold you back when you are busy. Everyone loves cheese at Christmas, for example, and when it’s deep fried and gooey, it’s even better.
  • Spread some goodwill by having some free products up on the counter. We’ve got a fab recipe for home-made honeycomb which you can break up and offer free of charge or wrap up in bags and include in with orders.
  • Why not pop a couple of chocolate coins in with food orders for new or regular customers or those that buy children’s meals? It’s a welcome surprise for the kids and helps spread that goodwill.
  • Check out local pop-up Christmas markets and if you’ve got the spare capacity or you have a mobile van, consider booking a spot. Keep the menu simple – fish, chips, side, sauces and a festive item – so that there is less to prepare and anything you don’t sell can be used in your chip shop. 
  • Photograph your festive food and be sure to post it on social media, not forgetting hashtags and to tag bloggers, press and customers in. Make a video of the food being prepared and cooked and upload it to social media including TikTok and Instagram.
  • Ask customers to tag someone in on social media that they would want to share a portion of your festive food with and pick a couple to be the first to enjoy it free of charge. If you have time, ask to take their photo when they come into receive their free food and upload to social media.  
  • Decorate your shop – some fake snow in the window, paper snowflakes, a jar of baubles on the counter make a great start. Pop on Santa hats and get the staff feeling festive, making sure to include your delivery team in this too. If you’ve got a music licence, put on some festive tunes too. It will get customers in the spirit and might encourage them to spend more too!
  • Get your rota sorted now. Consult your staff and try to spread the shifts out evenly so that everybody gets some time off for Christmas shopping/parties. And have a backup plan so that if a member of staff can’t come in, it’s not you covering every shift! 
  • Put a tips jar on the counter for staff, it’s been a tough year for them too.
  • Promote your festive opening hours on your door, on your leaflets, online and on social media to remind people when you are open. Have a look at footfall and decide if it might be worth opening an extra hour or so to catch the Christmas shoppers.
  • Use your database to send all your customers a Christmas card thanking them for their custom this year. Include a voucher to use in January when money is tight and trade is quiet.
  • Organise a Christmas collection – ask customers to donate new toys for children or canned food for distribution to the local community. Or launch a pay it forward scheme with your local food bank.
  • If you’ve got a restaurant, why not run a free or discounted Christmas lunch for a local group like Age UK or The Salvation Army? If you haven’t, you could always organise to deliver to a care home or homeless shelter. 
  • Put together a hamper of all the Christmas Day essentials, hold a raffle and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
  • Gift cards – if you don’t already offer them, get some created as they make great Christmas presents for customers and can bring in new clientele. Online vouchers are perfect for those last-minute presents. Promote them on social media right up to the day and encourage staff to tell customers they are available at the point of purchase. Even if customers say no, you’ve planted that seed that you sell them and they may come back later.
  • Why not buy in some Christmas boxes, greaseproof paper or labels to seal boxes and bags?
  • Ask the local school choir or cub group if they want to do some carol singing outside your shop for your customers while they wait and let them collect money for their chosen charity. 
  • Don’t forget to thank your staff, they’ve had it tough this year too. A voucher, tin of sweets, bottle of booze will all be appreciated. And put a date in the diary for January to have a belated Christmas party. Even if you do something in the shop, it’s an opportunity to get all your staff together to let their hair down. 
  • And finally, check your delivery days over the festive period as these could well change depending on when suppliers are open/closed. You don’t want to go to all that effort and be caught short at the final hurdle!
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