Preparation is everything! Get the most out of the Christmas trading period by following these top tips.


Whether you’re a food house or a wet driven business, you just can’t afford to get it wrong. Hopefully, we have got at least one or two ideas that will help your festive season be a successful and profitable one.

Preparation is everything! Get the most out of the Christmas trading period by following these top tips.


Prepare the rotas as early as possible. Have a staff meeting in October to understand their needs and wants; it’s Christmas for them as well. Be prepared to change rotas as the bookings come rolling in. Display the bookings diary to keep the staff informed. Depending on the size of your operation it might be prudent to appoint one member of the team as a Christmas coordinator.


Boldly decorate a table in a prominent place to showcase your offer; have take-home menus and table talkers available with email sign-up sheets easily accessible. Get your social media campaign agreed and select one member of the team to keep it updated with events, opening hours, loyalty cards and other offers to draw in trade. Christmas menus and Christmas Day plans together with the New Year’s Eve Party arrangements should be available across all your digital platforms so make sure your website is mobile friendly as that is how many new customers will find you. Target local businesses with flyers and newsletters, to get those early, difficult dates booked-up. Consider discounting to get an early commitment. Get those decorations up by the last week in November. Host a taster evening to promote your festive menu to put your customers in the mood. Don’t forget the kid's party; Father Christmas visiting will always generate additional business. Get the chalkboards written professionally inside and out.


Meet your key suppliers early and agree to prices. Negotiate discounts and then use these to create your own special offers on festive drinks. Spirit sales will increase by up to 30% in December so make sure your stock levels reflect this. Customers are willing to trade up and spend more during the Festive period so make sure the bar staff know their premium drink range ready to recommend these to customers. Fizz is the ultimate drink for Christmas. Whether it is Champagne, Prosecco or Cava make sure it’s served at the right temperature, with plenty of ice buckets and flutes available.


Make sure your premises licence covers all your planned activity (live and recorded) apply for TENS if you need them. Make sure each party organiser knows when the sale of alcohol ceases.


Encourage customers to commit as early as possible and make sure that you take a deposit and all possible contact details for large parties. Pre-ordering is always a good idea, contact customers 48 hours before the party to confirm the details. Avoid the temptation to take a booking that you know will be a stretch for the size of your premises and team. You want the customer to be wowed and return next year; there will be a lot of customers that may not have been to your pub before. Why not consider rewarding the organiser with a free meal or gift, they could become your free advert.

Tips and Gratuities

Make sure you have a clear and transparent policy. What are the arrangements for sharing tips? Customers tend to be more generous during the Christmas period, so the amounts can be quite large. Are you going to be adding a service charge for large groups? You do need to keep the staff motivated and avoid any conflict.

Staff Party

Announce this before the busy period begins, so the team have something to look forward to in January. Arrange a staff meeting once the tinsel comes down as a feedback session to discuss what went well and what can be improved for next year? Everyone should have some ideas to share.

Table Service and Up-Selling

Get this right, and you could improve your sales by 10%. Don’t let empty glasses and wine bottles linger on the tables. Make sure your staff are well-versed in the art of up-selling and can use it judiciously. It is vital to train the team how to handle this and make sure all those extra’s get added to the bill!

Bounce back

It’s been around for years, but it still works! Make sure all customers leave with a “Bounce Back” voucher for January and February. Is it too early to remind them about Mothers Day?

Designated Driver and non-alcoholic drinks

Consider dedicating an area on your back bar for your range of soft drinks and non-alcoholic beers. Create a menu of non-alcoholic cocktails to ensure that everyone is catered for.

These are some of my key strategies for ensuring you, your staff and your venue have a truly sparkling Christmas. You know your customers best so start the planning now to ensure your site is the one everyone is talking about.

Have a great Christmas.

Paul Clarke CBII