Christmas decorations

Although it’s anticipated many consumers will cut down on their spending this Christmas, they will still want to enjoy the celebrations, so be sure to give your business an injection of festivity

What signals Christmas for you? Is it mince pies appearing on supermarket shelves, the festive lights switch on, or the Coca-Cola advert making its debut on TV? 

Everyone has their triggers. For me, it’s when Starbucks introduces its infamous red drinks cups. While all that may still seem some time away, it’s never too early to start planning. 

“I think this Christmas is going to be more important than any year so far,” says Barry Dickman, director at BD Signs and BDigital. “Customers are going to be looking for somewhere to go at Christmas that feels like Christmas so dress your shop as soon as you can. The minute you see the M&S advert on TV, jump on the bandwagon, don’t think it’s too early, crack on and pre-advertise what you have coming up. 

“I’d put that little jar on the counter, saying tips for staff, because they have worked so hard this year too, and get the tinsel out around the menu. We are going all out to help shops too with festive digital templates for screens available.”

One shop taking Barry’s lead is Evan’s Plaice in Rhayader, Powys. Last month, it asked its 1,100 Facebook followers what they would like to see added to the menu. The options are a Christmas burger, a Christmas pizza, pigs in blankets or Christmas loaded chips. At the time of going to press it was a close race between two favourites, pigs in blanket with 49% of the votes and Christmas loaded chips with 37%. 

Batter bandwagon

When it comes to Christmas in a fish and chip shop everyone jumps on the batter bandwagon with individual chocolate items all the way through to a complete roast dinner seeming fair game. 

If you are thinking about battering, Middleton Foods has a How To Guide to Christmas on its website that includes festive twists on popular favourites, one being turkey strips using Roosters Spicy Breader, battered and served with cranberry sauce and Rooster’s Southern Fried Gravy. 

Ryan Baker, sales manager at Middleton Foods, comments: “Pigs in blankets, brussel sprouts, stuffing balls and turkey strips all work really well. It’s always good fun to do and it gets customers into shops at Christmas. One thing I would say is don’t leave it to the week running up to Christmas, you want to get customers all the way through December. Tap into the Christmas sales as early as possible.”

If you’d rather not mess with your main menu, a simple way to boost impulse sales and bring a touch of Christmas to the menu is stocking individually wrapped products. Central Foods has a range that includes mince pies and iced fruit cake slices and they come frozen so can be defrosted on demand to avoid unnecessary food waste. Both happen to be gluten-free, plus the mince pie is also vegan, which means they are suitable for customers with dietary requirements. 

As well as offering these as takeaway options, Gordon Lauder, MD of Central Foods, suggests taking them out of their wrappers and serving them as a plated dessert for operators offering a sit-down service. He adds: “Or how about doing a special festive deal that includes a sweet treat? Or maybe even treating customers to a complimentary mince pie or piece of fruitcake to celebrate the festive season?”

If you are finding yourself taking on extra stock this festive period, which is often the case if you operate a restaurant, it’s always worth checking your insurance policy to see if you are covered. Most policies will allow for a 10% increase in the value of stock automatically, but don’t assume yours is one of them. 

Time off

For many shops, the final turn of the sign from open to closed on Christmas Eve is a signal for some time off. It’s what The Cod’s Scallops does every year, with all five shops closing on 23rd December this year and reopening on New Year’s Day. 

Owner John Molnar says: “We close for staff retention and to give them a well-deserved break. Everyone looks forward to it, including me – my phone doesn’t go mental over Christmas and it’s the best break for us. Don’t get me wrong, it impacts cash flow, but it’s about the staff. And it means we have a really good first week in January, which is normally the lull, as customers have missed their fish and chips fix.”

The only thing John does during the break is a quick ten-minute check of each shop to ensure there are no burst pipes or broken down freezers.

If you too are taking a well-earned break at Christmas, there are several housekeeping rules to be aware of, least not when it comes to your frying range, Paul Williams, managing director at range supplier KFE, has these two top tips: “If you are closing over Christmas we always recommend safely removing most of the oil from your pans, leaving a little at the bottom so as not to let the bottom of your pans rust. And we find lots of shops remember to turn off the electric when they close for Christmas but many forget the gas. This should be turned off by turning the shut off valve to ‘off’. Just remember to turn it back on when you return or you’ll wonder why your range isn’t working!”


CHRISTMAS PUDDING OR ICE CREAM? HAVE BOTH!

Can Christmas get any better than this? New Forest Ice Cream has just launched a Christmas Pudding ice cream!

The new addition combines whole milk and double cream which is blended with warming notes of brandy and spiced fruit. Available in 2.4ltr tubs, priced at £12.50 (plus VAT), it can be served on its own or alongside a warm pudding for extra indulgence.

New Forest Ice Cream 01590 647611 www.newforesticecream.com

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