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Feeling festive 

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From battering sprouts to giving staff time off, there are multiple ways to celebrate Christmas 

This Christmas is a hard one to predict. With the cost of living crisis causing customers to cut back, it’s uncertain if this will affect out-of-home food spend or if customers will save up to splash out. 

On top of this, we have a winter football World Cup dragging people off into bars and pubs between 20th November and 18th December 18th, which could affect footfall. 

But it is Christmas after all and it doesn’t hurt to reflect this on the menu, even with just a tiny nod to the festivities. This way you haven’t got to spend hours coming up with something over complicated and you won’t have money tied up in stock you can’t sell once the tinsel has come down.

Reflect the season

“Switch up your sauces and accompaniments to reflect the season,” suggests Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods, which supplies the Golden Valley Foods range of poultry products to fast food operators. “Instead of ketchup, try serving your chicken products with cranberry sauce,” he says.

“How about adding deep-fried sage and onion stuffing balls to your snack/accompaniment menu for a festive touch? Christmas is the perfect opportunity to add a bit of sparkle to your fast food menus. It’s a special time of year for many, so offering seasonal specialities will help customers get into the festive spirit.”

Having tried two course festive meals in the past and feeling they weren’t overly successful, this year Eric’s Fish & Chips in Norfolk is keeping it simple with a range of specials that can be enjoyed alongside fish and chips. As well as generating extra profits, it’s a way of maintaining communication with customers at a time when they could easily be forgotten about amongst all the festive goings-on.

Owner Eric Snaith comments: “Successful Christmas items we’ve sold in the past have been deep-fried pigs in blankets, crispy fried stuffing balls, and deep-fried Christmas pudding with brandy butter ice cream. This year we are thinking of adding a mulled cider as well so some people can use us just for hot drinks and snacks. Sales are usually quite strong on these specials, but on top of that it’s important that we have something for marketing content.”

John Molnar and his Cod’s Scallops crew in Nottingham have been working on their specials for many months already, sourcing a thinner bacon so that its pigs in blankets crisp up perfectly when battered, for example. These will be served alongside battered sprouts, a cranberry dipping sauce, battered pork sage and onion stuffing balls and, new for this year, a battered mince pie with a whiskey cream.

“Christmas is about selling add-ons,” says John. “I price them sensitively so a portion of battered sprouts is slightly more than a portion of mushy peas. I think at Christmas and those key times customers will still spend, but it’s the times in between when if I can sell a battered mince pie or some sprouts as well as a portion of fish and chips, then I’ve won, haven’t I?”

Closing up

Christmas can of course be celebrated in other ways, it doesn’t have to be reflected in the menu. In Dan Edward’s case, owner of Chips @No8 in Prestwich, Manchester, he plans to close his takeaway for almost two weeks and give his team the time off on full pay. Staff get to spend time with their loved ones, reset ready for the new year and it generates goodwill which hopefully is returned later in the year. 

Dan comments: ”Our staff work incredibly hard throughout the year, and from my previous career in hotels, having missed almost every Christmas and New Year for 20 years, I know how it feels to want to spend that period with your friends and family.”

It’s also a time to help others, something Paul Hay, owner of Fish ’n’ Fritz, Weymouth, Dorset, has chosen to do having tried Christmas menus, parties, and theme offerings over the years and being left with the feeling that they never set the world on fire. 

He gets much more satisfaction and uptake from running his Suspended Coffee Scheme whereby customers donate a hot drink to people less fortunate than themselves. 

“This has evolved from suspended coffees to customers buying meals for people over time,” Paul comments. “Like many seaside towns at the end of the line there is a large homeless community. The Suspended Coffee Scheme offers us the chance to directly help someone in person when they are hungry and cold. Over the Christmas period, we broadcast this message on our socials and place posters in the restaurant and takeaway. Across the year, customers are always making donations, but during the Festive season, the donations increase dramatically.”

Central Foods www.centralfoods.co.uk

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