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On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a wonderful list of 12 top tips to make any Christmas dining experience flow as well as hot goose fat over golden roast potatoes. So here it is, an early present from us at Trent Furniture.

Menu

The menu should get customers salivating at the thought of what superb food is to come. Be really descriptive and let customers know where their food is coming from, think Marks & Spencer’s luxurious adverts when thinking about wording. Buffet menus can be really cost effective and a crowd pleaser, don’t forget to include à la carte options to cater for different tastes.

Also be sure to cater for a wealth of different dietary requirements, such as vegans and those who require gluten free options. It could be vital in enticing customers and large groups to your establishment.

Pricing

Christmas dinners are notoriously expensive so customers won’t be put off by high prices. Remember that staff will want a higher rate of pay for working Christmas day and putting on a spectacular meal and entertainment will cost a fair bit. Though it’s vital to not overcharge and ensure customers feel they are getting true value for money, getting customers to return year on year is the main goal.

Furniture

Customers paying up to £100 a head will expect the best from their experience. Any dated or tatty furniture will stick out like a sore thumb and it can detract from all your hard work. Get customers talking about the lovely and comfortable chairs (such as the Abrruzzo range), Christmas is a great time to invest in some new fixtures and fittings that will lift the decor.

Decorations

Expectations are high for Christmas and customers will want to feel a special and festive atmosphere when they go out for food. Decorations that go above and beyond will really capture people’s imaginations. Splash out on special Christmas decorations that will give the venue a traditional seasonal feel. Remember to keep décor looking warm; dimmed lighting and fairy lights will give a cosy festive effect that will excite customers as soon as they walk in.

Bookings

Check, double-check and triple-check. This is one day of the year that double bookings for tables cannot happen. Make sure that the tables are all accounted for and remember that over booking tables can stretch staff if numbers are going to be short on the day.

Remember to tell customers that they can book for next year with a small deposit. If they had a great time they will want to book it straight away so they don’t miss out, it’ll also be a great indication of how much the event was enjoyed. Give customers at this year’s dinner an offer for next year, keep them loyal and you’ll have plenty of bookings for 2017 before the year has already begun. Get an online booking system, it will help organise and automate the booking process and it is much easier for customers to use.

Staff

Reward staff for coming to work on Christmas day; double pay or even treble pay can help motivate staff and help prevent anyone from not turning up. Organise the rota for the Christmas period early and let staff know as soon as the rota is done, giving them plenty of notice.

Keep the team as relaxed as possible over the festive period, too much pressure can be a recipe for disaster. Split shifts lasting around four hours can help take the edge off working on Christmas day

Advertise

Do customers know that business is open as usual on Christmas day? Advertise that Christmas lunch is available as soon as possible and get booking forms and menus ready. More people are going to restaurants and hotels than ever for Christmas dinner, so announce an attractive and comprehensive menu for a reasonable price to entice them to choose your business.

Send Christmas cards out to local businesses and as many customers as possible reminding them that the venue is open for Christmas and a personal touch always helps to make customers feel more valued. Produce a promotional video for the Christmas menu, get it posted on social media and link it to online booking. Spend the year compiling a healthy contact book and try some email marketing with discounted offers.

Food

Make sure there are plenty of trimmings for dinner, last thing customers want is not enough pigs in blankets or roast potatoes. Source local ingredients and focus on food quality rather than trying to cut corners with cheaper options. This may be the most important point of all; food quality can trump above all others in convincing customers to return.

Drinks

If drinks aren’t a speciality, do some research and find complementary wines, beers and spirits that go with the menu. Customers spending upwards of £100 on food won’t mind splashing out a little extra on drinks, especially if it’s an extensive collection of seasonal favourites.

Real ales and craft beer has never been so popular so include some recommendations to go with each course and keep everyone happy, as well as bringing in some additional income.

Planning

As every veteran of Christmas day dinner will know, planning is paramount to success. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Get as much preparation done as early as possible, make sure all supplies are fully stocked up weeks in advance.

Communication

At some point during the planning stage have a meeting involving the whole team. If last year’s Christmas was chaotic or hard to handle, ask everyone what any problems were and what could be improved on. Sometimes simple changes can make a massive difference and the staff could be holding information that can save time and money.

Preparation

Christmas day is going to be hectic no matter how much preparation can be done, but there are things that can be done to make it a little bit easier. If dinner was getting out late last year, get staff to come in earlier.

Any food that can be prepared the day before or in advance, should be. Don’t be tempted to freeze prepared food weeks in advance as customers are expecting the best food that is on offer. Find the right balance that takes some of the burden whilst giving the freshest meal that will keep diners happy and full.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, it’s everyone’s favourite time of the year (apart from the scrooges). It’s also the busiest time of the year for venues, thanks to the traditional work Christmas party. For the employees at a Christmas party, they have worked hard all year and a corporate party is a great way for staff to blow off some steam and go into the New Year with a boost of morale. For the venue it’s a great opportunity to show how great their setting is and experiment with different Christmas décor and ideas. We have put together our top five tips to turn you into the host with the most.

Five – Creating a safe environment for event attendees

We all know what office Christmas parties can be like! It’s a well-deserved chance for employees to let their hair down and enjoy themselves as their boss treats them for all their hard work. Most corporate parties go as planned; everyone enjoys themselves and has a drink or two. However, sometimes things can get a little out of hand, someone enjoys themselves a little too much or all that office tension can build up to breaking point.

Make sure the team knows how to handle certain situations in a calm manner. Well trained staff can diffuse a situation and usually a cool head can relax a heated situation. A host can use their experience to work with management to recognise anyone who needs an extra pair of eyes on them, to keep a positive atmosphere at the party. It’s vital not to babysit guests though, it is a party after all and you want to keep a fun atmosphere.

Four – Making functions and staff parties memorable

Remember that for many guests at the event the office party is the biggest occasion of the year and something they look forward to. Making the night something that they’ll never forget can keep the office talking for months.

When they have a great time, they’ll want to come back year after year and word will spread. Don’t be afraid to splash out on some things that will get customers and their employees talking. Try to offer something that no other venue can and make the location unique.

Don’t resort to having mixed furniture that looks like it was the last thing that was thought about; make sure you have plenty of matching tables and chairs for the evening. Folding tables and stackable chairs can be a lifesaver, finish with a lavish cover to give a luxury feel to the event.

Three – Getting the party décor right

A festive spirit and corporate parties can provide that little extra budget to dress up a venue to make it look more joyful and appealing. It may be tempting to raid the local pound shop for tinsel and party poppers, however stay well away from tacky decorations.

If some of the furniture and interior design is looking like its best days are behind it, now is a great opportunity to invest in some contemporary furniture. Create a look fit for any hipster Shoreditch café for less with the new Bella range of tables, stools and chairs in a variety of colours and combinations.

Take plenty of time when choosing furniture, discuss a plan with the sales team and make sure it fits in with the venue. If a complete overhaul is stretching too far, lighting can make a massive difference for a surprisingly low cost. Combining fairy lights with large plants or features, like beams, can create a festive party mood in no time.

Two – Keeping staff motivated during peak party seasons

Without doubt this will be the busiest period for any venue and it’s necessary to take on extra staff to help cope with the amount of parties and events. A team of staff represent the establishment better than anything else and extra staff who don’t understand the key values can hurt a good reputation.

Patience is a wonderful skill to have in the hospitality industry; nerves will be tested among any team so it’s vital to keep heads cool whilst giving the best customer service possible.

It’s difficult to judge just how busy the place will be over the next month and all the members of staff will need to pull their weight. Remember to make sure the rota always has enough staff so they’re not overwhelmed.

One – Creating the perfect corporate menu

Food and drink are the fastest ways to capture anyone’s heart. Budget well for food and drink, find some places to save on and then go that extra mile in other areas to make it a memorable event for the guests.

Prepare a separate menu with a small selection of varied dishes, so there is something for everyone but chefs can focus on producing high quality food. It’s vital to cater for vegetarian and gluten free diners, to ensure all guests leave happy and with full stomachs.

Depending on the employer’s budget for drinks, make sure that there is real value for money and try to work with the employer/party organiser to provide drinks at a reasonable rate.

Providing lots of soft drinks and non-alcoholic options will please any designated drivers and non-drinkers, while also offering an option to help ‘sober-up’ anyone with too much festive cheer.

One idea could be to provide a small amount of food near to midnight or the end of the evening for a surprise treat before the guests leave the venue. A little extra food will help soak up some of the drink and their boss will be grateful if they’re due in to work the next morning.

Park home furniture - Holiday Park & Resort show 2016

On the 9th and 10th of November, Trent Furniture was one of many exhibitors at the Holiday Park & Resort show at the NEC Birmingham. If you’ve never been before, it’s a fantastic event aimed at those who want to start a holiday business or grow and improve an existing one. 

This year, a wide range of exhibitors were on show, selling their products and services to holiday businesses. Whatever you need – or would like – for your business, you’re bound to find it at this show. From hot tubs and playgrounds to ice cream and coffee, every must-have and nice-to-have was on display.

Park home furniture display - Holiday park and resorts

Park home furniture and outdoor venues

Of course, we had our very own stand, promoting our park home furniture which is suitable for all types of venues. Whether you require contemporary tables and chairs for your on-site restaurant or traditional sofas and stools for your holiday homes, we have more than 60 years’ experience. We had a wonderful reception at the show and enjoyed speaking to everyone who came over to us.

Park home furniture stores - Holiday park and resorts

As well as hundreds of exhibitors, there were also several speakers at the show. These seminars and workshops offered a great deal of helpful advice to new businesses as well as established ones. With the peak holiday season now at an end, this is the perfect time of year for businesses to get inspired and take some time to improve or grow their offerings. 

The impact of Brexit and the UK holiday industry

Of course, the impact of Brexit will affect the UK holiday industry greatly in 2017. Due to a weak pound, Brits are expected to avoid travelling abroad next year and instead take the family on a staycation. This is great news for UK holiday businesses, but they need to be ready for this influx of customers and ensure their facilities stand out from their competitors. Ensuring each holiday home has up to date, comfortable furniture is key to making your accommodation look good and therefore attract bookings.

Holiday park and resorts exhibition

If you’re interested in attending the Holiday Park & Resort 2017 show, please check out the event website for more information. Tickets are free, so there’s no reason not to come! 

Speakers at the Holiday Park & Resort show

Here’s a rundown of this year’s guest speakers:

  • Carl Castledine, Away Resorts - Ready or not, Generation ‘Y’ are coming.
  • George Bryan, Drayton Manor Park - Drayton Manor Park 3rd Generation Family Business
  • Frank Finch, NCC (National Caravan Council) - Holiday Park Sector Insights
  • Abbey Oladapo, Google Digital Garage - Reach New Customers Online
  • James McClure, Airbnb - Panel Discussion
  • Jitka Foralova, Booking.com - Booking.Who?
  • Bernard Donoghue, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions; and the Tourism Alliance - Brexit, staycation and crystal ball-gazing; the State of the Nation.
  • Martin Berger, New Ents - The Key To Successful Holiday Park Entertainment
  • Andrew Howe, Bridge Leisure Management - Sale or succession? You need a plan
  • Bradley Illich, NewBook eManagement Technology - Learn how leading international holiday parks are innovating and growing.
  • Jenny Summers, Freedom to Go (NCC) - Showcasing holiday parks in new markets
  • Michael B Paul, Michael Paul Holidays Ltd - Maximise The Asset

Suppliers at the Holiday Park & Resort show included:

park home furniture suppliers - Holiday park and resorts show

360 Karting / Ensol 360 ltd
Acentic Ltd
Adventure and Play Solutions
AEM Leisure Ltd
AFP Technology - Wavesurfer
AJC Trailers Ltd (EasyCabin)
Anapos
Anytime Booking
Aqua Spa Supplies
Arch Enclosures Limited
Arleigh International
Asfab Ltd
Bagjump Action Sports GmbH
Balloons By Up Up and Away
Battlezone archery limited
BGi.uk
Bilfinger GVA
BISHTA - The British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association
BlokartUK
B-Loony Ltd
Building with Frames
BusinessesForSale.com
Camp Champ
Camping Connect Ltd.
CampPlus BV
CampStead Ltd
Capital Play Trampolines
Caravan Park Electrical Services
Charles Lawrence Surfaces Ltd
Colour Heroes Ltd
COMBAT LASER GAMES
Craftis Ltd
Crown Leisure Limited
C-side Architectural Design Ltd
Dale Leisure Supplies Limited
Dalesauna Ltd
DC Payments Ltd.
Decotel Ltd
denrooms ltd
Digital Visitor
Digitizelectric Limited
Donna Italia
Edwards & Partners, a Division of Sanderson Weatherall LLP
Energy Assets
Energy Controls
EnSo International
ESP Energy
Espresso Essential
Expandasign
Extreme Wheels Roadshows
Family Holiday Association
Family Saver Card
Fat Media
Fatyak Kayaks Ltd
Fenland Leisure Products Ltd.
Firewave Technology Services Ltd
First Option Software
Forge Europa Limited
Fountaineers Limited - Water Play Specialists
FowlerUK
FreeGo Electric Bikes Limited
Funkyheat
Future Studios
Gaffey
Gailarde Ltd
GARDASOLAR SRL
GemaPark
GFR Tech Ltd
GlowSports
Green Unit ARCs
Groundtrax Systems Ltd
Hallmark Vending Ltd
HFN Landscapes
HM Adventure Golf
Holiday Park Scene Magazine
Hoseasons
Husson UK
Hydropool Devon Ltd
ID&C
IDS - Integrated Security Solutions
Infinite Playgrounds and Canopies
iNTOUCH
Jakabel Ltd
JM Adventure Ltd
Jofli Bear
Jupiter Play & Leisure Ltd
Kingii
Leisure Park Internet Solutions
Leofric Building Systems Limited
Lovell Johns
Lovibond Tintometer
Marshfield Farm Ice Cream Ltd
Mattressman
Medical Spa & Wellness Group GmbH
Microtill Limited
NCC
Netguides Limited
NewBook PMS
Omar Park & Leisure Homes
Omar Park Development Services
Onduline Building Products Ltd
Pacer Leisure Vehicles International Ltd
PCS Technology Ltd.
Philips & TVC Technology Solutions
R&R Ice Cream
Rhino Play Limited
Richard Haworth
ROLLINS MARINE & CARAVAN SERVICES (RMCS)
RotoSpa Limited
Shelley Signs Ltd
Silver Arrow Archery
Snooker Football INT
Sporting Wholesale Ltd
SPSC UK Ltd.
Takeaway Innovation Expo
Telemat
The Great Outdoor Gym Company
The Pool Lift Company
Trimetals Ltd
Ustigate Waterplay
Utilitas Solutions
Van Egdom B.V
Vertex
WaffleDelight
Water Treatment Products
Waterwalkerz Ltd
Wheatman Planning Ltd
World Tents Ltd
Yamaha Motor Europe
YourMapp
Zone Leisure Technology

 

Menna Jones, 

“Having looked on the internet for various options we came to the conclusion that an ‘American diner with a difference’ was what we were looking for – something funky, yet comfortable,”

“The quality of the furniture, when it arrived, surpassed our expectations. The customer service we received was brilliant – we couldn’t have wished for better. We highly recommend Trent Furniture to anyone looking to buy from them.”

The golf club ordered 30 black and white American diner chairs, five vista tables, 24 Monaco red wicker chairs, two black Manhattan sofas, four chrome pyramid coffee tables and six round aluminium tables for both indoor and outdoor use.

It was the English author Somerset Maugham who said, “The only way to eat well in England is to have breakfast three times a day.” Maugham died in 1965 and therefore missed out on the British food revolution that took place over subsequent decades – not just in the quality and variety of the food that we eat, with previously exotic spices and vegetables becoming standard ingredients, but also in our increasing fondness for eating out. 

The Great British national dish

Although the British had shown a liking for exotic foods in our taste for Chinese restaurants – the first one opened in London in 1908 - the revolution really took off in the 1970s, with Indian restaurants popping up on every high street, culminating in 2001 in the then British foreign secretary Robin Cook’s claim in a speech on British identity that chicken tikka masala had become our “national dish”.

A country of multinational cuisine

As incomes rose and our lives became busier, leaving us less time to cook, eating out became something normal rather than a special occasion, with pizzerias, Italian eateries and Thai restaurants spicing up our high streets. And the British weather has played a role, too: the long hot summer of 1976 led to a drought and a potato shortage – with the result that the British discovered pasta as a substitute. (For some, it was a revelation to find that spaghetti doesn’t have to come from a tin.) Meanwhile the arrival of the gastropub has perked up thousands of pubs. 

And mealtimes themselves have become less clearly defined. Breakfast can drift into brunch, which becomes lunch, which stretches through the afternoon to become dinner. Our eating habits are regulated not by the clock or by set mealtimes but by when it suits us to eat. We have become a nation of casual diners; going out to eat is no longer the big deal that it used to be – for many, it’s part of everyday life, often with children too.

Which brings us to today, when, according to a 2015 survey by the online restaurant booking service OpenTable, the British now eat out on average 1.5 times a week, with a typical spend per person of up to £53. And analysis from the market research group NPDsuggests that by 2017 the British could be spending £54.7 billion on eating out. So, how can your restaurant be sure to get a share of that spending and help keep Britain a nation of happy diners?

Set the scene first, deliver satisfaction later

Surveys suggest that first impressions are vital. And if you want to make a good first impression on your customers, the most important factor is cleanliness and hygiene: the restaurant needs to be spotless, ditto the tables, staff clothing and uniforms. It’s interesting to note that a 2014 survey by the UK government’s Food Standards Agency showed that people are less impressed by hygiene certificates than they are by the general levels of cleanliness that they can see for themselves.

Then there is the welcome. It’s essential that this is warm and friendly. This is your restaurant’s first point of contact with a customer, and if it goes badly, your customers might not come back – however much they enjoy the rest of the experience. So: smile! Talk to them. Let them know what’s happening – if there’s going to be a delay in finding them a table, be realistic. Phone conversations are important, too. Phone calls need to be answered politely, and – crucially – quickly. Today’s customers have short attention spans and little patience, so they will hang up if they don’t get through within the first few rings. And your website needs to be smart, attractive and easy to navigate. Increasingly, customers prefer to make their bookings online, so it’s important to offer this facility.

The environment itself needs to make a good impression. Is it cluttered, messy, poorly arranged? What about the colour scheme? These things matter. On the one hand, customers might find the sight of row upon row of identical tables and chairs daunting, but on the other hand, a haphazard clutter of furniture can be similarly offputting. So you might wish to create a mixture between the two.

Designing for first impressions

There is no law stipulating that all your restaurant furniture should match; mixing things up can create a more homely, “organic” atmosphere. A sea of metal chairs and bare wood surfaces can look somewhat sterile, so it would pay to add touches of warmth – napkins, maybe tablecloths, candles, walls decorated in comforting colours, framed prints. It’s also worth bearing in mind that although today’s trend for “open” restaurants with lots of hard surfaces, bare floors and open kitchens looks very cool and metropolitan, such places can be offputtingly noisy. And while music is fine, it shouldn’t drown out conversation.

Eating out has also become a family affair. So you should have a ready supply of high chairs and cushions, as well as a children’s menu. It’s worth bearing in mind that many parents do not want to fob their children off with children’s “junk” staples such as fish fingers and chicken nuggets, so take care over planning your children’s menu, and be prepared to offer children’s portions of your adult men (at a lower price, of course). Children like to pick: so, cherry tomatoes, chopped carrots and peppers, cucumber, mini-pizzas and suchlike will go down well.

Bake off blasé or traditional burgers

Which brings us to the main attraction: the food itself. The huge popularity of TV programmes such as Masterchef and The Great British Bake Off shows that we are now a nation with sophisticated palates. We are not daunted by sourdough pizzas, “deconstructed” dishes, quinoa, foams and savoury ice-creams. At the same time, the classics are still popular; the rise of the London chain Dirty Burger shows that there is still a huge appetite for a well-cooked burger with proper ingredients served in cool surroundings. But whatever you serve, make sure that it’s fresh, honest, and appealingly served. Don’t over-complicate your menu; British diners are savvy enough to know that a restaurant can’t realistically offer a huge range of dishes without the aid of a microwave – so slim it down to a hard core of high-quality options. (And bear in mind, too, that there are a lot of eaters out there who are vegetarians and/or gluten-free.)

Finally, there’s the vexed issue of Trip Advisor. Some restaurateurs can’t bear it, as it brings out the British tendency to smile and say “Yes, everything’s fine” while they’re at the restaurant – and then write a vitriolic Trip Advisor review afterwards. But it does offer a chance to find out what people think of your restaurant’s offering. And most good restaurants will post a mollifying response on Trip Advisor to the more serious complaints, and perhaps offer to put things right.

Take your brand message to the web, and stay positive!

There are some restaurant owners, though, who react angrily to critical Trip Advisor reviews. One such is Jason Tanfield, owner of the Mexican-themed restaurant Chimichangos in Middlewich, Cheshire. He has become famous for his rude ripostes to online critics. When one diner complained about the burritos at Chimichangos, Tanfield posted a reply: “The burritos are oven baked hence being crispy on the outside. KFC do soft burritos try that next time.” And when another customer complained about rude staff, Tanfield hit back: “The staff are not rude it’s your fault.”

 

Author: David Cheal

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