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In most parts of mainland Europe, there is really no such thing as a “family-friendly restaurant”; they just call them “restaurants”. In France, Spain, Italy and other countries, eating out with children is perfectly normal. Tables will be rearranged to accommodate families without a second thought. Waiters will be kind and patient with their younger customers. There might be space outside for little ones to run around. Other customers will not be fazed by the presence of small children. Food will come in smaller portions. There will be no tut-tutting. The children themselves will be well-behaved; for them, going out to eat is perfectly normal.

Here in the UK we have, historically, had a different attitude. A survey in 2011 found that one in three young mothers reported being turned away from restaurants simply because they had a baby or a small child with them. But attitudes are changing: after decades in the dark ages, it seems that we are finally coming round to the idea that going out for a meal with the family, including young children, can be a relaxed and enjoyable experience, rather than something to be anxiously endured, surrounded by disapproving glares from other diners and impatient huffing from staff. Restaurants and cafés are finally coming round to the idea that children are not just something to be tolerated, but should be actively encouraged. In short, family-friendly dining is a growing business.

In the catering trade, family dining tends to come under the heading “casual” dining – ie, the kind of informal dining offered by chains such as Pizza Express, Nandos and suchlike. This sector of the market is growing rapidly so it makes good business sense to ensure that your restaurant or café is more attractive to families. Here’s how.

Be friendly

Let’s begin at the beginning:  with your staff. The catering trade employs many young people, especially in customer-facing roles such as waiting and reception, and it’s likely that many of them will not have children of their own. So they may need some gentle reminders, or even training, in the importance of treating families with children as welcome guests. They may need to be reminded that if you talk directly to children you’ll get a good response. Smile. Be helpful and accommodating.

Be flexible

As a customer, there’s nothing more off putting than the feeling that you’re a nuisance, or that you are being squeezed into an awkward space in the corner out of the way of other diners. But a restaurant or café that’s properly geared up for families will be truly flexible: it will have furniture that can be rearranged, tables that can be shunted together, as well as high chairs, cushions, booster chairs, and larger tables for families to sit around. If you’re prepared to be flexible, your guests will appreciate it.

Feeding and changing

Then there’s the delicate business of breastfeeding. There have been infamous cases of restaurants and cafés turning breastfeeding mothers away, or asking them to go somewhere more private, and these cases have caused great offence: breastfeeding is normal and natural, so mothers who wish to do so should feel totally comfortable. Alternatively, if a mother is bottle-feeding a baby, you could offer to warm up the bottle in your kitchen.

Nappy-changing facilities are, of course, essential. Parents are sharing more responsibility for every aspect of childcare so it’s important to offer these facilities in both the men’s and women’s lavatories.

Be fast

Small children will often arrive at a restaurant feeling hungry and thirsty. They might not be used to waiting long for their food to arrive. They might be restless or fractious. Your service should be prompt: make sure everyone on the table is offered drinks as soon as they have been seated. And serve them as quickly as possible. Parents will also appreciate a menu that offers fruit juices and smoothies alongside the fizzy stuff.

The same goes for food: without hurrying things along, or making your customers feel rushed, you can keep your smaller diners happy by getting food on the table quickly, even if it’s just something small such as crunchy raw carrots and baby tomatoes with dips, or breadsticks, to keep the proverbial wolf from the door.

Be entertaining

Another way to keep your young customers amused is by ensuring that they have something to keep them occupied. The colouring-in book is of course a familiar part of children’s dining. But there are also paper tablecloths available which can be coloured in, and disposed of afterwards; a popular brand is Eggnog. These are not cheap, but you could give customers the option and add a small surcharge to the bill. Children will love being able to do something which is normally absolutely forbidden: drawing on the tablecloth!

Toys, too, can help: you could keep a stock of small toy cars and Barbie dolls, puzzles, and even Lego or Duplo, as well as books and comics. Toy cars and dolls could be displayed on shelves; they’ll look attractive, and children can be encouraged to go over to the shelves to choose what they want to borrow during the meal. If you have space, you could create a special kids’ corner with child-sized furniture and beanbags. If you have an outside area or a garden, slides and seesaws will create a children’s area, while picnic benches will enable parents to sit and keep an eye on their offspring. Some child-friendly restaurants will hire in magicians at weekends to go from table to table doing their magic tricks; a publicity campaign could make this part of your family-friendly package. Face-painting, too, is usually a hit with children.

Free Wi-Fi is always a great option with many young people having their own tablet devices and games that need the internet.

Now for the main attraction, the food, and this one can sometimes get a bit tricky. Food can cause a great deal of conflict between adults and children: the youngsters are often picky and afraid of new foods, while the parents might be reluctant to fob them off with chicken nuggets and fish fingers. So you might offer smaller versions of the dishes on your main menu, as well as children’s specials. Children might find the arrival of a large plate of unfamiliar food daunting and off-putting, so keep portions modest.

Get creative with your ideas; many people eat out to try something they might not get at home. Something simple yet out of the ordinary encourages kids to try something new and expands what they are willing to try. Children like things such as; small colourful plates of food that they can pick at, sliced veggies, smaller burgers or pasta dishes. Chunky potato wedges are usually a big hit. A “children’s platter” would go down well with many families: an assortment of small items served attractively. Remember that children can be vegetarians, too, and will appreciate a range of options to suit them.

Desserts are clearly a big deal for children, but again, parents might appreciate some fresh fruit alongside the ice creams and brownies that will be staples in any family-friendly restaurant.

Taking inspiration from restaurants who already offer similar services is a good way to get an idea of the things that you could and should be offering. Popular family-friendly chains such as Giraffe offer a good children’s menu, also Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, Jamie’s Italian, offer a children’s menu that offer both children, as well as adults, a great and varied menu, just to name a few.  

Easter is on its way, and the colour is coming back into the world. This is the festival that has its roots in ancient traditions which celebrated spring and rebirth, going back to the pagan celebration of the spring equinox and the worship of the spring goddess Eostre or Ostara (depending on which part of Europe you lived in). When Christianity arrived and spread, it seemed natural to attach the commemoration of the death and rebirth of Christ to this ancient celebration of new life.

For Christians this is a very special time for worship and for reflection. This sacred side of Easter has been combined with ancient fertility symbols such as eggs and rabbits to create the Easter that we know today. Egg-painting traditions go back many centuries, while the first chocolate Easter eggs were created in the early years of the 19th century.

For people in the restaurant trade, it’s an opportunity to freshen things up, to bring in new customers, or to encourage people to bring their families in for a special Easter celebration. Start planning and advertising now, and it could be a fertile time for your business.

How restaurants can prepare for Easter

Perhaps the first thing to think about will be your sittings. Statistics show that although our eating habits are changing, we still like to eat with our families at least once a week. Easter weekend is a time when families will want eat out together: it’s a good, long break, with many people having four days off work or even more, so they’ll be in a relaxed frame of mind and in no mood to rush, or be rushed. And while not everyone gives something up for Lent, it’s likely that some of your customers will have been saving themselves for Easter and will be in a mood to indulge themselves.

Today’s family mealtimes are often more flexible than they used to be: people eat lunch at 3pm, or brunch at midday. So you might want to offer a brunch menu that continues through to mid-afternoon, and a lunch menu that extends into the early evening – perhaps even a carvery. Seasonal favourites are of course roast lamb, or roast beef, with plenty of fresh seasonal vegetables. Your brunch menu could focus on eggs: poached, scrambled, eggs benedict, eggs florentine, with smoked salmon, toasted bagels, rolls, scones, muffins, hot cross buns and so on.

Desserts should of course accentuate chocolate, and this is a chance for your kitchen to come up with some special creations served in nests or baskets and decorated with little eggs. Remember that today’s consumers are sophisticated chocolate-eaters: they like their chocolate in all its variety – dark, or chili, or salty, and high in cocoa; this is a chance for your kitchen to have some fun with different combinations. A bread-and-butter pudding made with hot cross buns is a clever twist on a traditional recipe. A nice touch, especially if you serve afternoon tea or coffee, would be to offer slices of simnel cake – a special Easter cake that’s been served since medieval times.

Making your restaurant seasonal with the right Easter decor

Decoration is something that’s important across your whole restaurant. Fresh flowers and perhaps table linen in seasonal pastel colours will breathe new life into your dining room. Spring blooms such as tulips, daffodils or lilies inject colour and fragrance. Tables can be decorated with little straw nests containing chocolate mini-eggs. Whatever you choose, the theme of Easter is brightness, light, colour and freshness.

Easter restaurant tips – happy dining, whatever the weather

This year, Easter falls on the weekend of March 25-28 - a little earlier than usual, so the weather may still be chilly. NeverthlessNevertheless, if your restaurant has a garden or an outdoor area, you might consider holding an Easter egg hunt that could also help turn a family meal into an event. Bear in mind that there may be children of different age groups, so you could make some of the eggs more difficult to find for the older children. If the weather is cold or wet, you could place a number of Easter eggs in locations around the interior of your restaurant; rather than running around collecting the eggs, which would of course be disruptive, youngsters could count up how many eggs they can see, and their locations, from where they are sitting, with prizes to those who can locate the most (give them a pen and paper to list them).

Restaurant table tips for entertaining the family

At the table, children could be offered colouring-in paper or books to keep them amused; if these are Easter-themed, with, say, rabbits or Easter chicks or spring flowers, all the better. Or you could get really creative and run an Easter egg painting competition for the youngsters: give them a free hard-boiled egg (no great cost to your budget) and coloured pens, with perhaps a prize to be awarded to each day’s winning design. Let them take the eggs home with them afterwards. Talking of which: your reception area should have a big jar of small colourful chocolate eggs; on the way out, these could be handed out to your customers, both large and small. Gestures such as this cost almost nothing, but generate a great deal of goodwill.

Don't forget...

Bear in mind that this year the clocks go forward on Easter Sunday, March 27, so on Sunday and Monday people may want to enjoy the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon.

Oh, and one more thing: given that many of your customers may be young, sensitive children with a fondness for the Easter bunny, it would probably be best to avoid putting rabbit stew on the menu.

When purchasing tables for a contract environment it is vital that they not only look great but that they offer a hardwearing finish which will withstand the demands of a busy commercial environment. With a range of top finishes to choose from in the Trent Furniture collection it can be difficult to know where to start but our buying guide below should help to point you in the right direction.

We offer a wide range of table top finishes, sizes and colours which are designed for use in a contract environment and will offer both durability and longevity. At Trent Furniture, we understand that the key factors when buying table tops for your pub, bar or restaurant will be appearance, practicality and budget so we offer a selection of table tops to cater for every purpose and budget. From our economy melamine and veneer ranges to solid wood and oak table tops or aluminium for outdoor use, we can offer a top to suit any interior or exterior space. Each of our table tops are of the highest quality and all are suitable for contract use but it is important to choose the right finish for the environment they will be used in in order to ensure you get the best service from your tables.

Veneer Table Tops

A veneer finish offers great value for money if you want the look of wooden tops and an extremely hardwearing top finish but don’t have the budget for solid wood. The 18mm thick particleboard has a real oak veneer, solid edging and attractive thumbnail design edge to protect it from knocks and bumps. Our veneer tops offer a whole host of advantages, from coming in a choice of wood colours and sizes to boasting a very smooth, tough and easy to clean surface. Our veneer tops are also veneered on the underside of the top to prevent warping and ensure suitability for the contract environment.

Available in a choice of wood colours and coated with a protective layer of polyurethane lacquer, the veneer finish provides the authentic wooden look at a fraction of the price. The traditional choice of wood colours makes them popular with pubs, clubs and cafes whilst their durable finish makes them ideal for any busy environment and the perfect choice for a durable and attractive top at a low price.

Veneer Table Tops

Melamine Table Tops

Melamine tops offer fantastic value for money and are a great choice for modern schemes and interiors that require tough table tops which are easily maintained and offer a smooth, durable surface. With a generous 21mm thick MDF centre surrounded by a hardwearing melamine surface, the melamine tops come in either dark oak or light oak colour.

Melamine are a good choice paired with any metal or cast iron base as the oak tones of the tops offer a stylish contrast with either black or chrome based tables. And if you are still undecided on chairs to choose with these tops, the light oak finish works especially well with our modern café chairs such as the Remo, Roma or Catania as the finish of the chairs matches the finish of the table top perfectly.

Melamine tops are popular choices for venues that need an attractive and hardwearing top which take heavy use such as cafes, paly centres and holiday parks. With their easy to wipe surface and simple modern design they offer practicality and style at a great price.

Melamine table tops

Laminate Table Tops

If you still want the look of wooden table tops but your customers are largely families and/or small children then a laminate finish could be a good option. They still look attractive like our solid table tops but require barely any maintenance, are easy to clean and more scratch resistant than some solid tops. Whether it be colouring crayons, cutlery or food and drink, the laminate table tops can take a lot us use and will withstand the demands of a busy contract environment.

The laminate tops have a substantial 27mm thickness manufactured from a particleboard core and high pressure laminate surface. The hard black ABS plastic edging protects further against knocks and bumps and creates an incredibly tough and hardwearing table top.

As with all of our tops, the laminate finish comes in a choice of colours and offers something to suit any interior with traditional mahogany and walnut, light oak or black. The black finish has become a popular choice with many customers offering a stylish and modern finish ideal for contemporary or bold colour schemes.

Laminate Table Tops

Solid Wood Table Tops

Solid wooden table tops are highly recommended for restaurant and bar use as the high end finish provides a very attractive table top that will add a feel of elegance to any interior. The smooth finish of the table is achieved by treating the solid wood with a clear acid catalysed lacquer coating which creates an extremely hardwearing surface that will easily withstand the demands of a busy contract environment without compromising on the appearance of the table. Available in Dark Oak, Walnut or Light Oak, the clear lacquer allows the wood stain to look natural and creates a luxurious finish which would look excellent in any high end restaurant, executive club or bar.

With a 28mm thick solid hardwood design and half bullnose or straight edge, the solid wood tops are both classic and timeless and will create a very attractive appearance even used without table cloths so if you want your furniture to be the highlight of the room and to last for many years to come then solid table tops are a perfect choice!

Solid Wood Table Tops

Stainless Steel Table Tops

Stainless steel tops are supplied with our aluminium based outdoor tables and create an extremely versatile and great for either outdoor or indoor use as not only do they wear well in a patio or garden setting, they provide a durable table top surface for indoors too. Being easy to clean, able to withstand heavy use in a demanding contract environment as well as having a stylish and modern appearance make them popular choices with fast food outlets such as American style Diners, Ice-Cream Parlours and Cafes but also for Children’s Play Centres and Leisure Centres.

For use as outdoor tables tops, the stainless steel provides a water resistant surface which is created by the stainless steel continues from the top and down over the edges or ‘post forming’ . This superior technique is a clever design which prevents water getting into the core of the table top which would otherwise cause the inner core to swell. The post forming method is followed by a clear lacquer creating a durable water resistant indoor or outdoor table.

Stainless Steel Table Tops

Plywood Folding Table Tops (Easy Store Tables)

The Plywood Folding Table range offers a choice of top sizes and easy to store tables which are ideal for any environment where tables need to be stored away when not in use. These hardwearing plywood tops are 15mm thick and offer an extremely hardwearing and durable surface for banquet halls, conference centres or venues which require temporary tabling for events or functions.

Sturdy and extremely robust, the plywood table tops which are supplied on folding tables are a great choice for sports or social club, village hall and community centre tables as they can be brought out as and when needed and stored away when not in use. With a range of sizes to choose from in the plywood tops, they offer excellent versatility to seat different size groups and  large groups of guests or customers are catered for with our largest 6’ round top.

Plywood Folding Table Tops (Easy Store Tables)

As Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” famously asked: “What have the Romans ever done for us?” Well, for one thing, they gave us Valentine’s Day – or at least that’s what many historians think. One theory about the origins of this special day for love and romance goes back to the 4th century AD, when the Roman emperor Claudius II was fighting to resist the rising tide of Christianity.  In Rome, a priest named Valentine was offering secret Christian marriages, his subterfuge was discovered and he was put to death, later martyred by the Catholic church, and is now remembered on St Valentine’s Day, February 14th.

Fast-forward 1,700 years, and today Valentine’s Day is a big celebration – and big business, too. Last year total UK spending on Valentine’s Day was £1.9 billion. The biggest chunk of that spending went on restaurants, with £557 million, so Sunday February 14th is clearly an opportunity for your restaurant to increase its takings – and also to encourage customers to return by offering them a memorable experience.

Wondering how to get more customers in your restaurant for Valentine’s Day? One great way is to extend it. The chances are that Sunday evening itself will be heavily oversubscribed, so you could offer a Valentine’s lunch or even a Sunday brunch. And you could offer Valentine’s specials on Friday and Saturday, too. In fact, it might make sense to ‘rebrand’ this year’s Valentine’s Day as ‘Valentine’s Weekend’, perhaps setting aside an area of your restaurant over three days for romantic dining. As an incentive, you could offer a discount to customers who book for Valentine’s meals, or ‘extras’ such as a free glass of fizz.

Couples will want to feel that this is a special day for them, so they will want an evening that’s intimate, warm and personal. What diners don’t want is to feel that they are being crammed in, processed and rushed through like airline passengers. While it’s tempting for restaurants to take this approach and squeeze in the tables to increase short-term profit, in the long term this could be counter-productive as it will discourage diners from coming back. So keep your restaurant furniture spaced out so that people can enjoy some privacy.

It is worth remember, too, that the ‘pink pound’ is increasingly important; make sure that you are not just aiming at men and women but at gay couples too.

If you are advertising or promoting your Valentine’s offering, make sure it’s done tastefully and professionally. A poorly designed A4 poster taped to your restaurant window will not make much impact. Find a good local designer or print shop who can make something elegant and unique to your restaurant.

If your restaurant plays background music, you could offer a ‘requests’ service: when your customers are booking a table, ask them if there are any songs they would like to hear (most couples will have track that’s ‘our song’). Someone on your staff with musical and technical know-how could compile a CD or a playlist with romantic tunes, and intersperse them with your customers’ requested tracks. Alternatively you could hire live musicians – an acoustic band, say, or even a string quartet (is there a local music college with young players keen to get performance experience?). But wherever your music is coming from, keep the volume at reasonable levels. People want to be able to talk to each other across the table.

The tables themselves need to be decorated, but keep it tasteful. A single red rose in an elegant vase, or simply laid across a plate, can have much more impact than a bunch of flowers (and remember, again, that people want to look and talk to each other without too many flowers getting in the way). You will need a specially-designed menu, which could feature famous quotes about love and romance. (Not all of them need to be slushy either; familiar lines such as Robert Burns’s ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ could be balanced by Dorothy Parker’s world-weary quips such as, ‘My own dear love, he is all my world - And I wish I'd never met him.’)

Candlelight is very flattering, while scented candles will add to the atmosphere. Red and pink are the obvious colours for tablecloths and napkins, but don’t overdo it. A nice touch is to arrange cutlery and a small plate to spell out the word 'love'. Fresh rose petals and Valentine’s ‘confetti’ could be sprinkled across the table and napkins could be folded into heart shapes. But don’t clutter up the table: your diners will want to be able to reach out, touch and hold hands. Helium balloons are a no-no; strictly for children’s parties.

If you have offered your customers a complimentary glass of something fizzy, remember that today’s wine-drinkers are increasingly sophisticated and they know when they are being given cheap, over-sweet Cava, so give them something more sophisticated such as a pink Prosecco or a sparkling French rosé. Not everyone drinks alcohol, so perhaps non-drinkers could be given a special 'mocktail'.

As for the food itself: a set menu is fine; this is not a night when the food itself is the focus – people will be paying attention to each other. So a sharing menu is perhaps best, or a tasting menu with a succession of small dishes. There’s something romantic about two people sharing from the same plate. Heart-shaped food is obviously a big theme, but it is possible to overdo it, so keep it tasteful. French and Italian foods are the most popular among Valentine’s Day diners, according to research by the restaurant booking website Toptable. But whatever you serve, keep it light; there’s nothing romantic about reaching for the indigestion tablets.

At the end of the evening, send your diners on their way with some keepsakes. Offer them the menu, and perhaps a flower from the table, to take with them, maybe a couple of foil-wrapped heart-shaped chocolates too. This could all be stowed in a ‘goody bag’ for convenience. Does your restaurant have a website or a Facebook page? A picture of your customers on the way out, clutching their goody bags, could be taken at the reception desk and uploaded after the event (with their permission, of course).

If your customers have had a warm, romantic, memorable meal, the chances are they will be back for more – and not just on Valentine’s Day 2017 (which, if you’re interested, falls on a Tuesday).

The lights are up, the calendars are being opened and the brandy’s in the cupboard. Christmas is definitely coming, but luckily for you the worst thing spilled should be mulled wine, even if the turkey carving seems like a Game of Thrones-style execution.

Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) Christmas Hat

The number of restaurants open on Christmas day has been steadily rising over recent years with record numbers choosing to dine out in December – and why wouldn’t they? Dining out means a lot less fuss and no washing up but whether you’re focus is the big day or build up we have some great tips on how to decorate a restaurant for Christmas.

First impressions

It is also rooted in ancient European pagan festivals such as Yule, which took place in midwinter. During these festivals, people would bring green foliage inside as a reminder of the new growth that would come with when spring eventually arrived. Light was used to ward off the forces of cold and darkness, and bells were rung to scare off evil spirits.

Restaurant customers want a special time at Christmas; they want to feel that they are having a treat. What they don’t want is to feel that they are on a production line. If they are to be customers who will come back throughout the year and again next Christmas, it will pay to invest a little time, effort and money and go beyond just bells and baubles to make their Christmas dining experience a memorable one.

Add some light and warmth

So let’s begin with light and warmth. Your customers’ first impression of your restaurant begins outside, and it’s easy to introduce light here. Lights can be trailed or arranged in patterns; trailed around a door front, around window frames or around signage adding instant sparkle. And why not have a brazier of burning logs outside the front entrance? This is an easy, eye-catching and inexpensive way to add warmth and spirit. Passers-by will notice it, and perhaps pause to warm themselves.

Festive Christmas LED Lights

The front door, of course, should have a wreath, but one that’s distinctive; there’s no point in having the same wreath that everyone in the neighbourhood has bought from the local DIY superstore, so in order to make an impact, it’s worth ordering a bespoke wreath from a florist. Special or unusual decorations cause people to stop, talk and ask questions – all excellent ways to improve your customer engagement.

At the reception area, the front desk could be decorated with subtle trails of Christmas lights. A big jar of Christmas sweets at the reception area for passing children is also a nice touch that sends out a message of generosity without actually costing too much.

As for lighting indoors: anyone who has visited the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London, a reproduction of a theatre from the 17th century which is lit entirely by candles, will be aware that there’s something unique about candlelight – it seems to make everything and everyone it touches look glowingly beautiful. So a good sprinkling of candles will add to the festive atmosphere. And let’s not forget that Christmas is about smells, too, so some of these candles could be scented, with wintry, spicy aromas – cinnamon, cloves, orange, and fig.

Inside the restaurant, if you have a fireplace that’s usable, it must have a good, roaring fire in it. If the fireplace can’t be used, you can still make it a focal point with green foliage draped around it (this also adds to the fragrant atmosphere), with pine cones (perhaps sprayed with a dash of silver), with lights. Or if you are seeking a less fussy look, a simpler arrangement could be created from an array of birch logs (they have attractive silvery bark) and plain pine cones. Sometimes, simple is better.

Go bold for maximum impact

Indeed, it’s easy to overdo Christmas decorations; too much can make a place look cluttered and overpowering. When it comes to your restaurant interior it’s best to make your statements bold but sparing. Paper chains and tinsel can be seen as old-fashioned these days, so perhaps should be avoided. Red and green are the classic Christmas colours, traditionally in the form of holly and its berries, plus pine, and so on, so sprigs of these can be placed strategically around the restaurant, in vases, perhaps, or in bunches. But the poinsettia plant, with its vivid red foliage, has also become very popular; these could sit on windowsills or at the centre of each table. 

Poinsettia Plant

Another possible table centrepiece is a Christmas bouquet which mixes fresh flowers such as red roses with classic Christmas elements such as sprigs of spruce and berries (artificial one are fine). The ideas website Pinterest is an excellent source of inspirational suggestions, such as this Christmas centrepiece featuring foliage and colourful citrus fruits. Also on the table, napkins folded into festive shapes can be another talking point – a Christmas tree shape is easily done, as demonstrated in this YouTube video.

An awe-inspiring tree

The tree itself is of course an essential part of Christmas décor – but again, beware the over-cluttered look. And a Christmas tree is not the only place for baubles. These can be arranged and displayed in a large glass vase, for instance, perhaps with pine cones scattered through them. Or a large outdoor lantern can be filled with a combination of different sized baubles and fairy lights for a wonderful glowing effect. Another unusual look can be achieved by half-filling large square glass vases with salt for a ‘snowy’ appearance, then ‘planting’ this snowscape with natural branches of birch or willow.

Leave them feeling happy, wanted and full

Christmas crackers will inevitably be part of the occasion, but when these are cheap or from the high street, people will notice, so it’s worth seeking out something a little more unusual; the website notonthehighstreet.com has an excellent selection. Your guests will appreciate something to keep them amused and entertained, so perhaps each festive table could be provided with an array of party props such as these from Pipii – your guests will have fun wearing these and photographing each other (or, in this age of the selfie, themselves) in fake moustaches, hats and suchlike.

As for the waiting staff: rather than the ubiquitous red and white bobbly Christmas hat, it would be worth getting creative and coming up with your own Christmas-themed accessories and trimmings: a white fur band with a sprig of holly (or even mistletoe) worn around the head for the waitresses, perhaps with earrings in the form of Christmas tree baubles; chaps might wear a festive bow tie and red and black clothing, perhaps with a festive buttonhole flower such as a carnation or a rose.

Finally, what customers don’t want to see is the same tired old Christmas stuff being brought out year after year. They will notice. Each Christmas is a chance to freshen up the traditions that go back thousands of years – while still keeping that essential Christmas spirit.

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