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Are you turning Christmas bookings away?

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Are you turning Christmas bookings away?

Christmas table

We’re now well into Christmas party booking season in the hospitality industry. Lead bookers will be feeling the responsibility of booking somewhere that suits everyone’s dietary needs and encourages people to have a good time. Tough gig.

As a restaurateur, if you make it easy for the person organising the meal, they’ll be inclined to book their table on the spot. The potential income from every Christmas party booking provides you with a huge incentive to make the booking experience as seamless as possible. Not only will you profit from the booking itself but – providing you create a good impression on the party – you could win many new customers.

It’s a huge opportunity to win some valuable repeat custom, but as well as this it’s a chance to feel a real sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing huge smiles on everyone’s faces as they enjoy their annual festive meal. So, it astonishes me when some restaurants make it difficult – impossible even – for lead bookers to book.

Here are some things to bear in mind as you re-evaluate your booking processes ahead of the festive season – what do organisers look for when booking their Christmas party?


They want reassurance, even if menus are TBC

We’re still two months away from Christmas party season, which might mean that menus and themes haven’t been 100% confirmed yet. This lack of certainty can cause problems for front of house staff taking the bookings.

So, while you might not be able to give definite details of the menu right now, you can still be confident in the way you handle the call, confirming that you’ll be able to seat the party on the night and provide them with a great menu that suits their dietary requirements.

Most lead bookers will be happy to be emailed menus to pre-order their meals nearer the time. Personally, I don’t know what I fancy for supper tonight, let alone what I want to eat in December!


They want you to be accommodating

When explaining your Christmas booking policies to customer-facing staff, you need to empower them to be able to make decisions that’ll enable them to accommodate everyone – within reason – who tries to make a booking. Don’t just have them follow a robotic process, “computer says no” style.

Large groups, in particular, can cause problems for staff. They often mean having to be a little flexible around policies – for instance, the lead booker might not be able to confirm the exact number of their party until nearer the time.

Instead of asking them to phone back once the numbers have been confirmed (chances are they’ll just book elsewhere), allow for a little flexibility. Staff could take a ‘provisional booking’ and go away and speak to their manager about how they could go about accommodating the party.


They want you to project a picture of confidence

It’s on the lead booker’s shoulders that everyone has a great time – but not everything is in their control. During the booking process, staff need to project a picture of confidence, so that the organiser feels like their efforts to plan a brilliant bash will not be in vain. They want to feel they’re ticking something off their to-do list when they book with you, not that you’re adding to it. And, ultimately, they want to feel they’re in a safe pair of hands.

If they’re a little unsure, based on your staff’s responses to their needs, you couldn’t blame them if they went elsewhere.

Once all the bookings are in and you’re at full capacity, it’s all about ensuring that this assured, friendly, confident and accommodating tone is reflected in the service on the actual night.

On a recent call I had to make my Christmas booking, the team member I spoke to was incredibly reassuring that we would have a welcoming and special experience. The team member said, “Why don’t you try and arrive 15 minutes earlier than the rest of your group, look over the fabulous table I have allocated for you and have a sneaky cocktail before all your group arrive, it will be really nice to meet you and then you can also relax and enjoy the evening” – done and booked!

So, are your staff maximising on Christmas bookings or turning people away? By staff simply sticking to the book or sounding unsure, it could cost you a booking for this year and put them off calling you in the future. So, ahead of a flood of calls, consider getting your front of house team together for a bit of extra training on listening to customers’ needs, reading the situation and applying practical common sense to each enquiry they receive.

Preparation is key and making sure that your team are trained to confidently deal with Christmas enquiries will not only improve your enquiry conversion rate but ultimately the success of your festive period. We can help you monitor these calls through our Christmas call assessments, allowing you to identify training opportunities. Give us a call on 01225 470999 or email enquiries@hgem.com to discuss how we can support you this Christmas.

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