Top Tips for last minute Christmas wins


Top Tips for last minute Christmas wins

Christmas party

September means that the countdown to Christmas has officially begun, and there’s no doubt that many operators are almost set for the festive period, but have you considered everything? Are there any last-minute wins you can provide your guests with this year? We surveyed a panel of mystery guests about their 2018 Christmas experiences, and we’ve complied their top tips, to ensure your busiest time of year is as smooth and lucrative as possible.

Set yourself apart with a set drinks menu & drinks pre-payment system

Christmas is often a time when everyone has a drink but while the majority of operators (67%) provide a set food menu, making ordering and prepayment easier for both the party organiser and operators, the process isn’t quite so smooth when it comes to drinks. Very few operators offer a set menu or prepayment options for festive drinks, so at the end of the night, having to split the drinks bill can turn a great experience into a sour one.

Our survey found that many guests would appreciate a set drinks menu, allowing them to budget ahead of time or pay in advance, much like with the food menu. Offering pre-paid vouchers for guests to buy in advance of their event also appeals to the guests we surveyed making paying the bill at the end of the night easier for all involved.

Create a Christmas atmosphere

It may seem obvious, but we were surprised that only 29% of guests said that the festive atmosphere at their Christmas party venue last year was very good. Don’t disappoint guests from the outset by not making everything Christmassy. If you are promising a Christmas event, then guests expect it to feel like Christmas. So, everything from your décor, to the music, to your team must be festive and Christmas crackers are a must!

Additional touches such as a signature Christmas cocktail or Christmas gift for the organiser will make sure your guests are well and truly in the festive spirit.

The feedback from our guests is that when it comes to Christmas, you can never go too far with the Christmas cheer.

Guest want food to impress

64% of guests said that catering for dietary requirements is extremely important, so ensure you offer more than a nut roast and sorbet for vegans. By providing more than one option, guests can enjoy pre-ordering their food like everyone else rather than having just one (often underwhelming) option on the day.

We’ve talked before about guests with dietary requirements feeling singled out and this should be considered more than ever during a Christmas meal. Despite pre-ordering, allergy friendly meals are often forgotten by your front of house team. It’s not unusual for guests to be met with a glazed expression when explaining that the traditional Christmas dinner you just put in front of them, isn’t what they ordered!

In addition to this, dietary dishes tend to be brought out after the traditional meals, making guests feel awkward.

Maintain service standards

A pretty simple one but essential. At busy times service can often suffer, guests we surveyed remarked that having long waits between courses or a long queue at the bar was a problem. While Christmas is a time of goodwill to all, diners did not expect service to be slow having paid a premium for their meal. It is essential that you have enough staff to cover the festive period but also that your team are fully into the Christmas spirit. Christmas is a tough time for teams who often have to look after larger numbers of guests than normal, not to mention working longer hours. If you add into that mix a team member who is bah humbug - you have a recipe for disaster.

Prepare your team

Make sure your team have a full pre-arrival brief ahead of each party and everyone knows their responsibilities, the plan and the part they have to play.

Incentives work for teams where upselling is important, but you need to ensure that your team only sell to add to the experience of your guests. Make it easy for your guests to buy more of the experience you are providing, and they are enjoying. For example, don’t make them walk to the bar!

Don’t forget that Christmas is an important time for your teams as well, and whilst providing excellent hospitality, you want them to enjoy it too. By treating your team to a drink after each service over the festive period, they will feel valued, appreciated and it will make the hard work a little more worthwhile. It’s also worth reminding them that guests are more generous at Christmas, so they have a great opportunity to make some extra tip money if they pull out all the stops.

Additional extra’s

When we asked our panel of guests what they would like operators improve on, a common answer was the option for guests to pay for their meal/ticket in instalments leading up to the event. This would be helpful for both individuals and corporate parties.

Another request was to allow the party organiser access to an online planner. Allowing the organiser to plan seating arrangements and then share with family/colleagues ahead of the event avoids confusion at the venue. A small but important win for those arranging larger parties.

And finally, providing a place name with dish choices written on the back is incredibly helpful for both guests and servers. Not only for guests with dietary requirements but for all guests who may not always remember what they ordered.

Guests spend more when it comes to Christmas, they budget ahead of time and push the boat out, so they expect all elements of the guest experience to be amazing, including quality of service, pace of service, quality of food and drinks and overall atmosphere. What’s more, if you impress, 48% of guests will be inclined to visit you next year.

HGEM can help you measure your guest experience this Christmas, whether you want our mystery guests to assess your teams handling of a Christmas booking enquiry call or measure your entire Christmas offering, contact us today on 01225 470999 or email

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