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Turn your Christmas visitors into year-rounders

Before we get to the crux of this month’s message, at this busiest of times, we’d like to wish all our hospitality customers a positive and profitable festive season.

OK down to business. While Christmas is obviously the time for food/ drink-based establishments to get a little excited about a revenue spike, the reality is that you have a whole year of bookings to fill and the golden ticket to success lies in the customers most hospitality businesses value the most – regulars!

While it may not seem very in the spirit of ‘goodwill to all’, economically it’s not hard to see how a customer who frequents your business two or three times a month (spending say £20-£30 a go) is more valuable to your business than the person who leaves with a £100 bill once a year.

Regulars not only spend more individually over the course of a year but they’re also more likely to be the ones who are sharing information about, and encouraging others to visit, your restaurant or bar.

So, as your venue fills up with ‘newbies’ and occasional clientele this season, we’re asking whether it’s possible to keep that festive feeling going in January by transitioning them into valuable ‘year-rounders’. To help you capture that repeat custom, here’s four areas where point of sale technology (like that incorporated into the Good Till) can lend its support:

Office parties

The key thing to remember about office parties is they’re often full of people who currently only go ‘out, out’ on the odd occasion (Christmas included) and so your big challenge is to show them what they’re missing!

As well as offering a tempting seasonal menu or beverages that fully live up to expectations, do everything to ensure your service is first-rate and the whole experience is memorable. If it’s a party with table service, make it clear to each table which server is dedicated to them and give your staff mobile POS tablets to ensure volume orders/ additional requests are processed swiftly and accurately.

Check-in regularly with the party organiser to establish if everything is going to plan and remind staff to make eye contact, be friendly and chat a little with customers (even when they’re busy). You might also want to train staff to ask questions like whether members of the party are from your area or just visiting. Sourcing the locals like this enables you to use more targeted strategies that entice people back. (See ‘Create opportunities to reconnect’ below.)

Staff training and motivation

Run a restaurant or bar where the staff consistently provide a warm, friendly welcome and some degree of personalised service and guests will inevitably return again and again. Think of the ‘Cheers’ style bar – ‘where everyone knows your name’.

But, when the place is teeming, just how do you keep this level of service up?

One of the most important factors is to ensure staffing is optimised over the holiday period. At its simplest, this means always scheduling enough staff to cope with the volume of clientele (thereby avoiding an overstressed crew and slow service). But, on top of that, optimisation is also about having a team that’s well-trained and motivated. At a time when seasonal staff are crucial, taking some time to explain what’s expected of them, the guidelines and processes they should follow and who in the team they can seek help from can all be very motivating. Of course, so can performance related bonuses, so you might also want to offer incentives for top performance. You can then use your POS sales data, set against staff rotas, to monitor the results and issue rewards that are based on more than just a hunch.

Data capture

There are lots of ways you can capture your customer’s contact details – competitions, brand apps or even wi-fi logins, for instance. Possibly one of the easiest methods is to offer e-receipts in place of traditional till receipts. Most modern POS systems, like the Good Till, incorporate this as a standard feature. With the data to hand, its then much easier to reach out to those festive customers with a promotional offer that tempts them to return.

Create opportunities to re-connect

With Christmas customers, you have a short window of opportunity to build a more lasting relationship. While they’re with you, you’ll want them to enjoy their experience but also see beyond the festive menu. Tell them about any signature dishes the restaurant is famous for, any special promotions you’re offering come January or other events booked in for the year ahead.

Make sure front-of-house know what the key goals are around bringing customers back (distinguishing between what might work for local custom and visitors from further afield), then give Christmas revellers some relevant information as the leave.

Where you have the customer’s contact details, you can then follow this up by email. As your customers may not have been directly involved in organising the Christmas night out, ensure the name of your establishment features prominently and personalise that message wherever possible. If your POS shows an office party ordered a round of G&Ts to seal their night, for instance, then you might do well to entice guests back with a ‘gin o’clock’ special in January!

Increasing revenue and profitability during the Christmas and New year period is an important part of any hospitality business’s calendar. Once the season is over, the reporting features within your smart POS system can then be used to help you assess your seasonal performance and prepare for next year.

What’s really crucial for the long-term success of your business, however, is its performance in terms of attracting and keeping a band of regular clientele. Over time, these are the people who will come in regardless of the occasion, the bad weather or the new chain that opened just up the street!

Nail the art of turning this year’s Christmas partygoers into repeat customers and the time/ investment you put into that process will be well-rewarded.

Happy holidays!

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