A poor Christmas experience can end up damaging your trade for the year ahead, writes Sarah Lelic, editor, mad.co.uk
Some years ago my family decided to have Christmas lunch at a top end hotel in the city where we lived. It was awful. The service was sloppy, the food arrived in dribs and drabs, there was a 90 minute wait between the starter and the main course and the Christmas pudding was cold. After trying to complain to the manager, only to find there was no-one willing to take responsibility with no senior manager back on duty until 48 hours later, we left, thoroughly dissatisfied with the whole experience.
Had this been any other time of the year, it would have been quickly forgotten, but this was Christmas day. We had paid well over the odds for what was the worst kind of mass produced hotel slop, not to mention abysmal service. Of course, we wasted no time in telling everyone we met about how terrible the meal was. In fact we dined out on the experience for months.
Herein lies the rub for venues that cater for the Christmas trade. People talk about Christmas and if they have a bad experience word is likely to spread extremely quickly. Not only that, but people's expectations tend to be higher at Christmas purely because it is a special occasion so disappointment, when it comes, is that much more distressing. Conversely of course, if you can get it right, then the goodwill towards your establishment is likely to last well into the New Year and will almost certainly prompt a return visit.
Generally speaking, keeping the punters happy over Christmas is fairly simple. Decent festive fare, a good time and enthusiastic staff is really all that's necessary. If this is all provided, people don't mind paying higher than average prices, and what's more if you pull it off, they'll come back year after year. All too often, however, there is a perception that hotels and restaurants open during the festive period purely to line their own pockets. While there is no disputing the fact that Christmas is an extremely lucrative period, to really get the most out of the festive season, the experience which you offer has to be top-notch.
In short, restaurants and hotels should view the Christmas period as a chance to build trade and goodwill for the year ahead. It is the perfect opportunity to convert new visitors to repeat customers and remind regulars why they patronise your establishment. What's more, by offering incentives such as money off meals, or free bottles of wine in January and February you can go some way to ensuring that satisfied customers will return during the lean post-Christmas months. Ultimately, for the hospitality trade there can be no better thing than a successful Christmas, so make sure you don't miss out this year.
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