The Indian summer has meant a busy September for all our Business Tracker operators. Now that winter is closing in, the time has come to make concrete plans for next year's Olympic Games as well as consider Christmas. James Stagg reports
As the summer spilled into September, the Nothe Tavern in Weymouth enjoyed a continuation of the busy period it had experienced in July and August.
Licensee James Parsons says that now the weather has turned and it's a bit too blowy for the sailors on the nearby Solent, trade has dropped off slightly, affording him time to plan for future events.
"We went to the boat show in Portsmouth recently, which went really well," he explains. "We gave out loads of information to people who might be bringing clients to the Olympic sailing events and hope we might be entertaining some of them."
Having recognised the opportunity presented by so many likely visitors in one place, Parsons now plans to attend January's London Boat Show to ensure he spreads the net as wide as possible. To that end he has approached the local council with a view to featuring literature from the Nothe Tavern on its stand.
"We're also considering approaching Pimms to see if they'll sponsor our picnic packs," he adds. "We want to be able to offer branded hampers and if we can we'll include a can of Pimm's and lemonade as part of the sponsorship."
The initiative would be part of Parson's plan to increase the pub's quick snack offer to cater for sailing fans passing the business on the way to Olympic events.
"What we want to do is put a couple of barbecues and a jacket potato oven in the garden too," he says. "We need ways to feed people quickly, like fridges with ready-made sandwiches.
"We've also got an application going in to extend our licensing hours as well as set up an outside bar in the garden area."
Meanwhile, having seen the pub featured in Caterer and Hotelkeeper, local supplier Olives Et Al has invited James and his wife Caroline to visit them.
"They're based in Dorset and have invited us to their deli to sample their products with a view to supplying some of the quick snack offer," Parsons explains. "They do a good range and it's good stuff for the garden."
But it's not all about the Olympics. James and Caroline are also planning a charity event at Halloween to raise money for a children's hospice.
"We've got children's activities and a scary menu," Parsons says. "We're also dabbling with our first range of cocktails - it'll be practice for what we're planning for next year."
The Nothe TavernTel: 01305 839255www.thenothetavern.co.uk
An unexpectedly warm September also spelt a strong month for the Palmer Arms in Dorney, Buckinghamshire.
"A reasonable amount of good weather has meant we're looking at being about 20% up this year," explains owner Chrys Fisher. "Being our third year I didn't expect massive growth, especially as the economy hasn't really improved, but it's continued. October's looking good and Christmas bookings are coming in nicely as well. It's a good sign that we're going in the right direction."
Next year is set to be even better with the pub just a few oar widths from the Olympic rowing at Dorney Lake. Meanwhile, the lake continues to provide good business.
"There are still runs and triathlons at Dorney Lake," Fisher explains. "They're running fairly late this year, with events going on into the weekend which keeps business ticking over nicely."
To ensure the pub attracts all the visitors it can from the lake, Fisher is looking into the possibility of erecting a brown sign. "As people leave Dorney Lake they either turn left to the M4 or right towards us, so we want to see if we can get a sign to direct people to us," he says. "We're probably 200 yards from the turning but we're round the corner so it could make a big difference."
In the meantime Fisher is concentrating on making the most of Bonfire Night and Christmas. He's planning on putting on a large fireworks display and in December encouraging custom through carol concerts.
"The plan is to run a set menu for a night and during the meal we put song sheets down for everyone," Fisher says. "Once people have finished, everyone sings the four or five most popular carols accompanied by a live musician. Right now we're trying to work out how to get a piano in."
Having been oversubscribed for the pub's fireworks night last year, Fisher has plans to double the size of the barbecue and introduce a beer tent in the garden.
"Last year we couldn't feed and drink everyone that came so this year we're going to up the ante," he says. "We spend a lot of money on the fireworks and hand out glow sticks for the kids so it's a family affair."
Fisher is also working with Bibendum on plans to introduce a wine evening. "They're involved with the Olympics and the rep is going to do a lot of staff training," he says. "It's probably where we're missing a trick.
"They've also suggested we build a wine list by type rather than price so that we can get people to try different wines. So there will be a few changes over the coming months - we're constantly looking to improve."
The Palmer ArmsTel: 01628 666612www.thepalmerarms.com
September is one of the busiest months at Best Western Ufford Park hotel in Woodbridge, Suffolk, as golfers get back into the swing after the summer.
This year it's been even better as the reactor at Sizewell power station has been serviced, which means there have been between 1,500 and 2,000 extra contractors in the area.
"The power station is near us so when they service it's great for business," explains revenue manager Melanie Hawes. "With all the extra business we were running at about 90% occupancy in September. It happens every 18 months to two years, but it would be great if they did it in a quiet month like January!"
Currently the team at Ufford Park is doing the final planning for its red, white and blue charity ball to raise money for the local athlete the hotel is sponsoring through the Suffolk SportsAid foundation's Destination Gold project. It aims to help rower JoshuaTonnar as he limbers up for London 2012.
"We've got all the decor and the theme worked out and at the moment we're trying to arrange the charity auction prizes," Hawes adds. "We're talking to local businesses and many of the people involved with the Destination Gold project. It's been selling well and lots of businesses are getting behind it."
Beyond that Hawes says the hotel already has lots on the books for Christmas. "We've a theme - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," she says. "An outside company is coming in to do the decorations and we will do dinner dances throughout December for corporate and private guests. We also offer a three-night Christmas package and a gala dinner at New Year as well as a Hogmanay event. We're getting ready now so it's the calm before the storm."
Best Western Ufford Park hotel, golf and spaTel: 01394 383555www.uffordpark.co.uk
Our Profiting from 2012 Business Tracker series is published in association with ACT Clean and People 1st