Christmas – or rather the period from early December through to the New Year – is for most publicans simply the biggest opportunity of the whole year.
It’s therefore a time they really can’t afford to get wrong. That means meticulous, early planning, and working closely with wholesalers and suppliers to get the festive offer and service right.
Don’t assume that pubs can just open their doors and watch the customers roll in. A pub has to satisfy the yuletide craving for tradition, yet also set itself apart by offering something different. Competition is also fierce in the pub trade, not just between pubs but with the many other casual dining options available.
The plans licencees put in place for the festive season can affect their businesses all year round and can help to secure a long-term customer base.
Wholesalers can help them achieve that and they can do themselves a favour, too. A successful partnership at this crucial time can go a long way to building a strong long-term relationship with a valuable customer.
Here’s what pub operators want from wholesalers to help them have a cracking Christmas
“Obviously the festive period is a chaotic time. Flexibility from wholesalers with delivery schedules and so on, plus an understanding of the pressures pub operators are under at this time of year, are key.
“An inability to fulfil orders and making mistakes causes problems at any time, but during the festive season, it’s especially frustrating.”
“Christmas is when we make 25-40% of our operating profit. Most of our pubs don’t have huge summer gardens, so those three weeks are key.
“The wholesaler’s job is to help us identify great menu and drink ideas that will excite guests and deliver great profit. For example, our butcher Aubrey Allen will identify the right beef cut and dish to make an alternative to turkey at a good margin; cheese supplier Harvey & Brockless will teach us how to sell an extra plate of cheese; and Pernod Ricard and Molson Coors will help us win on drinks deals while delivering interesting, on-trend drinks lists.”
“Christmas starts for us in January, when we review the Christmas just gone, put menus together and start talking to suppliers about what we need. Wholesalers don’t have a crystal ball, so I want to involve them and tell them whether we expect to be busy on a particular line.
“We also plan delivery days in the run-up to Christmas. We carry a lot of stock, but the worst that can happen is that we run out. For most food products, we choose a supplier close by. But our dry goods come from Elite Foodservice in Sussex. We forgot something once and the rep got in his car and delivered it himself – a 140-mile round trip!”
“It’s a celebratory occasion, and we host lots of corporate events and parties, so we sell more champagne and prosecco. The extra dining also means we see our biggest rise in wine sales, but everything else goes up, too.
“The earlier we can sit down and talk to a supplier, the better. If we’re planning promotions, it’s good if we can work with wholesalers on them. We’d want discounts on the products we promote.
“Pubs are a 365 days a year business, but suppliers often aren’t, so we sit on a lot of stock over Christmas to avoid running out.
“Regular contact over the period is important. We want to feel valued as customers and the personal touch, a phone call to check we’re happy with everything, helps cement relations.”