Kitchens across the country are in the midst of the Christmas trading period, which is this year set to be busier than ever. According to a recent survey by Bookatable, more consumers than ever are planning to eat out of the home on Christmas Day, with demand also up for meals on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
The strains of the festive season can present challenges for even the best-run kitchens: large parties, late arrivals, unexpected vegans, to say nothing of team members struck by flu or vital food deliveries delayed by weather. Hopefully however, the planning put in by chefs earlier in the year to create Christmas menus that are both appetising, easy to prepare in large quantities and on tight timescales and still delivering a healthy profit, is now starting to pay off.
Once the last turkey dinner has been served and chefs and their teams have drawn breath, it’s time to think about the New Year. How are you going to attract customers into your pub or restaurant during the dark days of January, especially when many of them are short of cash, dieting or ‘dry’ for the month? As ever, it doesn’t appear to be the most promising period for hospitality operators.
Chefs can play an important part in boosting sales during these winter months. It’s a question of thinking about what consumers want and what the kitchen can produce, and then coming up with dishes and food ‘events’ that tempt diners through the doors while also delivering a decent profit for the business. Here are some of our suggestions, based on the offers that we’ve seen succeed with the many operators we work with:
Healthy eating is high on the agenda for many diners during January. Even if they’re not trying to shift excess weight, many will want to detox after the rich food and drink ofChristmas. Think about how your business can meet this consumer need, with, for example, a selection of salads, an expanded vegetarian offer and perhaps adapting some of your staple dishes by substituting fries with boiled potatoes. Also consider how you extend this into the different day parts that you trade, with superfood-packed smoothies at breakfast, or herbal teas for the many customers who cut down on caffeine.
Vegetarian and vegan dishes: the good news is that as consumer demand for vegetarian options has grown, so too has the range of easy-to-prepare veggie dishes available from many food service suppliers – Butternut Squash, Stilton & Spinach Risotto, anyone? Or how about a Parsnip, Sweet Potato & Chestnut Bake? There are also vegetable or Quorn-based burgers, grills and sausages as well as a selection of pasta dishes, curries and more. Catering for vegetarians has never been easier!
Comfort eating: paradoxically perhaps, one of the other dining trends during January is a preference for comforting foods, perhaps as a temporary escape from the onslaught of cold weather and credit card bills. Warming home-made soups, casseroles and pies all tick the comfort box, as do traditional puddings such as treacle sponge with custard.
Food festivals: many of our pub and restaurant customers have had success with themed food events during January, by giving one week of the month a particular focus, such as game dishes, sausages, puddings, or cuisine from another country. It’s a great way to give customers something new to try and show a new side to your kitchen team’s culinary skill.
Meet the supplier evenings: remember that your suppliers will be facing a quiet January too. Invite your butcher or fishmonger into the pub to host a tasting evening that will give customers a chance to try new dishes and different cuts. If you ask them to vote for the most popular items from a tasting menu, it will give you a good steer on your next menu revamp. And by inviting your wine merchant or local brewer to join the party by introducing matches to the menu, you may even overcome some customers’ reluctance to drink during January.
Keeping on top of your food purchasing and building relationships with suppliers is a time-consuming task and in a small company, it often falls to the head chef – meaning they then have less time to focus on developing new dishes, or supervising and training their kitchen teams. It’s hard work developing and expanding a foodservice business, but Lynx can make the purchasing part a whole lot easier.
At Lynx, we work closely with suppliers to ensure that we know exactly what’s happening on availability and prices across a range of product areas, meaning that we can help our customers produce menus that not only appeal to diners, but also deliver a healthy profit.
We have also developed our free GP Calculator App, endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, which helps chefs to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play