Tidings of Comfort & Joy

The foodservice marketplace is battling the operational limitations in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the festive period is a critical trading time for operators and there are still plenty of opportunities for caterers.

We’ve taken a look at the latest trend insight and consumer data to bring you a simple guide to making the very most of the opportunities this
Christmas. We’ve also considered the learnings you can take from the consumer behaviour changes and successes operators saw during the lockdown period earlier in the year. From meal kits to virtual experiences, yes this Christmas is set to look very different but it is still a fantastic period to provide comfort and joy to your customers…

MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT
The message is clear – key to success for Christmas 2020 is unlocking the potential of all dining occasions across all dayparts throughout the entire festive period. Marketing messages should be broader than focusing upon Christmas party nights, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, encouraging increased footfall from an on-the-go hot beverage and nostalgic flavoured sweet treat occasion right through to festive afternoon teas and lunches.

It is also incredibly important to consider how consumers will be feeling about their own Christmas period, for example a consumer who would never normally consider eating out on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve may feel that their experience at home could be a little lack lustre due to not being able to have their family members and friends with them and therefore they may be more likely to be persuaded to dine out of home.

Encouraging consumers to visit your establishment for a smaller spend occasion can also make them feel much more confident about dining out for a full meal or with more family members and friends.

WALKING IN A (VIRTUAL) WINTER WONDERLAND
Providing online experiences this festive season could provide an additional revenue steam, whether that is virtual cocktail masterclasses or providing ‘how-to’ videos alongside meal kits available to purchase within your establishments. Consider what you aim to provide your customers with in terms of the experience when they dine with you, how can you take that and your branding to create something that can be experienced or enhance a dining occasion at home?

TINSEL & TECHNOLOGY
From ensuring you have a friction-free payment system in line with the increase in card and contactless payments to offering customers the ability to book tables or collection slots online – technology is also increasingly important from an operational perspective as well as additional revenue streams or opportunities to engage with customers.

“SOME 36% OF MEAT-EATERS BUY VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN PRODUCTS, AND 23% OF BRITS EAT GLUTEN-FREE DESPITE HAVING NO INTOLERANCE, ACCORDING TO UBAMARKET, SO IT REALLY DOES MAKE COMMERCIAL SENSE TO ADD GLUTEN-FREE, VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN PRODUCTS TO MENUS THIS CHRISTMAS.”

THE GIFT OF A FESTIVE MEAL KIT
Whether it’s to provide an exciting experience at home in addition to eating out or for those customers who feel too anxious to visit your premises – providing meal kits could be a fantastic additional revenue stream for you while also giving customers the opportunity to recreate at least a small part of what they experience on site.

If you didn’t want to provide a whole meal kit you could provide a smaller kit purely for recreating your signature meat marinade or offering a cocktail kit.

A CHRISTMAS DELIVERY
As more customers will be at home over the Christmas period due to consumer anxiety, potential lockdown restrictions and the 10pm curfew – providing a delivered option is more important than ever.

If this is something you are looking at offering then review your menu, ensuring that the options you make available for delivery or takeaway are able or are adapted to travel well in the appropriate non-foods packaging. Support from your local Country Range Group wholesaler can help with this. You could also look at bespoke packaging or even stickers to help enhance your branding adding to the experience the consumer receives at home.

Consider including festive options within your delivered and takeaway menu in the same way as you would in your standard menu. Whether
that is providing a festive flavour variation of pizza within your delivery menu or baileys cheesecake to takeaway after having their main meal on site – there are plenty of opportunities to diversify your offering and upsell.

NO AND LOW CHRISTMAS SPIRITS
In ordinary circumstances having a carefully considered mocktail menu and other enticing alcohol-free options is very important to ensure that those who choose not to drink, are pregnant or are the designated driver all are able to enjoy delicious drinks and the same experience as those who are selecting from the vast range of alcoholic beverages on offer. This existing
opportunity will be further increased by the 10pm curfew, consumer anxiety around taking forms of public transportation and the increased likelihood of breaking social distancing guidelines when having a few too many gins. All factors are likely to increase the number of people choosing to not drink alcohol and drive on the occasions where they dine out.

From a profit perspective, the margin opportunity on a premium beverage or mocktail would be considerably higher than a lime and soda – so this
works in your favour too. Ensure your marketing communications include exciting content around your low and no alcohol range offering.

PLANT-BASED PARTY
The demand for a greater variety of meat free options to be included within menus has increased dramatically over the last few years.

“This Christmas is looking like being quite different to past festive seasons but one thing that stays constant is people’s passion for great-tasting, attractive food,” explains Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods. “With some kitchens operating at reduced capacity and perhaps a smaller menu, it’s really important to offer items that will appeal to as many diners as possible.

It’s important to consider each element of your menu including delivery and takeaway. Vegan charity VIVA! have created a recipe booklet of ideas to give you plenty of inspiration for each course.

An example menu could be;
• Roast Beetroot and Cashew Cream Crostini
• Individual Luxury Festive Roast
• Individual Salted Caramel Cheesecake
• Cranberry ‘Boursin’ Style Cheese to be included within a vegan-friendly cheeseboard offering
• Vegan Baileys cocktail

LUXURY & SPECIAL TOUCHES
Especially where it is felt that this Christmas won’t be the same, consumers will look to those experiences or touches of luxury that they feel adds that festive sparkle to their Christmas. From gold dusted desserts, premium products and those that take a considerable amount of time and skill to create, well there are plenty of opportunities to provide luxury items within menus or as an option for customers to take home – think festive flavours incorporated into artisan breads and pastries to upsell a standard snack occasion.

DECK THE HALLS
Whilst it is essential to communicate to customers about their health and wellbeing on site, it’s important to not forget the joy of the atmosphere and enjoyable setting that they’re used to when eating or drinking in out-of-home venues.

“Give thought to theming, decoration and ambience to create something memorable without adding significant cost to the bottom line or compromising cleanliness. Enhancing guests’ experience and adding value to their visit can contribute to charging a more premium price and
increasing spend per head.”

Consumers still want the magic of Christmas – think snow scenes and playful twists on dining spaces such as igloos for each household to dine in.

JOY TO THE WORLD
2020 has also been the year of the community spirit, from a national perspective and on a more regional and local level. Ensure you make the most of this community spirit in your marketing communications in terms of customers supporting local businesses by visiting your establishment or by increasing visibility of the ways your business has supported the local area throughout 2020.

There is also a huge opportunity to offer gift packages and vouchers for visits and experiences that can be deemed in the New Year and beyond.

1‘The Twelve Weeks to Christmas Guide’ created by Access in partnership with CGA
2KAM Media ‘Return of the Pub’ report
3Mintel Christmas 2020 Report
4CGA Cocktail Report
5Experience management expert HGEM research