‘Tis the Season


With the help of industry experts, we offer advice on how your bar can provide guests an exceptional experience this Christmas through food and drink offerings, and how this can bring your venue increased revenue.

The festive season – a time where guests flood bars, eager to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. With an influx of customers during the festive months, all seeking an elevated experience, it is crucial that your venue is pulling out all the stops to wow guests.

Pat Humphries, Associate Director On-Premise at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB (CCEP), speaks on the expected rise in footfall for bars this year, suggesting why venues should be ready to offer guests an extraordinary experience: “78% of consumers visited a licensed venue during the 2022 festive period. We saw more people going out for food and drink more often than the previous Christmas, as it was the first real festive period in two years that had not been impacted by Covid restrictions.

“Although consumers are being careful with how they spend their money this year, due to the higher cost of living, we expect increased visits to continue in 2023, as people prioritise socialising with their family and friends,” Pat adds.

Christmas provides the perfect opportunity for bars to showcase their exceptional food and drink offerings, as well as the chance to achieve increased revenue, by capitalising on the rise in footfall. To achieve both, it is crucial to get creative with your venue’s cocktails, exploring new flavours and ingredients, which will provide guests an unforgettable experience.

Aline Peters, Marketing Manager at Clermont Hotel Group, explains how the festivities provide bars the chance to delight guests with new and exciting serves: “Christmas gives bartenders an opportunity to be creative, and experiment with festive flavours and ingredients to develop unique serves. Across our portfolio of hotels and hotel bars, including The SOAK in The Clermont Victoria, our F&B teams have worked to bring fresh and interesting additions to the menu that will inspire curiosity, offering unparalleled experiences that inevitably create lasting memories.”

Consider trying something different this festive season, and offer guests something exciting to elevate their experience. James Palmer, Head of On-Trade at Thatchers Cider, says: “Cider cocktails are a simple way to drive additional margin and add theatre to your bar over the festive period. We know people are looking for experiences when they‘re out; creating cocktails is a brilliant way of doing this.”

Alex Haslam, Head of Category Development, On Trade at Diageo GB, comments on the endless possibilities that the festive season brings in terms of creating unique serves for guests: “Cocktails present a huge opportunity for operators over the festive period – with the value of cocktails in GB currently worth £716m. Bar teams have the opportunity to enhance menus by incorporating exciting twists on classic serves, using seasonal ingredients and garnishes.

“Glassware also plays a big role, allowing bar teams to beautifully present cocktails in a stylish and elegant way. Guests expect their cocktails to be presented in the ‘correct’ glassware suited to the drink, therefore this is an essential feature to maximise customers’ experience,” Alex adds.

Attention to detail counts, and, for customers, the little details make all the difference in their experience. With more consumers looking for an ‘Instagrammable’ serve, the presentation of a cocktail has become just as important as how it tastes.

Arc UK is a leading manufacturer of tableware, offering high-quality, yet aesthetically beautiful, glassware to suit a range of venues and styles. We asked John Goodman, Country Manager at Arc International, the importance of quality and aesthetically pleasing glassware in venues this Christmas period. He explains: “Customers looking to capture their evening in photographs for social media want tableware that is eye-catching and attractive. Investing in quality glassware with a premium look can really impress a customer, and lead to your venue getting some of that vital word-of-mouth promotion on social media,” John adds.

Speaking on how an exceptional glassware range can further heighten the guest experience, John comments: “A show stopping flute, coupe or martini glass can really elevate a guest’s experience. A drink served in an attractive, premium quality glass can really get a celebration off to an amazing start, and asserts the quality credentials of a venue. First impressions really do count in our industry, and that perfectly crafted cocktail, or poured fizz, in a beautiful glass makes a statement early on.”

While showcasing exceptional cocktails is key this Christmas, increased footfall means it is also important that your bar is catering to a wide audience, to ensure all guests are provided with the ultimate experience. This also ensures you are capitalising on a range of different consumers, which will lead to all-important increased revenue.

Liam Belton, Master of Malt Trade Lead, urges venues to stock recognisable spirits as well as a good range of quality spirits. He says: “Whilst consumers like to experiment, it is imperative that bars keep well-known spirits stocked, so drinkers have the option of either a classic serve or a seasonal innovation.

“We also know having a consistent, high-quality spirit offering is imperative to driving repeat visits and a loyal customer base – a reputation for excellent serves takes time to build, but once it is established, and maintained, it is the best marketing you can do.”

The rise of mindful drinking in recent years is an important factor to consider when curating your Christmas serve menu, and can ensure you are catering to all members of the Christmas party or corporate booking.

Speaking on the no and low category, Adriana Morris-Pérez, Speciality Drinks Head of Marketing, advises venues to dedicate some space on their menu for the mindful drinks. She says: “I believe it’s crucial to include low and non-alcoholic options on your menu nowadays. More consumers are prioritising overall wellbeing, especially after experiencing Covid-19. 

“There’s also the consumers that are flexible when it comes to their drinking occasions – they enjoy drinking alcoholic drinks on some occasions, while choosing to abstain on others. However, they still want to experience the joy of a cocktail without the alcohol, and non-alcoholic options offer this flexibility.  Providing the same experience, but in a non-alcoholic version is crucial for venues – this is where the real opportunity lies, not just if it’s Dry January or Sober October.”

Providing interesting insight into the growing no and low trend, Adam Russell, Director of Foodservice & Licensed at Britvic, reveals: “Soft drinks remain an important category to outlets, worth £7.4bn and seeing a 46% growth year-on-year. At no time is this clearer than during seasonal occasions like Christmas, when there is a rise in social outings and, therefore, high demand for a variety of soft drinks options and mixers.”

He continues, encouraging bars to embrace non-alcoholic offerings: “At a time when one in three adults say they now rarely or never drink alcohol, there are huge opportunities for operators to re-evaluate their approach and cater with soft drinks and alcohol-free options. By adapting their offering, out of home operators could benefit from a sales boost worth a staggering £170m, just by encouraging 10% of consumers to trade up from tap water to a soft drink.

“For example, Britvic’s range of J2O drinks is available in both still and sparkling formats (blends and spritz), and is not only a well-known brand to stock, but is also trusted for its great taste: flavours available range from Orange & Passion Fruit to Apple & Elderflower. J2O provides operators with an adaptable serve, whether in the bottle with a fruit slice, in a glass over ice, or used within a cocktail or mocktail.”

To freshen up your bar’s soft drink offerings, consider introducing something new and exciting, Like Monster Energy. Pippa Foster, Associate Director Commercial Development at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB (CCEP), suggests why your bar should be refreshing its menu: “Demand for energy drinks in pubs and bars is rising and in a recent survey half of consumer respondents said they would drink an energy drink as a mixer when they go out. Over two thirds of consumers surveyed said they had enjoyed an energy drink with food in the last month.

“Thanks to the variety of flavours now available, energy drinks are great with food, a perfect cocktail mixer, and an ideal alternative to alcohol for designated drivers this Christmas,” she adds.

When curating your Christmas soft drinks offerings, it is crucial to consider which brands will bring the most revenue. Pat Humphries reveals: “Nearly half (44%) of consumers say a range of well-known brands is important to them when they’re out for a drink.

“It’s important to stock up with established brands like Coca-Cola – including Coca-Cola Original Taste and Diet Coke, the number one and number two soft drinks brands in the GB on-trade, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which is enjoying 24.3% growth – and Schweppes, the no.1 mixer brand in GB.”

To further elevate your venue’s tasty serves this Christmas, and create a unique experience for guests, premium bar snacks are a great way to upsell and achieve increased revenue. Ekaterina Petrova, Pipers Senior Brand Manager, explains: “Within the away-from-home channel, crisps and snacks have continued to be a critical sales driver for operators, despite macro challenges being faced by many businesses and consumers today.

“Premium single crisps are currently worth £26.4 million in the away-from-home channel, so there is a large opportunity for operators to offer a premium option like Pipers to encourage customer spend,” she adds.

Consider placing small, complimentary bowls of nibbles at the bar, for guests to help themselves to as they enjoy their delicious drinks! This can elevate the guest experience and provides an opportunity for your bar to increase revenue, as guests are inclined to order more snacks as the night goes on.

Christmas would not be the same without the delicious dishes that come with the season and, while a venue’s serves are the stars of the show, offering festive light bites alongside exceptional drinks is sure to wow guests and make for an unforgettable experience. Aline Peters, Marketing Manager at Clermont Hotel Group, explains: “When it comes to seasonal dishes, guests will have certain expectations, so festive staples will always remain important.

“At the centre of our food menus this year is a traditional turkey ballotine with a flavourful sage and onion stuffing. It’s complemented by succulent pigs in blankets, golden roast potatoes, honey-roasted carrots and parsnips, brussel sprouts and rich roast chestnuts, immersed in a sumptuous turkey jus and a drizzle of cranberry sauce. Incorporating traditional Christmas meals within your bar’s offering will encourage that Christmas feel among guests, making them feel right at home.”

A great festive food offering, such as canapés and sharing platters, also presents the perfect opportunity for wine pairings, which can further elevate the guest experience and bring increased revenue. Tom van der Neut, Business Unit Controller at Lanchester Wines, explains the role of wine pairings in creating an exceptional dining experience for guests: “Perfectly executed wine pairings will enhance the dining experience, which will lead to heightened flavours, textures and qualities of the food served. Don’t be afraid to inject some of the personality of your pub or your staff in the language you use when describing or selling wine.”

Tom Smith, Marketing Director (Europe) at Accolade Wines, agrees, and comments how pairing food and drinks at your venue this Christmas is crucial in adding to the experience for the guest: “We’re seeing the on trade become more and more experience-led – rather than just a place to come for food or drinks: venues should look to offer experiences that become a ‘reason to visit’ in themselves.

“Food and drink experiences, such as guided ‘wine flights’, are great experiential activations that can help outlets: we’ve already seen success with our La Vivienda wine flight kit, allowing customers in-outlet to order a La Vivienda ‘wine flight’ with all three varietals and follow an online video to take them through how to taste them.”

To capitalise on your wine offerings this Christmas season, and provide an elevated experience for guests through food pairings, it is crucial that staff are educated on the wine list. Tom explains: “Keeping staff abreast on your wine list throughout the entire year is key to healthy wine sales. Of course, this should be amplified in the run up to Christmas.

“You or your supplier should take time to taste through a handful of key wines with staff and discuss their merits, some food pairings and a few notes to create a short, interesting and profitable ‘story’ for the customer. It is key to ensure your teams are fully trained on wines and pairing to ensure they can upsell to the right customer, leading to a boost in revenue for you and your business.”

Ultimately, Christmas offers the ultimate opportunity for bars to provide guests an exceptional experience through their food and drink offerings. As well as this, the festive period can aid increased revenue through the influx of footfall and consumers’ desire for a quality and unforgettable time.

BACARDÍ FESTIVE OCHO OLD FASHIONED

Ingredients:

50ml Bacardí Reserva Ocho

10ml PX Sherry

5ml Orgeat

1 dash of Angostura Bitters

1 dash of orange bitters

Method:

Stir with ice and pour into an Old Fashioned glass, add a large piece of ice then, garnish with an orange zest.

Sherry & Spice

Ingredients:

10ml Mulled Spice Syrup

10ml Lemon Juice

50ml fino sherry

Method:

Build in a rocks glass of crushed ice. Top with an ice-crown, lemon wedge and angostura bitters drops.

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