Are you ready for festive show?


OFFICE parties, friends and families on nights out, weary shoppers – Christmas sees a whole host of people who wouldn’t usually visit bars and restaurants out in the trade.

The festive season generally brings a welcome boost to trade for many operators – but it’s also a chance for bar and restaurant owners to generate business outwith the Christmas period, by impressing customers enough that they want to return to the outlet in the new year.
Spirits firms contacted by SLTN said operators should view the festive season as a chance to showcase their venues.
“December 2010 saw some of the worst winter weather and the coldest December on record, significantly impacting on the early weeks of the month,” said Andrew Leat, senior category development manager for the on-trade at Diageo GB.
“Many pre-Christmas parties and celebrations were either cancelled or postponed to January, which impacted trading.
“However, a late surge showed that, even with adverse conditions, consumers still want to celebrate with friends and colleagues at this time of year.
“Operators should treat this period as a shop window for what they can offer, as this time of year attracts consumers who may not be regular users.
“Giving consumers a great experience will encourage them to return to the on-trade on more occasions, spending more outside of this period.”
Seasonal serves and cocktails appear to be one way to make a positive impression on consumers at Christmas, with Diageo, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands (BBFB), First Drinks, Maxxium and Global Brands all promoting long mixed drinks and cocktails with a distinctly festive flavour.
Alex Turner, head of product training and mixology at BBFB, said consumers are inclined to order “more indulgent” drinks at Christmas.
He reckons operators who introduce a menu of seasonal serves can reap the rewards – but he advised licensees to keep drinks simple.
“While the spirits category performs well, ‘party drinks’ in general can also help increase sales due to the fact that people want to treat themselves to something a little more luxurious,” he said.
“However, operators should remember not to overcomplicate things or get carried away with the Christmas theme – drinks that perform well are those that can be consumed throughout the night.
“The Grey Goose Le Fizz is a good example of a party drink that can be created simply and has the indulgent feel consumers are seeking.
“People are out to enjoy the party season and want to spend as much time with those they are with as opposed to waiting at the bar.
“Sharing cocktails and pitchers of cocktails are a fantastic way of getting the party started.
“They are also easy to make and can really help your drinks offer stand out against the competition.”
The call for simplicity was echoed by Leat at Diageo and Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands.
Claiming that seasonal serves can boost an outlet’s takings and atmosphere, Green urged licensees to be mindful that consumers’ expectations are higher than ever.
“Visits to the on-trade have become more occasional, with people seeing them as a ‘once in a while treat’, and so consumers expect the full package,” he said.
“Experimenting with flavours, cocktail names and serving vessels, such as teapots, Tiki mugs and tankards, can really enhance an outlet’s offering.”
Seasonal serves are also high on the agenda for distributor Maxxium UK, which is promoting a range of Christmas cocktail and punch suggestions.
Predicting a spike in sales of dark spirits over the festive season, Patsy Christie, Mixxit manager at Maxxium UK, also advised licensees to not be too ambitious on the recipe front.
Maxxium has a range of warm fruit punch and mulled wine recipes, she said, which are easy to make.
“One of the biggest fears with punch and mulled wine from an operator’s point of view is that they make a huge batch and then don’t sell it all so they are losing spirits,” she told SLTN.
“I always tell bar staff and operators to put all the fruit and mixers in first, then add the spirits once they’re serving it.
“We’ve also got a lot of recipes for speciality coffees and speciality hot cocoas this year; and a few drinks that use Advocaat, like the Cheesecake Martini.
“I think everywhere should have some sort of seasonal menu – even if it’s just simple builds or swizzles with festive names.
“People want to get into the Christmas mood but they are also looking for value for money; that doesn’t mean cheap, it means quality premium spirits at reasonable prices.”
First Drinks said drinks presentation is “imperative” at this time of year.
“Use correct glassware and garnish them to reflect the occasion and justify the extra cost,” said marketing director Una McCullough.
“Recommendations from bar staff, either verbally or on the chalkboard or drinks menu, is important when trying to up-sell from a standard spirit and mixer serve to a cocktail.”

Festive spirit

Patsy Christie, Mixxit manager, Maxxium UK

Favourite Christmas drink
My gran’s homemade Eggnog
Favourite Christmas food
My mother’s homemade crispy peanut chocolate-covered balls
Favourite Christmas song
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Favourite Christmas film
Favourite-ever Christmas present
Seeing my family when I go home to Canada every year

Festive spirit

EmmaLi Stenhouse, Sailor Jerry brand ambassador, First Drinks

Favourite Christmas drink
A shot of Sailor Jerry in mulled wine
Favourite Christmas food
Leftover Christmas dinner for breakfast on Boxing Day
Favourite Christmas song
Fairytale of New York by The Pogues
Favourite Christmas film
Favourite-ever Christmas present
I used to get a Barbie every year when I was a kid!