Forward planning pays off for lessees

Pub companies praise operators who are prepared for December

• Decking the halls: Hamilton’s in Edinburgh is all set ahead of the festive season, said Iona.

GETTING a pub’s Christmas offer just right can be a tricky proposition.

As the busiest time of year for the trade, operators have to balance their offer to appeal to regular customers as well as those who may only venture into the trade once a year.
When it’s done successfully, operators aren’t the only ones happy – their pub companies are just as keen to shout about it.
In the case of Iona Pub Partnership, senior business manager Paul Wishart highlighted Hamilton’s in the Edinburgh suburb of Stockbridge as one of its well-prepared leasehold units.
“One of our flagships is Hamilton’s in Stockbridge,” said Wishart.
“Our leaseholders Colin [Church] and Martin [Luney] have been in the site for the last six years and consistently develop their Christmas trade through excellent service, innovative menu offerings and an excellent approach to attracting trade via their use of a Christmas co-ordinator.
“What’s especially important is they understand that to capture the party groups during the festive period they have to deliver every day of the year.”
The Hamilton’s festive menu includes set lunch and dinner menus (£19.95 and £25.95 respectively) as well as Christmas cocktails such as the Juniper Fizz (gin, fresh lemon, lemon sherbert, Champagne and plum bitters) and the Spiced Peach and Ginger Bellini (Champagne, pumpkin pie slices and smashed peach, stem ginger and honey shrub).
Good planning isn’t limited to the east coast, however.
Margaret McInnes, licensee of The Back Road in Stonehouse, was named as one of the most organised Scottish lessees in the Punch estate with regard to Christmas.

To capture festive party groups they have to deliver every day of the year.

Punch regional operations director, Brian Davidson, said McInnes had worked with the company’s new business manager earlier in the year to ensure all aspects of the pub’s Christmas offer – including menus and party nights – were in place by the end of August.
These offers were then promoted via social media and “calculated postcode drops”.
“This has resulted in her [McInnes] being booked out for most nights early on thus making her busy festive period easier to manage and therefore more profitable,” said Davidson.
The Back Road’s Christmas offer includes a three-course set-menu, for £15.95, which includes festive staples roast turkey and Christmas pudding as well as other options such as breaded brie wedges and oven-baked salmon.
And in Fenwick, Ayrshire, Star Pubs & Bars lessee Jill Grant, of The Kings Arms, is already almost fully booked for Christmas Day after attracting new customers as well as repeat business.
The village pub offers a two-course festive menu for £14.95 and three courses for £17.95, with tables of four or more offered a 10% discount on the price of their food bill.
On Christmas Day, families will pay £44.95 per head for a five-course dinner, which Grant said has proved popular for the past five years.
“We try our best to create the best atmosphere,” she said.
“It’s all about the family enjoying themselves and giving them good value for money.
“They do say to us that they couldn’t go out and buy all that for the money [we charge], by the time they’ve got all the extras.”
And by promoting the Christmas menu online the pub has attracted customers from as far away as Glasgow.
“We really do have a wide variety of people from loads of different areas,” said Grant.
“I’m quite surprised at how far some of them travel, which is a good thing.”