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Have Yourself a Merry Busy Christmas – Insights & Tips to Support Operators This Festive Season

‘Tis the season – not only to be jolly, but to tempt more customers through your doors and keep them staying longer.

Thanks to a warmer winter and changing festive habits, the on-trade experienced like-for-like sales growth of 4.1% in 2018 versus 2017. And, in 2018, the last working Friday before Christmas – dubbed Mad Friday – had the highest rate of sale over the festive period. Sales even eclipsed New Year’s Eve, as consumers across the country celebrated in the lead up to Christmas Day.

This year, Mad Friday is set to fall on 21st December, and there is a big opportunity to boost sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year. With Christmas a time for sharing, HEINEKEN UK has compiled insights and tips – underpinned by The Greenpaper research – to support you in maximising on the occasion and hear the ringing of tills throughout December.

1. All the trimmings

Turkey, brussels sprouts, Christmas pudding; you name it – food has become integral to festive occasions in the on-trade. One in two visits involve both food and drink and more consumers are heading to pubs and restaurants for their Christmas dinner. This underpins HEINEKEN’s Great With Food driver, worth £189M incremental value over three years.

  • Festive menus: Create the ultimate festive feast, ensuring you stay true to your outlet’s style and audience. For example, a traditional Christmas dinner will go down well in a community wet-led pub, whereas gastropubs, restaurants and premium high-street venues have the opportunity to be more experimental. Use chalkboards, menus and table talkers to shout about your offering, as well as online promotion via your website and social media to get the word out in advance.

  • Social savviness: A huge growth area in recent years are food posts on Instagram, so this is the best platform for showcasing food content.

  • Bookings and pre-ordering: Even if you don’t have an online booking system, consider offering customers the option of pre-ordering food and drink to streamline service on the day. Ensure you concentrate on both groups/corporate and individual bookings too!

2. Premiumise, premiumise, premiumise

Consumers are willing to pay more and try new drinks at Christmas, and their on-trade experiences and decisions are often treat-led. 40% expect to see a wider range over the period, presenting the perfect opportunity to push them into trading up across categories. This reinforces the We’re Worth It and Live Better drivers, worth £72M and £58M incremental value over three years respectively.

  • Premium ranges: While most beer and cider categories see an increased rate of sale over Christmas (17.6%, on average), reap the financial benefits in stocking premium 4% and continental premium lager brands like Birra Moretti and Amstel. Birra Moretti is the fastest growing beer in the UK, delivering an extra £76M to the market in the last 12 months.

  • No & Low: With 50% of consumers now moderating their alcohol intake, ensure you offer the health-conscious and designated drivers products that make them feel part of the festive occasion. Provide different options across categories and stock popular brands like Heineken® 0.0 and Old Mout Alcohol Free. Remember to include these in festive drinks deals alongside alcohol counterparts to offer your customers greater choice.

  • Visibility: 51% of consumers who tried new drinks over Christmas in 2018 were influenced to do so by promotions or adverts. Witnessing another customer enjoying a particular serve prompted 22% of experimental consumers to order the same drink, so it’s key for outlets to introduce festive or innovative serves to remain relevant and keep them front of mind.

  • Quality: Over a third (34%) of customers would pay extra for a better quality drink over Christmas than at any other time of the year. Word of mouth recommendations and return business are essential, so ensure you have a good cellar management routine, knowledgeable staff and a balanced range.

3. Festive spirit

Driven by the phenomenal popularity of gin, spirits saw a 9% uplift in value share over Christmas last year in comparison to 2017. Some categories also play heavily into the occasion, with cream liqueurs experiencing a +139% rate of sale over the festive period[13].

  • Seasonal cocktails: From hot gin toddies and spiced negronis, to eggnog and Bucks Fizz, consider adding a mix of classic cocktails and creative concoctions to your drinks list.

  • Turn up the heat: Given the trends for more warming flavours, why not incorporate a mulled wine or cider to your offering?

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