The festive season is right around the corner, yet this year will likely look and feel very different from years past. For those within the hotel industry, the latest announcements by the government of a four-week lockdown in England – alongside restrictions already in place across other parts of the UK – mean that the Christmas run-up will have a delayed start this year. While hotels have been permitted to stay open for essential requirements and business travel, normal service is being put on hold in England until at least early December.
This doesn’t mean to say, however, that lights in hotels should be dimmed completely – far from it, in fact. Right now, finding alternative ways to connect with guests directly during the coming few weeks and beyond is critical. Hotel food and beverage (F&B) offerings play a significant role here – particularly as guests will be looking for memorable experiences as they contend with this second lockdown at a time traditionally viewed as the start of the revenue-driving party season.
Being able to adapt plans, shift operations and leverage data insights to provide guests with standout experiences – whether on-premise or at home – is critical to keeping consumers engaged and driving revenue in the run-up to the holidays.
Looking to new revenue drivers this Christmas
Large festive gatherings may be off the table, but there are many other ways for hotel restaurants to diversify their offering. With a greater proportion of consumers spending more time at home in the coming few weeks, tapping into unique ways to bring experiences to them is a great way to maintain engagement. Whether it’s selling Christmas hampers made up of goodies to enjoy at home, setting up a takeaway hot chocolate stand outside the hotel, or running a series of at-home Zoom cooking sessions to master seasonal dishes, there are many creative and fun ways to build deeper relationships with guests aside from on-premise dining.
Hotels should also consider taking reservations for bespoke ‘micro’ Christmas gatherings in private dining rooms where they are allowed or for when restrictions are lifted. This not only gives guests something special to look forward to, but through leveraging pre-payments, venues also have endless opportunities for upselling, such as wine pairings or a bottle of champagne waiting on arrival.
Getting creative with takeaway and delivery offerings
The introduction of new restrictions throughout the country reinforces just how important it is to have the right systems in place that allow hotel restaurants to scale up takeaway or delivery options to serve the local community. Where consumers aren’t able to go to a venue – whether it’s due to lockdown or that they feel more comfortable at home – being able to meet their expectations and local requirements is critical for continuing to drive revenue. Finding ways to make the experience even more memorable as we enter the festive season will help build deeper connections with guests that encourage them to reorder or rebook. This can be as simple as using festive branding on takeaway bags or including complimentary Christmas themed biscuits in every delivery or takeaway order to provide a surprise and delight moment for the customer.
Building a greater understanding of each customer is more important than ever for fostering loyalty – and delivery or takeaway is no exception. Hotel restaurant operators should prioritize facilitating this themselves in order to maintain this direct connection. While third parties offer convenience and exposure, relying on them full time is not a sustainable solution for operators and will result in them missing out on valuable insights that can help enrich a relationship.
Optimising in-venue dining
While in-venue dining may not be possible at the moment, hotel restaurants need to prepare for maximising every opportunity when it can take place – particularly as there are going to be fewer days available to drive revenue ahead of the holidays. Reservations, waitlists and table management not only help run a seamless service and give more cautious diners reassurance, but are also a critical touchpoint for capturing guest data to leverage in future marketing. Where capacity is reduced and curfews are in place, operators need to make the most of the time they do have, so putting clear time limits on bookings by the number of guests is an effective solution to accommodate an extra sitting, even if they do have to close early. Additionally, these technology systems also give operators the ability to hold a credit card and charge a per person fee in the case of a no-show — a critical way to ensure not all revenue is lost when a guest doesn’t turn up for a reservation.
Tapping into the local and staycation audience
Engaging the local audience has never been more important – particularly for hotel operators that are likely to see a reduced influx of international guests. With consumers less likely to be travelling further afield, they are going to be more open to spending money on memorable experiences closer to home, which hotel restaurants can certainly provide. The run-up to Christmas offers the perfect opportunity to encourage locals to book celebratory meals out if guidelines allow or ordering in for a festive celebration at home that they don’t have to cook. Whether it is on-premise or at home, being able to connect with consumers and meet this need for memorable and exciting experiences will serve venues well.
As part of this, operators should be leveraging data at every point to provide a tailored experience that encourages deeper loyalty. A guest should be made to feel special at every interaction, whether that’s through receiving an offer for their favourite side dish or cocktail for free if they place an order or book a table before Christmas, or recommendations on wine pairing based on their previous visits. Showing local guests they are understood and valued is paramount in driving revenue this festive season and beyond.
The hospitality sector is facing new hurdles that mean party season looks a little different this year, but it doesn’t mean to say that Christmas should be cancelled altogether. Tapping into the opportunities that hotel restaurants present in terms of driving revenue and customer loyalty must be front and centre for operators this year. As venues continue to navigate the new era of hospitality, understanding the importance of building direct and meaningful relationships with guests – wherever they are – and providing the experiences they crave this festive season will encourage them to rebook and reorder.
By Danilo Mangano, general manager of SevenRooms Europe