Break out the buffet to make the most of Christmas

As the latest edition of our Market Forecast warns, the start of 2018 is likely to be a challenging trading period for many hospitality and catering businesses, with food & drinks inflation expected to continue to push up prices, and customer spending under pressure.

That makes it all the more important to make the most of the peak Christmas and New Year period. If all’s going to plan, by now the bookings diary should bulging. However, even if the business has reservations for as many the sit-down turkey dinners with all the trimmings that the kitchen can cope with in weeks ahead, have a look at your bar trade – there could still be opportunities to capture bookings from customers looking for less formal options.

For many people, Christmas is much a time for getting together for a drink as it is for a meal. Whether it’s customer meeting old friends or getting together with office colleagues. A well-planned buffet, snacks and sharing menu can be very popular with groups celebrating the festive seasons on a budget

The gastropub revolution has raised expectations when it comes to buffets.  Classic staples such as scotch eggs, sausage rolls, pork pies and cheeseboards can now come  packed with provenance and loaded with locality. Christmas also provides an opportunity to add some interesting seasonal touches:

  • Speak to suppliers: home-made scotch eggs and sausage rolls are a lovely idea in principal, but in practice pubs may lack the time and skills in the kitchen to prepare these from scratch, particularly at a time of year when the kitchen is already busy. Catering butchers and wholesalers increasingly offer upmarket versions of these snack and buffet products options with a home-made feel, and Christmas is a good time to give these a try – they may cost a bit more, but they can also command a premium price. Create and promote a premium snack and sharing menu to drive both buffet booking impulse snack sales from bar trade.
  • Festive fare: the wholesalers’ Christmas catalogues also feature many seasonal buffet items, such as turkey & cranberry pie, salmon blinis, breaded and battered prawns, chicken & chorizo skewers and many others, which are also ideal as snack and sharing options.
  • Add some seasonal accompaniments: Put away the standard jars of condiments and invest in some more interesting ideas. A pork pie served with cranberry jelly or a local cheeseboard with a dash of spicy pickle from the farm shop will create a premium, festive feel. You can also celebrate the season of goodwill by adding a drop of the hard stuff to sauces, such as English mustard mixed with a seasonal ale or a nip of brandy, to serve with a sausage roll.
  • Celebrate the season: Some of the classic components of a Christmas dinner can also be adapted as festive bar snacks. Pigs in blankets are as popular in a buffet or on sharing platter as they are served alongside the turkey. For customers looking for vegetarian snack options, try a mixed Christmas vegetable snack platter – sprouts with a coating of seasonal spices, honey glazed parsnips and carrots tossed in sesame seeds, can be combined to make a tasty and visually appealing snack– add a few cocktail sticks to make them easy to eat.
  • Cheese please: A cheeseboard option can also do double duty at Christmas, working equally well as an end-of-the-meal alternative to the sweet course, as well as making a great sharing option for two or more. Mature cheddar, stilton, and  a brie or camembert  are essentials, and the offer can be seasonally enhanced with the wide choice of cheeses enhanced with beer, wine, and spirits. Offer a set price on a cheeseboard accompanied by a  Christmas beer, or a glass or wine or port.

Once the Christmas rush is over,  the new year is an ideal time to review suppliers in order to get the best deals and counter the challenge of rising prices during 2018. The Lynx Purchasing Savings widget, on our home page at www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk, enables operators to work out the average annual savings that can be achieved by buying at prices negotiated by Lynx Purchasing, based on the operator’s annual purchasing budget and our proven track record working with a whole range of businesses.

Whether it’s a buffet or a three course meal, when planning menus keep track of costs and maintain margins using the Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, available FREE for Apple and Android devices. The App helps chefs to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:

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