Christmas with COVID

Getting the word out this winter

With the recent introduction of a nationwide 10pm curfew for licensed venues, as well as the passing into law of table service for pubs and the existing ‘rule of six’ remaining in place, there’s little doubt that some potential patrons have been discouraged from visiting the on-trade or making advance bookings for Christmas meals or festive drinks.

Recent data reflects that trend with 45% of consumers expected to reduce their visits to the on-trade over Christmas compared to last year and 57% aren’t currently planning to make reservations.

However, city-centre bar operator, Stuart MacPhee is aiming to turn the negative aspects of the restrictions into a positive with a fresh approach to marketing his venue.

He said: “The narrative we’re moving to now in order to draw more customers in until New Year is day is the new night, so that’s how we’ll face the curfew. I think that’s what we as business owners need to adapt to.

“We’ll also be playing on the idea of getting people out the house and bringing their family and friends together and to us at our ‘house’. We’ll do the cooking, we’ll do the washing up, you’ll have a great time and we’ll look after you all. So that narrative is one which we will be driving home with outside banners and on social media across the coming months. We need to give customers that little bit more encouragement this Christmas.”

Similarly, as the man behind two casual dining venues, Neil Douglas is switching up his festive marketing this year to match the shifting circumstances. With offices, high street shopping and panto all hit by the impact of the pandemic, city centre operators like Neil are being challenged the most.

Subsequently, he has cancelled all his paper marketing (flyers, menus, etc.) and is instead looking to be more active in pushing his venue on social media feeds this winter.

Although restrictions have increased of late, there will also be an onus on government to reduce them where possible, should the measures result in a decrease in Covid-19 cases, and this potential over the coming weeks and months has to be considered by operators.

“We should be keeping an eye out for when any of the current restrictions are lifted and then react accordingly by attacking the market for increased footfall where we can,” he said.

So, what can you do? We say, to encourage customers into your outlet this Christmas:

  • Treating social media as a priority, look to strike a positive note by showing the best of your Christmas offer with posts showing that your food and drink selections are hard to resist.
  • Use socials to remind people that your venue is continuing to take the current situation seriously and have all the necessary procedures in place, so there is minimal worry about visiting across the winter months as you and your team have done everything possible to minimise the threat.
  • With home working, greater flexibility from many employers and holidays all breaking up the traditional 9 to 5, customers can be encouraged to start pub visits earlier over November and December, promote earlier starting times on social media to increase your guests’ dwell time and spend.


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