Usually at this time of year operators are gearing up for the Christmas and New Year party season. Ordering crackers, fine tuning entertainment plans, planning menus and filling their venues with bookings for the Festive Season.
However 2020 is shaping up to be a Christmas like no other. With the potential of the ‘Rule of Six’ the term ‘Mini-Mass’ has been termed to describe potential consumer habits in the lead up to the main event. This means people will be having more regular celebration meals with a fewer number of people. Whereas previously you may end up eating out with your entire family or friendship group in December, it now seems almost certain that you will have to reduce party sizes in order to comply with social distancing measures.
This means that although Christmas day numbers will be lower due to reduced capacity and the office Christmas party trade may be greatly depleted, restaurants that host festive offerings throughout December may see an increase in table bookings. Families and friends who would of relied on one large outing to see everyone are likely to go out on a number of occasions with smaller groups. Restaurants will also benefit from a reduction of the larger events that will inevitably not go ahead this year because the cost of investment and set up is not worth the risk should the event be cancelled due to local lockdowns or other government interventions.
From a supply chain perspective producers are forecasting the ‘out of home’ market to be one of smaller cuts of meat, such as a turkey crown rather than the whole bird as they only need to feed six. They also predict a growth in turkey alternatives as the main course, such as beef, duck or salmon. The more often people host the less likely they are to want to eat turkey with all the traditional trimmings each time.
The same may be said for those who chose to dine on-trade for their celebrations. Where they eat out more often they may be looking for more variety, so sales of the more traditional dishes could decline. Flexibility in menus will be important to make sure you capture consumers’ appetites and attention.
Whatever Christmas brings for us all this year, one thing is certain. People will still want to meet with the family and friends, particularly given the challenges many have gone through in 2020. The industry continues to show resilience, creativity and innovation and there is no question that we must all be prepared for a very different December and those who can adapt quickly and stay in tune with their customers will benefit the most.