OPINION: ‘Book early to avoid disappointment’ - much more than a sales technique this Christmas - Simon Cotton, MD of the HRH Group

Has anyone else blinked and almost missed the last month?! Seriously, it does feel like September has flown by, which can only mean three things.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:27 am
Pictured: Simon Cotton

Firstly, the season of pumpkin spiced everything is now officially upon us; secondly, I’ve clearly been having too much fun! And lastly, but by no means least, the talk of Christmas really has ramped up considerably.

Yes, it’s less than eight weeks until we have a booking for our first Christmas party this year and it’s interesting to see the huge mix in our enquiries across the board and how moving into a post Covid world is changing peoples’ habits, in small ways at least.

We’re all individuals and as such will act in different ways and desire different things; but when it comes to the office Christmas party, or the sports club social or school mums’ lunch/night out, we need to think about what we’re going to book that’s going to please everyone and there in lies the challenge when trying to organise the forthcoming Christmas do.

There’s clearly those who are still somewhat nervy about going out in large, crowded places. Throw a lot of alcohol and loud party music into the mix and for some people we have to respect that it could be quite daunting and frightening, double jabbed or not. At the other end of the scale there’s the party animals who feel they been caged up for far too long and having missed out on celebrating with family and friends and having any form of office party last year, they’re well and truly going to make up for it this festive season.

At HRH Group, we’re certainly seeing an increase in requests for smaller groups with lots of 10-to-12 size bookings looking for a lively restaurant with great atmosphere as opposed to the traditional ‘party night’ where you might think of mixing with other large parties at an organised event. I’m sure that they’ll still be demand for both but a little warning to you all, ‘book early or risk disappointment’.

That’s a line we used to read and think it was just a sales technique to make you get on and book, but the habit of having to pre-book a table to be able to get one, is something that is definitely a hangover from Covid restrictions and people are getting used to having to be more organised.

The staffing crisis across the hospitality industry continues to rumble on which will potentially have an impact on how many covers/bookings a venue may be willing to take. Certainly, in our business we have been working for some time on the basis of ‘less is more’ and turning many bookings away to be able to offer a better service to the bookings we do take.

Concentration is focussed on making the service a better working environment for our front line teams to protect the workforce which in turn results in a better customer experience. Interestingly, this translates to a higher guest spend per head so it’s a winning formula all round.

Enough about Christmas for now though as my Cappuccino with Pumpkin syrup and spiced pumpkin cookie has just arrived so I’m going to make the most of Autumn before that flies by too.

With the leaves falling and the beautiful autumnal colours making Harrogate look as stunning as ever, whatever the season, it’s no wonder that the demand on staycation and hospitality venues continues and I’m pleased to report that hotel occupancies which usually start to take a small dip after the busy summer period, show no signs of slowing down just yet which is encouraging and will hopefully continue to have a knock on effect to the towns shops and retail offering.

Until next month, stay safe, support local and enjoy all the amazing hospitality Harrogate has to offer.