Hospitality Business Magazine

Goodwill and busy tills – ’tis the season to prep for Christmas

While perky Christmas music in shopping malls might send you hunting for headphones to block out the festive cheer on the horizon, smart restaurateurs are already planning for the silly season with gusto!

It’s a time to maximise end of year goodwill by revamping your holiday season menus and encouraging bookings.

More than 50 top restaurants throughout New Zealand have signed on to participate in this year’s annual DineAid Christmas campaign to raise money for the City Missions in the lead-up to Christmas.

Starting today – November 1, and running through to December 31, participating restaurants will give diners the opportunity to donate by either adding $2 to their bill or by creating a DineAid special on the menu, with $2 from every dish purchased going to the City Mission closest to their city or region. One hundred percent of the money raised by DineAid goes to City Mission food banks in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Last year’s Christmas campaign raised $47,629. The charitable trust also raised more than $50,000 for those severely affected by the February floods, which pushed it past the magic million dollar milestone. Since its inception in 2012, the DineAid New Zealand Charitable Trust has raised $1,039,120.46 and hopes to be able to raise another $60,000 by the end of December.

This year 53 venues have signed on, including 2022’s top 10 fundraisers. Those top fundraisers by region in 2022 were, Auckland: Cassia, Gemmayze Street, Lilian, Poni, The Oyster Inn; Wellington: Kisa, Logan Brown, Ombra; and South Island: Cucina and Riverstone Kitchen, both in Oamaru. The DineAid annual Christmas Campaign runs from November 1 to December 31, 2023. For a full list of this year’s participating venues visit


Believe it or not social secretaries up and down the country are are currently looking to book their end of year celebrations, seeking enticing venues, with great offerings. So now is the time to plan for this to be the most efficient, busiest and profitable time of the year. Below Hospitality Business and Ken Burgin have compiled a selection of winning tips to prep for the festive season.

Finalise the Festive Menus –new and current customers want menu and price certainty. Review the range of menu styles and pricing – small, medium, large still works for pricing and range. Plus plenty of additionals and ‘menu modifiers’ for those ready to spend more – espresso martinis for the table?

Promote Gift Hampers and Vouchers for corporate customers, and as gifts for ‘friends who have everything’. Raffle one to bring it to everyone’s attention. Even a $20 voucher will usually be part of a larger sale when it’s redeemed. These are an ideal gift for an office ‘Secret Santa’ party. Do you have a Gift Certificate Order Form on your website?

Offer Party Delivery Boxes – many corporates are still hesitant about large events, but they want to celebrate. An opportunity to sell ‘parties in a box’ with a wide variety of food and beverages. Add in  decorations and even Christmas crackers – making it easier on the corporate organiser.

Sell your t-shirts, jams and souvenirs like a real gift shop. Merchandise and display the items with smart signage – these are great for last-minute giving. Check how gift shops make things look exciting. When they’re paying, ask customers if they’ve handled all their gift purchasing – what could be better than jams, pickles or an apron?

Think ‘Revenue Management’, just like hotels. Maximise revenue on the most popular dates: key Fridays and Saturdays in December, or whenever you know is most in demand from historical sales. Set a minimum spend for rooms or spaces, stay firm and insist on deposits. Create special deals to fill less popular times: these could be Sunday to Wednesday, or late November. On these less popular days, you could modify room hire fees or add package extras like a round of drinks or extra decorations – make the offer very clear and valuable. An empty room gives you zero revenue.

Upgrade your Booking System: is a book still adequate, or emailing PDF docs to be filled in and returned? There are excellent reservation and event management systems available, often linked to your POS. At a minimum have click-and-pay invoices to collect booking payments. People expect to pay online, and get annoyed if it’s not available.

Plan for the staff you need. Organise your regulars and standby casuals through casual employment services, and make sure everyone knows that there’s no leave in December. This is sometimes a challenge with juniors, who may be booked for family holidays. What about a special bonus for people who give 100% all through December? Everyone knows you’re making more money – a thoughtful bonus will create goodwill.

Make this the season of List Building. Gather a name, email, mobile number and basic preferences from all those new guests – do they want to hear about new wine, music or new food? Taking care with how you gather data at the beginning  makes your list more responsive. Prizes are a great motivator for people to share their details.

Contact Previous Bookings. If you haven’t heard from them, phone, text or email – this year needs more aggressive marketing. If you don’t have someone on staff who is confident on the phone, ask a wine rep to do some part-time work for you – they know how to sell!

Consider your non-Christian customers. There may be a large number who don’t celebrate the religious festival, but want to enjoy time with friends – be conscious of the language you use. Fortunately, Santa Claus has fairly universal appeal!

Prepare 100 Christmas photos, ready for non-stop posting on Instagram and Facebook. Maybe photos from last year’s festivities with a message overlay, and tempting food photos. You will be adding to these day by day in December, but a lot will be needed before that. This year, start building your Christmas photo library for use in the future.