Businesses in the hospitality industry are, well, businesses, but making a profit and making a difference do not have to be mutually exclusive. Warmth, community, family — they’re all a huge part of what makes a hotel or restaurant a place people want to come back to time and time again, and that sense of welcome is even bigger around the holidays.
Whether you’re looking to approach the upcoming holidays in a new way or just hoping to amplify your company culture, these ideas could be your ticket to making guests, travelers, and even your own employees feel like they’re home away from home.
Welcome Guests with a Festive Beverage
Make like the host or hostess with the mostest and welcome guests with a drink the moment they cross your threshold. A Christmas cocktail, a festive punch, an eggnog, or a mug of spiced-up apple cider may seem like a small gesture, but it’s almost guaranteed to inspire big smiles and oodles of goodwill.
Swap Out Separate Seating in Favor of Communal Tables
The holidays are about togetherness, making it painfully obvious when there’s a single diner enjoying their turkey and cranberry sauce all by their lonesome. You’ll be surprised how quickly strangers become friendly — even more so if the eggnog is flowing — and those singletons who might have settled for a lonely night at the bar suddenly have a reason to celebrate.
Host a Food Drive
A shocking number of local households with children lack access to enough food to feed the entire family. Chances are, someone you know might not be able to eat dinner tonight or is planning on going without a meal at all tomorrow. Help by hosting a food drive for a local food charity or non-profit organization such as the Cayman Food Bank. Ask customers to bring non-perishable food items in exchange for some kind of perk; you may offer a free appetizer for every three canned items donated or give hotel guests late checkout. Restaurants can also pick a single menu item and donate a certain dollar amount every time diners order that dish. You’re helping the community, inspiring people to give back, and creating a little buzz at the same time. It’s a win-win-win.
Switch Out Your Products for Seasonal Versions
It’s often the tiny touches that have the biggest impact. Generic products don’t feel very season-specific but put peppermint soap in your bathrooms and trade in your “clean linen” scented candles for a lightly piney aroma and suddenly Christmas is in the air. You can even adjust the reading material you leave on hotel room desks or on the lobby coffee tables; pick up some lovingly worn copies of A Visit from St. Nicholas, The Polar Express, and A Christmas Carol and leave them out for guests to enjoy.
Put Together a Last-Minute Gift Guide
Create a digital gift guide (sent via email or available for download on your website) highlighting businesses from across your community. Keep it local, with listed items all sourced from small area businesses, or focus on a certain niche that’s in keeping with your business’s values, such as eco-friendly gift ideas or all Cayman-made products.
Decorate the Tree
Putting up the Christmas tree is generally a family event, so it makes sense that inviting guests to string up lights and fling some tinsel would make them feel very warm and welcome indeed. For a twist, make tree decoration a gradual process. Every diner or hotel guest gets an ornament to DIY with their name, hometown, and a message. They hang it on the tree on their way out, and now they’re part of the holidays even after they’ve headed home.
Forget Generic Mints — How About Christmas Cookies?
This holiday season have the chef whip up a daily batch of sugar cookies or gingerbread men and leave those on a plate on each hotel guest’s nightstand. Milk and letters to Santa are optional. Restaurants can do something similar by presenting the check alongside a plate of holiday-themed treats. It’s an unexpected flourish that’s sweet in more ways than one.
Call in the Carolers
Music and the holidays go hand in hand, but piped-in tunes just aren’t the same as a live show. Hire (or ask for volunteers and make a donation to their cause) carolers to hang around in the lobby a few days a week (pick your busiest check-in days) or install them by the front door to your restaurant to entertain hungry guests waiting for their tables. It’s a smart way to minimize the aggravation that often comes with delayed seating’s or check-ins.
Celebrate Outside the Box
Christmas is a poplar holiday, but it’s not the only celebration infusing this season with cheer. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, winter solstice, Festivus, Chinese New Year, Wren Day, Malanka, and Diwali all happen between November and February. You don’t have to celebrate every culture’s special day; pick those that resonate with your staff or that fit with your restaurant or hotel, then go all out with decorations, exclusive menus, promotional offerings (where appropriate), and events. It’s nice to shine a spotlight on other cultures. Inclusion is one of the best illustrations of the true spirit of hospitality.
And, lastly - befriend the ghost of Christmas past and analyze your past performance. Have a look at the guest reviews received last year, during the same period. Familiarize your and your team with what worked during the holiday season, what guests appreciated and what they didn’t quite like.
Brooke Meyer is the managing partner of Caymera International, a Caymanian-owned hospitality and tourism consulting and advisory firm. Visit Caymera at www.caymeragroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.