With the 2018 summer officially recorded as the joint hottest, it feels a little too soon to be thinking ahead to Christmas and the other traditional events that take place in November and December. However, in our world, planning pretty much starts as soon as the last dish is served!
The festive period is one of our busiest times for hospitality events, with concerts and carol services adding to the normal daily provisions. With most schools closed over Christmas, the traditional fayre is enjoyed in the days leading up to the end of term (although we do have people working on Christmas Day too!). For my team, a successful event comes from solid foundations and that all starts with the menu creation and planning. So, whilst our customers enjoyed their summer break, the team and I turned our attention to what we’ll be creating this Christmas.
It’s not just about food on the plate either. We want to showcase intelligent food and experiences that lift the spirit, bring people together and fuel emotional positivity and physical wellbeing. The high street has excelled at signalling the start of the festive season and there is no reason why this can’t be replicated in a school environment too.
In our industry, there is always pressure to create the next best thing, especially with our customers eating out and travelling much more. This, in turn, increases the demand for more variety on menus. However, Christmas isn’t something to reinvent or mess about with. Every year, it becomes increasingly evident to me that regardless of people’s recent food experiences, the festive season can’t start until they’ve had pigs in blankets with their turkey or enjoyed a mince pie and sung a Christmas carol.
And it’s not just about Christmas. There is so much more going on in November and December, such as Diwali and Thanksgiving. We can create exciting food experiences around each of these traditions and make the most of this fantastic opportunity to engage with our customers. The key, though, is ensuring that the menus always please every diner and that people understand what the traditions are and where they came from. For example, many of our international students are always intrigued by eating a ‘mince’ pie and pulling a cracker for the first time. And, even for the ‘closer-to-home’ pupils, we’ve needed to be creative with our Christmas desserts as many British pupils aren’t keen on the traditional Christmas pudding. We’ve also found that education works both ways. Who would have known that most American ‘moms’ make pumpkin pie with tinned pumpkin? So, catering for Thanksgiving events means putting our fresh food policy to one side so that the most important celebration in the US calendar has a real taste of home.
Whilst many a chef may dream of creating a new dish that will wow audiences, the results could be disastrous if they haven’t considered the kitchen equipment, their audience or the number of meals that they need to serve during this busy time of year. Or, the fact that there are some traditions that are simply best left alone. Know your customer and make sure the festive experience you’re creating will exceed their expectations.
What do we have planned for this year? That remains a secret but what I can say is that Christmas with CH&CO Independent will always engage pupils, parents and teachers by keeping with tradition and having fun! We love enhancing pupils’ excitement at this wonderful time of year.