Text by Rory Dunn
The busy Christmas and New Year period is a chance to wow both regular customers and those who may never have visited your venue before – but, along with a capable team, you need a business that can deliver to the highest standards. This is why investment in the right equipment now can pay dividends moving into the New Year, says Rory Dunn, managing director at Portman Asset Finance.
Christmas probably felt like it was a long time for those that booked their office party during this summer’s heat wave, but, as anyone in the hospitality business will tell you, preparations for the festive period have been underway for months. A leisure operator’s cash flow will likely be in a good place now following the summer rush, often making it the perfect time to begin preparing your venue for 2019 – ahead of the inevitable January lull.
Every restaurateur hopes that increased covers in December will boost profits enough to make January and February a little less painful. By pulling out all the stops, and creating memorable experiences for every customer, from office workers to families dining out on Christmas Day and friends on New Year’s Eve, this is your opportunity to impress – and secure those all-important repeat bookings, both throughout the year, and even, for next Christmas.
Those in the business will, of course, be all-too-aware of the challenges associated with the coming months, whether it’s ensuring suppliers can deliver, sorting out the staff rota or dealing with groups of rowdy customers.
With so much at stake, this certainly isn’t a time for major refurbishments or the introduction of new tech that requires staff training. Where restaurant owners and managers will see real benefits, however, is by conducting a thorough audit of all equipment to prepare for any new purchases in January, particularly ovens, fridges and freezers and coffee machines, as well as the interior design of the business, furniture, IT systems, and generally ensuring that your business is up-to-date.
However, while cash flow is high now leading up to Christmas, a business could fund any new equipment and refurbishment through finance, begin paying this off straight away and then implement the changes and refurbishment in the New Year, during the quiet period after Christmas as not to disturb any current custom.
While it might be tempting to put off securing funding until the New Year, this strategy can be shortsighted. Where cash flow is a concern, restaurateurs can use lease finance or hire purchase for catering equipment that will pay for itself sooner rather than later – especially in a time of economic uncertainty. While takings are high, many may find an investment now could future-proof their business – allowing access to the best rates from lenders while capital is strong. Furthermore, securing finance now, when rates are fixed for the duration of the agreement, will also ensure there will be no surprise payments should they start to fluctuate.
One of the most obvious advantages is that there is no large upfront payment: you simply pay off what you owe in fixed amounts until the end of the agreement when you automatically own the asset (hire purchase), or choose to pay off the remaining balance or get an upgrade (leasing). When it comes to leasing, there are tax benefits too, since you can offset the cost against your taxable profits – including what you make over Christmas.
Above all else, you must be confident that every aspect of the business can meet and exceed customer expectations every day of the week. Even if it doesn’t break down, all equipment should make service as seamless as possible so customers aren’t left waiting too long for their orders, and by reassessing this ahead of New Year, you can ensure your business has the strongest start to 2019.
I’d never advocate rushing into buying the latest kitchen gadgets, especially if you don’t use them in the New Year. But as long as you’ve done your research, and identified what will bring long-term benefits, there’s no reason to put off making the investment now whilst it is affordable.
For more details on Portman Asset Finance, visit www.portmanassetfinance.co.uk.