January: possibly the most interesting (read: slowest) month for restaurants and bars. The buzz of Christmas and New Year has worn off, and people are generally cash poor – if not avoiding the biting cold by jetting off to Tahiti. It’s a month that’s a curse for many operators, but could it be an opportunity for some?
Pay heed to those avoiding a tipple…
In the wake of the nationwide boozefest that is the festive season, it makes sense some of us avoid the wine glass entirely. Last January, more than five million people ‘went dry’ according to Dry January organisers Alcohol Concern. That figure is increasing year-on-year, and there isn’t much to suggest 2018 will be much different. So now’s your chance. Besides, beverages low in alcohol or without alcohol entirely are on some people’s predicted list of trends for this year, so it might be worth looking into them anyway. Need some inspiration? Look to Hawksmoor’s grapefruit and bergamot ice tea – an excellent example of what you can do with proper ingredients.
…Or those looking for one
Laying off the alcohol for a month is all well and good, but it often means the local, independent businesses we love suffer. Pubs especially. Entering its fourth year running is the counter-movement Tryanuary, which is a coming together of those in, but not exclusively, the beer industry. If you’re a beer-led bar, or sport independent breweries on your keg lists, this could be the best time to take to Twitter and let beer lovers know you’re on the same team. Whichever side your bread’s buttered, it’s good for guests to know where they can try a new beer, or avoid the opportunity completely.
Embrace the vegan
Outside of drinking, the first month of the year has other significant happenings in the world of food. For starters, there’s Veganuary, a growing movement (their Twitter page has 26,000 followers and counting) designed to encourage people to try going vegan for a month. For some, that means cooking at home can pose a bit of a challenge. This is where restaurants come in. Conversely, the final month of the shooting season could offer a pull – pheasant, hare, snipe, and duck all come off the menu in February, so it’s diners’ last chance to tuck into these rich seasonal delights.
Live a little with a little
Depending on who you serve, guests may be suffering from the financial aftershock that is Christmas. Also depending on who you serve, discount culture can be an attractive thing. Even if it doesn’t involve regimentally scaling down on pricing – highlighting cheaper lunch menus, for example – good value for money goes a long way.
Home is where the food is
At the time of writing, Westminster City Council has filed a new rule requiring restaurants to apply for planning permission if delivery services become the majority of their trade. This shows how something likely needs to change nationwide – whether it’s impositions on delivery go-betweens and their drivers, or the infrastructure needed to cope with them – but it’s also a good reflection of how the sector is growing. January is a bitter, cold month, and more the reason for people to order from home. Now, if only restaurants can capitalise…
Wish you were here?
Sure, sub-zero temperatures are predicted for January, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people won’t want to eat out entirely. Got an open fire-heated nook perfect for a quiet Sunday lunch out the cold? Shout about it, if you haven’t already. Are you a bar with a heated terrace, blankets, and a decent collection of board games? Make sure people know. Perhaps you knock together the best hot chocolate in all the land, or your head chef dishes up special winter comfort food classics like raclette or boeuf bourguignon? Whatever the case, even the slightest bit of enticement is all people need on their Instagram feed, as J Sheekey and Boundary illustrate rather well.