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How to prepare your small food business for the Holiday Season

Time flies, and before you know it, Mariah Carey will be playing everywhere. Every year, the holiday season catches us off our game and unprepared. As food business owners, there are a few things you can do to get ready for one of the busiest times of the year.

In this article, we’ll give you some tips to prepare yourself and your business for the festive season. Start early, plan ahead and you’ll avoid stressing out this year. Whether you are a CPG producer, ghost kitchen, or catering company, we can all do some planning to avoid last minute setbacks.

  1. Start early. It might sound obvious, but try to start preparations a couple of months beforehand, at least around the beginning of October. This will give you enough time to plan for the holidays, to execute the changes you need to make, and be ready, just for when Mariah Carey starts playing on the radio. The more time you give yourself, the slimmer the chances of things going wrong (or at least the longer you have to find a solution if something does go wrong).

  2. Build a solid plan. Sit with your staff and decide on the holiday game plan. What is your goal this year? Are there any new items on the menu? What marketing channels are you going to use? These are all great questions to ask, and if you ask early enough, you have time to make wise decisions and execute properly. Clear communication with your staff is key for everyone to be on the same page and on-board when it comes to it. Write the plan down somewhere and give everyone access. Keep it up-to-date. Think about bundles, discounts, or promotions. Holidays are a great time to get new customers, so reel them in with a sweet deal!

  3. Streamline operations. Chances are, you are going to need more inventory to supply the increasing demand during the months of November and December. However, do not forget everyone will need more of what you also need, so placing your order early might save you some stress, and money too. Avoid the rush fees and the price increases as we get closer to the crunch. Write down a list of the ingredients you are going to need, and place the order. You may even be able to schedule the deliveries for a specific date, so you don’t need extra storage space leading up to the holidays.

  4. Take care of your staff. For the busy period to go as smooth as possible, you’re going to need extra hands. Whether it is more cooks, packaging assistance, extra delivery support, or marketing help, chances are your team might need to temporarily grow for a couple of months. Budget for it, and hire ahead of time. Set everyone's schedules for the rest of the year. If you’re going to need your staff to work longer hours, make sure it works for them as well. There’s nothing worse than being understaffed in an extremely busy period.

  5. Decide on packaging. You might want to sell your product in a festive box, or with a seasonal sticker. Are you going to offer gift wrapping? These are all considerations that sound crazy at the beginning of October, but will save you a lot of stress in the end. Whether you sell cookies in a box, or grazing boards for corporate parties, chances are your products will need to be transported in some sort of box or wrapping. When deciding on the best packaging for your product, make sure it fits your branding, appeals to the end customer, and displays your product in the best possible way. Place the order for boxes, stickers, wrapping paper, bows, or whatever you need after comparing prices.

  6. Create content. Pictures, banners, videos, texts and descriptions are all part of your holiday marketing campaign. If you are offering any new products or are going to run some sort of sale, you will have to market it so it gets to your target audience. Take content from them beforehand, and when the season approaches, update your website to a holiday theme. You will also require pictures for social media, email marketing and any other visual marketing you are planning on running. Food photos and videos tend to be very popular, since humans are very visual. If you don’t feel confident in your content creation skills, ask someone on your team to give you a hand or hire a professional content creator. It will pay off down the road!

  7. Have your website ready. Nowadays, most businesses need some sort of online presence. If you already have a website for your business, making sure it’s optimized for the holiday season can save you a few headaches. Prepare all the new products to be uploaded early, with the prices, discounts and descriptions. Make sure the check out is smooth, the automated emails are working, and your customer service is on-point. And don’t forget about mobile optimisation! A huge amount of your traffic will come from mobile devices, and a slow or unresponsive website will likely work against you.

  8. Schedule your marketing campaign. Once you have the pictures, reels, and all that jazz, it is time to schedule everything according to your plan. Believe me when I say you will be busy enough running the operational side of your business, so it’s important to schedule as much as you can beforehand. Email marketing and social media are two big strategies you’ll likely be using, and can be prepared a few weeks in advance. For things that need to be launched live, like discounts, uploading new products, or digital ads, the more work you can do before, the more you can focus on the live tasks.

  9. Set up gift cards. Sometimes it can be tricky to gift food. However, a foodie's way to their heart is through their stomach. If you own a ghost kitchen or a catering company, gift cards might be your best bet. This way, your clients can gift their loved ones an experience. Make sure they are available on your website and can easily be redeemed.

  10. Collaborate with other companies. Your food can pair beautifully with a dessert, a wine, or a completely different item. Reach a larger audience by joining forces with fellow business owners, and you’ll be surprised with the amount of people who will be interested in your food! If you operate from a commissary kitchen, ask your fellow members about their plans early, and you might be able to combine your offerings, or who knows, create the hottest collabs of all! Keep an eye out for opportunities, and the holiday season will be a total success.

Want to become a food and beverage business yourself and don’t know where to start from? Coho Collective’s blog has tons of resources for small food businesses that can help you start and grow your own business. Take a look - it won’t disappoint!


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