Jack Daniels Whisky

Festive planning: how Inn on the Prom hotel prepares for the busy season

The first day of Christmas falls around the beginning of April for Debbie Spencer. That’s when her painstaking and almost military planning for layer upon layer of festive fun at her seafront hotel and its outdoor bar begins

Hotel Manager Debbie Spencer has been with the fourth-generation family Inn on the Prom in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire for 18 years, and is a dab hand at ensuring the tills ring as loudly as the sleigh bells. She says: “This year people are ready to party longer and harder than ever as long as things go to plan, so it’s important to make sure you’re ready.” Here’s how…

Plan as soon as you can

We start preparations after Easter but this year it’s been July because of the uncertainty. For smaller venues it’s still not too late to get ready for Christmas. We buy the decorations, staff uniforms and trinkets for tables early and never skimp on them. Because we have lots of pre-bookings, we order the alcohol in October. It’s more of a risk for pubs but if you get the proposition right, people will come. And if you spend on creating the right atmosphere, you always get it back.

Get the party started early

As soon as Halloween is over, we swing into Christmas mode overnight as we launch our Turkey and Tinsel packages which run until the start of December. Within 24 hours we decorate the ballroom, corridors, reception, bar area and restaurant ready for guests to experience Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, all in a four-day party!

Turkey and Tinsel begins with mince pies and sherry on arrival. It includes Christmas dinner, a visit from Santa, quizzes, happy hours and cocktails, as well as nightly live entertainment. The staff dress in festive outfits so even though we’re weeks away from Christmas, everyone gets in the spirit. It means our guests can celebrate twice, and they absolutely love it. During planning we order 1,500 small boxes of chocs for the finishing touch. It looks like we’re gliding swan-like on the surface, but beneath we’re paddling like crazy to get everything done!

Ramp it up

Don’t be afraid to get people feeling festive too soon. We step things up from the start of December with our Friday and Saturday Christmas Party Nights, which aren’t for the faint-hearted.

We have a different secret theme each year to keep everything fresh, and guests arrive from 7pm for canapés served by staff dressed differently every season. For Winter Wonderland they were penguins or elves, but no year is the same because people want a new experience… that way, we get a lot of repeat business.

A customer with Christmas hat
“At midnight it always snows on the dancefloor thanks to our snow machine. That’s a great finishing touch that helps people remember the night and return”
- Hotel Manager Debbie Spencer

We break down the evening into sections with shots and prosecco at our Bubbles Bar before a dramatic party popper and streamer entrance into the ballroom. Then there’s loud music, entertainment, a bit of mayhem in between courses before party games with prizes and a good old boogie at the end of the night. At midnight it always snows on the dancefloor thanks to our snow machine. That’s a great finishing touch that helps people remember the night and return.

We offer a reduced rate if groups want to stay overnight which is really popular and something that lots of venues could consider if they have rooms.

Slow it down

In Christmas week we have a lot of coach parties, so the atmosphere changes again. They are older clientele looking to be spoiled with a luxury break at a sedate pace. Because of that, our proposition changes again with the emphasis on fine dining with more age-related entertainment. Everything is tailored to the audience so we have to be like Christmas chameleons that change constantly to make sure every different kind of guest leaves us totally satisfied.

Look at your staff numbers

We have around 50 staff and they’re ‘all hands on deck’ in November and December, but it’s important to plan rotas so people are fresh and ready to be party-makers. That won’t apply for smaller venues but it’s worth remembering that an energised, enthusiastic team will go the extra mile to make it great for customers.

Mikey Zembrzuski from Inn on the Prom

Stay flexible

We had to act fast when the pandemic hit so we looked ahead at what might happen. We were brave and worked with one of our drinks suppliers to order a sponsored outside bar. We put it in the car park and it was taking up parking spaces but we looked beyond that to see the benefits. Now we have two bars and our passing trade is booming.

There was a chance it might not have gone to plan but you have to look beyond where you are and be ready to act… because if you don’t, it’s too late and the opportunity is gone. It’s also important to commit to an idea, so just putting bars up without the marquees, umbrellas, parasols and greenery could look mercenary. We’ve done all that and offer a meet and greet to any passing guests.

Food and drink

Don’t tinker too much with the Christmas food because guests value the traditional turkey with trimmings. But there are different levels.

The Christmas Party and Turkey and Tinsel guests like good quality festive food, but for the coach parties we add some sophistication to the menu that reflects the pricing. If you give people a product they know will be good, they will pay for it and come back.

Drink is an area where it’s good to stay on top of trends, so for Party Nights prosecco and shots are massive, whereas Christmas Week guests prefer old classics like bitter lemon, Babycham and sherry or port. You have to be ready for anything, though.

Roast turkey with bacon lattice
Save Article
Jack Daniels Whisky