How to give customers that holiday feeling this summer

Bring the sunshine to your venue with these holiday-themed food, drink and event ideas from Spain, USA, Turkey and more

It’s likely to be a different kind of summer this year with some holiday destinations out of bounds due to the pandemic and many people still reluctant to travel abroad. While other countries may suffer from a lack of UK tourists, Brits staying at home is likely to be good for the hospitality industry…

While we may not have the reliable weather of the Mediterranean, what we do have is the ability to create that holiday vibe. No passport control queues. No waiting for your luggage. No stuffy aeroplanes.

“63% of English people feel uncomfortable to travel abroad once restrictions are lifted”
- YouGov poll, April 2021

Choose your package deal

As with any good holiday, you can go budget or push the boat out at your venue. With minimal effort, you can add some holiday specials to the menu, perhaps a different country’s speciality each weekend. For mid-level, put on themed nights every Friday or Saturday in summer. Create a great customer experience with a menu takeover, together with complementary music, drinks and entertainment.

If you’re arranging entertainment or a set menu, take advance bookings so you can better prepare and reduce waste. Advertise well – marketing really counts – distribute flyers in the local area, tell your regulars about it and excite your social media followers with glimpses of the menu.

Sizzling Spain

This Mediterranean suntrap is the most popular holiday destination for Brits by far with 18 million visiting in 2019. Sun, beaches and great food and drink – what more do you need? You might not be able to guarantee the sun (or beaches!) but you can recreate the rest spot on!

Table of tapas

Think patatas bravas, garlic prawns, crusty bread and aioli (garlic mayonnaise), calamari, spiced almonds, chorizo glazed in sherry… Offer set tapas sharing platters or let customers choose their own. You can offer deals – for example, three dishes for £18 and give optional extras such as a glass of sherry. Fino and manzanilla sherries are both great with tapas.

The right tunes

If Covid-19 restrictions allow it, hire in some flamenco dancers to create a real Iberian experience. You could even add in a fun dance lesson for guests, if permitted. Regardless, some authentic Spanish music, modern Latin pop or traditional, will add to the atmosphere and inspire your customers to get the party started and let their hair down.

Prawn tapas

For the drinks

In Spain, the drinks are as enticing as the food, so make sure you have plenty in stock. Jugs of sangria packed with fresh fruit will catch the eye of customers. San Miguel and Estrella Galicia are musts for beer drinkers. For wine-lovers, try Casillero del Diablo Tempranillo. From Northern Spain, this wine provides a sophisticated, fruity flavour.

Glass of fruity sangria

Team USA

The United States is the most visited country outside Europe for UK tourists. 5 million ventured across the Atlantic in 2019. And it is easy to see why – its diversity and many cultural influences make it hugely appealing. This carries over to regional food and drink with countless options.

The Big Apple calls

Go classic New York. With Jewish and Italian influences, the Big Apple’s cuisine grabs attention. Offer big bagels for lunch, pizzas for dinner and classic cheesecake for afters. You can’t go wrong with the most American of drinks – Coca-Cola – but add some flair with an exclusive Coke menu: JD and Coke, Coke floats and Long Island iced teas.

Go South

Take customers to the Southern states with a slow-cooked feast. Pair the staple cornbread with bourbon-glazed brisket, cauliflower steaks, slaw and chopped salad. Get recipe inspiration from Unilever’s Americas guide. Pair the food with bottles of Coors or a bourbon cocktail or two. Try this Tennessee Iced Tea.

Spread your bets

Give extra value to customers by hosting a casino night. Charge an entry fee, hire in roulette and blackjack tables and let the games commence! Just play for chips, not money but give out a prize to the person with the biggest haul of the night. If you want to make it a real occasion, ask customers to wear black tie.

Slow cooked meat

Turkish delights

Increasingly popular with Brits – 2.5 million visited in 2019 according to government figures – Turkey is famous for its beautiful sunshine, friendly people and great-value food and drink. Recreate that lasting impression in your venue with a full-on Turkish experience (minus the baths and barbers!)

Feasting platters

Turkish food is known for being plentiful and full of flavour. Put on grilled lamb or chicken kebabs and koftas. Imam bayildi – halved aubergines stuffed with onion, garlic and tomatoes – is perfect for vegetarians or vegans, and can be made in advance and reheated. Serve both options with rice or bulgur wheat, flatbread, houmous and a tomato salad.

The drinks menu

Many holidaymakers will have memories of being served mint tea in Turkish shops and cafes. This traditional drink is easy to make with fresh leaves and makes a lovely end to a meal. Efes beer is also an essential. If you’d like to try something unusual, offer ayran – Turkey’s national drink. It’s a blend of yogurt, water and salt, sometimes with added mint.

Get dancing

For a bit of fun, you could hire some Turkish folk or belly dancers for the evening. Customers will love the authentic entertainment and might even have a try themselves after a few Efes! The Turkish cities are known for their lively nightlife so, if restrictions allow, download a playlist, turn up the music and encourage the dancers to get moving!

For more travels...

If you want to conjure up holidays further afield, try these three ideas:

  • Caribbean. To create that laidback island feeling, tempt customers with jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains and rum cocktails.
  • North African. Harissa and preserved lemon-spiked tagines, fruity couscous and stacks of juicy olives would be ideal specials for this region.
  • Thailand. As well as Thai curries, you could add in pad Thai, sticky rice and papaya salad. Offer coconut and mango rice pudding for dessert.
Chicken kebabs
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