Christmas may already be a distant memory for most of us, but the bank balances of our customers can take a little longer to recover from the festivities. January is typically a slow month for bar and pub owners but there are ways in which you can proactively seek to boost trade.

Dry January may be great for restoring health and wellbeing but it can be an additional bind for anyone who runs a business which relies heavily on bar sales. With scores of regulars giving up alcohol for a whole month, there are still creative ways to boost profits from your drink offering.

Try January

Try January is a campaign which kicked off in 2015 as the bar and pub industry launched new initiatives to overcome the 31-day abstinence campaigns advocated by the likes of Alcohol Concern and Public Health England.

The promotion aims to get people into pubs, bars and restaurants and try something different. Studies suggest as many as eight out of 10 drinkers rarely try a new tipple so actively encouraging these reluctant customers to take a sip of something different can be a great way to diversify your offering.

Alcohol-free and low ABV drinks are often overlooked in the hospitality sector but promoting fresh ranges of cocktails, mocktails and ‘healthy’ alternatives to alcohol can be a great way to attract new customers.

Partner with others and promote mindful pub crawls

Almost without doubt, other pubs in your area will also be struggling with slow trade in January. So instead of frantically competing with each other for trade, why not form a mutually beneficial partnership?

Organising a ‘pub crawl’ is a great way to get people out and about in the local area. ‘Mindful pub crawls’ have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of enjoying a night out with moderate drinking. Promoting such an event on the back of Dry January could be a great way to lure people in with the promise of a low alcohol night with suitable related drinks promotions.

Launch a café and offer coffee

If your pub has become deathly quiet during the day, you can encourage new customers by offering hot drinks and light snacks. We’ve become quite the nation of coffee drinkers in recent years as the plethora of chains popping up on the high street and out of town testifies.

Artisan coffees and speciality teas are one such option to add to your bar menu. Invest in a decent hot drinks machine and you could even consider designating a certain area of your premises to the café concept to avoid risking the ire of your regular drinkers.

Banish the midweek blues & boredom of dark nights

January can be a little miserable for many people. Cold weather, dark nights and the post-festivities blues can really hit. So offer some respite to lure new people in. Often people just need a little excuse to venture out into company during the winter evenings.

Try to think about what your absent customers are doing when they’re not in your premises and tailor an alternative to bring them back. If they’re cosied up watching box sets on Netflix, put on a movie night; if they’ve made a new year resolution to get fit, put on an exercise class. You and your staff know your regulars best so make use of all that intelligence you’ve gathered on them during the rest of the year.

Use the opportunity to take stock

It’s more than likely you’ll still be quieter during January than you normally are. So it’s worth using the downtime after a busy Christmas and New Year period to review your business, your books and your plans.

Use the time to review your accounts, especially with the Self-Assessment deadline approaching at the end of the month and sort through your invoices, payroll records, stock control and review other essentials such as business insurance.