When the Christmas spending starts, it’s like the normal rules don’t apply. Last year, comparison website moneysupermarket.com predicted we’d spend around £22 billion during the festive season. That’s a staggering £445 per person. And naturally, restaurants, pubs and hotels will want their share of the action.
We all want to party, and our wonderful hostelries are happy to oblige. Up go the decorations and out come the fancy menus as people are in the mood to celebrate.
But in some cases, the people really celebrating are the eateries who view Christmas as one giant cash cow and a chance to serve up half-standard produce at double the price.
Christmas dinner out? Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Who wants to spend Christmas slaving over a hot stove? In fairness, you can understand why prices rise on Christmas Day itself. Chefs and front of house staff are people too. Like us, they’d prefer to spend Christmas with their families, so they need to be compensated for working the bank holidays. So the wages bill goes up over Christmas and the cost comes the customer’s way, that’s fair enough.
But come on… that might be a justification for increased prices over a day or two. But these hefty price rises start towards the back end of November! You know me. I don’t have an issue with spending money on a great food and even better service. And of course, dining out with family, friends or colleagues is a great way to celebrate.
At Christmas, we expect to pay more. But what exactly do we get in return? Better quality ingredients? A fabulous, unique menu? In some cases, yes, that’s exactly what we get. But sadly that rule doesn’t always apply…
I’m talking about the places where you get the same food at double the price and half the temperature. And it can get worse. Menu choices and portion sizes reduce. It’s not unknown for table sizes to shrink so restaurants can cram in yet more punters and for customers to be rushed out the door when their ‘sitting’ is over. Inexcusably, the quality of the food itself can sometimes be lower too, probably because the poor harassed chef who has to cook for double their usual covers.
Going for an evening out? A lot of hotels and restaurants to combine their dining ‘experience’ with a party night (A.K.A. a disco). After you’ve considered the menu choices, don’t forget to beware of your Facebook-mad work buddies. Someone’s bound to capture your best moves on the dance-floor on their mobile after your second bottle of overpriced Shiraz!
So if you’re planning a festive meal out, here are our top tips. Do your homework and suss out some of the better places. There are plenty that do live up to their promises and provide great value for money.
Have a look at last year’s Trip Advisor to understand what their customers said about their Christmas experience and menu.
If you find yourself in a rip-off restaurant, try to keep spending sensible. Ask for tap water instead of over-prices bottles and check the wine is the one you’ve ordered. Make sure you don’t tip twice if a cover charge is already on your bill.
And if you’re still reeling from the Christmas dinner price tag, remember it’ll only get worse come New Year’s Eve. There again, look at the price of the Christmas meal on offer from London chef Ben Spalding last year. It does make £45 per head for 3 courses of indigestion-inducing festive fodder look a real bargain!
Right, I’m off to organise the Nina & Co Christmas night out. Fish and chips OK for everyone?