For many people Christmas is about spending time with the family. So how do you ensure at least some of that time is spent with you?

Award-winning family pub The Keel Row in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, prides itself on its festive family events. It holds an annual Christmas market in the expansive pub car park, where parents can shop at a variety of stalls and children can feed the reindeer – with money for food being donated to charity.

It also hosts a number of events in the run-up to Christmas that families can enjoy. This year includes special screenings of the film Elf – with kids and parents invited to watch in their onesies – and a princess Christmas ball.

Sharon Herron, landlady at the Ei pub, said the events, which can hold up to about 50 people at a time, sell out almost instantly.

"This year we are also having two breakfasts with Santa and three teas with Santa. Everything has been sold out since October," she says. "The events are posted on our Facebook page and we only ticket them to make sure the numbers are right. We have 9,000 friends on Facebook, so people see the post and come to the pub to buy tickets. For one event we sold 50 tickets in three minutes."



Tickets are priced at £2 and customers get that back in the form of items such as a hot chocolate and a present at the event.

Sharon, who has been at the helm of the pub for more than a decade, said the Christmas family theme is an extension of how the pub is run for the rest of the year.

"It's a family pub and we are dog-friendly," she continues. "Everyone brings their children. It's the same on New Year's Eve, people bring their older children to the pub to see the new year in. It's nice for the children to be able to come out."

And the pub makes sure everyone gets home too with its 13-seater minibus providing free lifts on a night when it is notoriously tricky – and expensive – to get a taxi. Similarly, The Top Monkey in Mold, Flintshire, is also a family-friendly pub for 12 months of the year.

Licensee Deeanne Rothwell, herself a mother of two, runs a host of events including Halloween parties and activities for children with conditions such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

She explains: "We run the pub as a family for other families to enjoy. I remember wanting to go to pubs and they were not welcoming to families so we ensure ours is."


Christmas giving

One of the focuses at Christmas at the Marston's pub is to help disadvantaged children. The pub supports the charity North Wales Superkids.

Deeanne continues: "We believe Christmas is about ensuring everyone is included so we ask our customers to donate presents. These are given to disadvantaged children and their carers, who are often the ones who miss out at Christmas."

Last year Top Monkey customers donated more than 150 gifts.

Another licensee who knows about helping out others at Christmas is Ashley McCarthy, who runs Ye Old Sun Inn in
Colton, North Yorkshire with his wife Kelly. Each year Ashley creates a chocolate masterpiece that is displayed in the pub to raise funds for Martin House Hospice for young children with life shortening illnesses. It is then given to the hospice on New Year's Eve.





Going soft for Christmas

If you want to attract families at Christmas it will be essential to get the soft drinks options right. If you do, sales should fly, says Russell Goldman, commercial director at Britvic.

He adds: "Busy parents are likely to be out and about with the kids doing the Christmas shopping and festive activities, so make sure you're offering a welcome break from the festive rush during the day and ensure your range includes plenty of options for the little ones."

And it isn't just the kids who will be choosing soft drinks.

He continues: "Christmas is the biggest sales period for soft drinks with 25 litres sold every second [CGA], and consumers typically spend more on soft drinks than usual thanks to the higher number of social occasions.

"Last year we undertook research into the importance of soft drinks at Christmas which revealed almost half of consumers, 45 per cent, were set to buy more soft drinks at Christmas as figures showed that over a fifth, 21 per cent, planned to drink less alcohol.