The restaurant industry is no stranger to “off-seasons” when customer bases dip considerably.
By definition, off seasons are times of the year when specific activities are no longer being engaged.
If your restaurant is not prepared for such times, they can affect your sales significantly. You may also lose out on opportunities to improve operational policies, build staff skills and confidence, and broaden your market.
How do off-seasons generally affect a restaurant’s sales?
Depending on your geographical location as well as your proximity to a high volume of people, generally:
- Summers usually bring in higher sales due to the influx in tourism and the need for people to be out and about.
- Winters see fewer customers as few people enjoy braving the cold temperatures to dine out.
- The holiday season makes families choose to eat comfortable home-cooked meals together rather than go out.
Below are some tips to still generate profit during off-seasons.
However, while the list may focus more on cold winter seasons, restaurants can still go through sales decline during summers. Read all about it in this previous post.
Let’s proceed with the list for this topic:
Adjust Your Menu
Off-seasons are slower. They are the best times to analyse how your business did in the previous months. Work with your chef and review what items and dishes were profitable and what was not. Consider incorporating new recipes and food trends to offer a different variety for your regular customers and attract new ones.
Here are some ways to adjust your menu:
- Downsize your core menu. Remove slow-moving items to control your inventory and therefore minimise wastage.
- Modify your menu by including dishes/ flavours associated with particular seasons. Autumn and winter call for hints of flavours and smells such as:
- pumpkin spice
- mulling spices
- Include comfort foods such as hearty soups and chilli or cobblers and puddings.
- Don’t neglect your vegetarian or vegan customers. Cater to them by adding vegetable-only alternatives to your most popular dishes. Or create entirely new vegetable dishes using more winter vegetables.
Create promotional sales, loyalty or reward programs
When introducing your new menu line, market it with a corresponding offer or promo sale to raise more awareness.
And not just around your new menu, you can introduce attractive seasonal offers to entice people during seasons that usually bring in fewer customers. An example is creating seasonal specials that are here today and gone tomorrow. Offers like that create a particular interest that makes people want to try them because the item will be gone soon. Short term offers are an excellent way to test drive new dishes to see how people are reacting to them before fully committing to adding the dish to the menu.
If you don’t already have one, create a loyalty or reward program to drive frequent visits. For example, give a $10 discount on their next visit if they spend $50. In this way, you can quickly turn them into loyal customers. Or offer gift certificates to students on the honour roll and more.
Keep in mind that the locals are one of your most important marketing tools as their friends and family visit in the peak season.
Shift your space to host events
Look at your place with a different eye. Maximising your space to host various activities can help you attract a new and different type of customer base or encourage more people to get out of their homes.
- Host activities such as game or trivia night or dance and music.
- Or offer your space to hold events for others, such as parties, cooking classes, charity events or movie screenings.
- Create dinners built around themes. Liven up your place by decorating it in theme, and you’ll be surprised how it creates a different vibe.
- Offer your space to hold local organisation meetings for free. This is an excellent way to give back to your community and foster loyalty.
Continue staff training to improve a skill or offer a new role
An often quick remedy but harder to approach is to adjust costs by downsizing the number of staff on duty. This leaves you with staff members who play critical roles in the operation. Keep an eye on staff interested in learning and receiving a different role in your business structure. Train them to wear multiple hats by learning different skills. A staff with multiple skills (coupled with a pleasant attitude) can be a valued and indispensable staff.
And because sales are lower, focus your training on upselling and how they can create the best customer experience.
RELATED READ: Make Your Restaurant Thrive Even During Downtime
Improve your social media presence
If your social media presence involves an occasional post of updates and photos, ditch that approach and make your socials active. Widen your presence by creating accounts on various social media platforms. Go where your target customers are. Use the new features of whichever digital platform (Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) you use because its algorithm tends to push this new feature more. Hence you can reach more audiences. Make your posts attractive and creative by using music and various effects. However, make sure that you stay true to your brand.
Use these platforms to introduce new offerings, crowdsource menu ideas, announce events online, update people on your current happenings or post your eye-pleasing and mouth-watering dishes for them to see and be curious about.
Consider Co-Branding Relationships
Industries do not peak at the same time. And with that in mind, consider partnering with other establishments near you. For example, if you are near a movie theatre, work to arrange a partnership, such as giving a movie theatre ticket discount on a certain amount on your customer’s restaurant bill.
Consider running a Pop-up During Off Season
Bring your restaurant to a different location for a limited time to attract more customers. Do it by running a Pop-up restaurant that lets you serve your dishes at a temporary location. This could be an exclusive one-night food event or a public food tent that you run for a few months.
With a Pop-up, there is no long-term commitment. And if you leave a good impression, customers will be excited to see you the next time you visit.
You may need to invest more capital in running the business in the off-season and implementing strategies to attract customers. Review your funding options to see if this is a feasible option for you.
Take Time Off
Last but not least, consider taking a break.
You are also a customer of somebody else’s business and must also unplug. It can be a day or two or even a hiatus to gain inspiration for the coming year.
Off seasons need not be a partial death for your restaurant business. The key is to take a proactive approach in conducting an honest analysis of your business performance to develop a sustainable plan. As a business owner, your goal is to survive during off seasons as much as possible and give your customers a good reason to revisit you.
And if you are looking for skilled chefs based in Perth and Western Australia for your chef staffing needs, give us a call at Anytime Chefs!
We have a roster of professional chefs that are available as short-term hires for :
- peak periods
- events/private parties and celebrations/pizza chefs
- fill in for an emergency or annual leaves
- start-up team for opening venues
Anytime Chefs can also assist you in looking for permanent chef hires by facilitating your recruitment process.
We also offer a Consulting Service to assist you in opening or running the cafe or restaurant of your dreams.
As part of our team, we have polite, professional Kitchen Stewards to assist you in cleaning and organising your kitchens.
That’s it for this week.
As always, professional chefs are on call at Anytime Chefs!
Ciao for now,