The Holiday season is upon us! As consumers are considerately more active during the holidays, this can have an adverse effect on the restaurant industry. While some restaurants experience heavy traffic during this time, others receive a significant drop in business. The weather can deter people from going out, families may be too busy preparing meals at home, and college town restaurants may find themselves without their main customers.
Not all slow time should be viewed negatively, however. There are multiple ways to take advantage of your restaurants’ slow season, no matter the time of year.
Closely managing costs can help you to break even during your slower months. The biggest cost you can cut is labor. If you know from experience that you are entering your slow season, re-arrange your schedules. Instead of two opening and closing servers, schedule one, stronger server; disallow double shifts that lead to overtime, and don’t forget the kitchen and behind the bar. Other ways to cut costs include lowering your food prices by using alternative vendors for the season. You can also remove unsuccessful menu items that require specific ingredients, and reduce your waste by purchasing less ingredients that can spoil quickly.
Use this time to try new marketing campaigns. Distribute buy one get one (BOGO) coupons, free appetizer and desert vouchers, or put together a specialized pairing menu at a lower cost. You can even get creative online, or in the restaurant with customer satisfaction surveys with incentives for completion. While the company might lose money by giving away free items, these marketing sources lure business and collectively increase the bottom line.
Slow seasons are a great time to get your restaurant in tip-top shape. If business is slower, your employees are less busy. You’re already paying them, so why not use their down time for less standing around and more cleaning? Instead of their routine side work, you can use this time to have them deep clean. Clean out storages, food shelves, behind the bar, booths, restrooms, etc. In addition, you can use this time to complete any renovations or additions you have been planning on. Making everything fresher and more welcoming will almost certainly lead to increased customer satisfaction.
Slow seasons provide you the time to take a breather and catch up. Use this time to analyze your past sales trends, labor hours and costs. This will allow you see any changes that need to be addressed, and to prepare for successful busy seasons. In addition to looking at the data, take this time as an opportunity to thoroughly review your inventory items and procedures. What's in – or isn't in – your warehouse can reveal a lot about your business, and help you to figure out the effectiveness of your internal controls.
If you have been toying with the idea of trying new concepts, this is the perfect time to do so. In a slower season, you will have the ability to make and test new changes without being bombarded with the usual obligations that come with high volume traffic. You can also try hosting events such as open mic nights and donation dinners to see if they will be able to attract new customers and satisfy your existing customers. If these experiments prove successful, you can always toy with the idea of implementing them during a busy season.
Whether your slow season is now during the Holidays or the summer months, they have their advantages. Remember, if you plan accordingly for the down time, you can boost your future success.