5 Tips for Improving your Restaurant Business with the Spring and Summer Crowd

The warmer days are upon us bringing a lot more local customers onto the street in your neighbourhood, and soon summer may bring many tourists to your city or community. There are usually several events and warmer weather activities where people will be looking for quick service meals while attending the events, or on their way to or from the events.

Getting these customers to buy any quick service offerings can be the perfect sale for you. Then there will also be more potential customers looking to enjoy a leisurely dinner after a great day out. Who wouldn’t drool at the thought of a well-cooked meal with inspiring sauces or sides served while the sun gently drops below the horizon on a warm spring or summer evening? You should make sure to capitalize on all the opportunities that this presents for your restaurant.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, has a few simple tips to get you started on improving your business with the outdoor crowd:

Be tech savvy

Today many people can find you locally when in your area through your website and social media sites, so make sure you have all these sites operating perfectly well this season. Your sites should also have many tantalizing photos of all the great food you have to offer. As a restaurant, you must take high quality images, even if it means hiring a professional photographer. It is incredibly cheap to do these days and it lets people see what you can deliver and gets them excited. With Facebook or Twitter, you can generate a following by offering special social media deals. It would be best to offer weekend specials and send out a Tweet before the weekend to all existing customers, especially if there is any kind of event going on in your area that weekend. Offering a 10 per cent reward to followers who bring their friends in to your restaurant could make you the destination of choice for someone going to an event in your area with their friends. The power of social media is undeniable, and it’s an essential tool to marketing your restaurant these coming spring and summer seasons.

Don’t forget parents and kids

Finding a restaurant serving delicious homemade meals can be a saving grace for parents in a strange place, where perhaps their kids are not familiar with the food. Make sure you have some items on your menu that are bound to be an easy choice for parents away from their local neighbourhood and a winner with kids. By offering kid-sized meals at an inexpensive price, a whole family can get what they want without having to try to calculate what would be the best way to order. A free balloon is also an easy and inexpensive way to attract kids, along with their parents, to your restaurant. It also gives you a great way to advertise your name around town and with other people trying to figure out how to feed their kids after a summer’s day out. There are lots of ways to attract parents and kids, just make sure you do some of them this season.

Attract travellers by offering things they need or want

As the weather get warmer, far more people travel for business or pleasure, so offer them something that they might need, like wi-fi. Most people travel with their smartphones and need to keep up to date with their emails, but many do not want to pay the exorbitant roaming charges that telecommunications companies like to charge. At the top of most travellers’ lists when they come to a new city o town is the local cuisine. Travellers are looking to try new flavours, and experience local and regional cuisine. Promoting local specialties prominently on your menu and websites could well make you stand out from the crowd for the international and out-of-region visitors. Perhaps even try putting some local flare into a signature dish, dessert, or cocktail to attract more out-of-towners.

Serve healthy and interesting side dishes

While most restaurants have fruit or vegetable side dishes, a study by the International Journal of Behaviour, Nutrition and Physical Action showed that such side dishes were never served as a default action. One approach to encouraging healthier dietary intake in restaurants is to offer fruits and vegetables as side dishes, as opposed to traditional, energy-dense accompaniments like French fries. Today’s health-conscious eaters may be looking for something more nutritious to alleviate the guilt of eating out a lot when they travel. If your offering was as direct as pizza, you could still set up a beautiful antipasto bar with grilled vegetables, seafood, olives, cured meats and cheeses. You would probably already have most of the ingredients for an antipasto bar on hand from pizza toppings. Customers could grab a take-out container and serve themselves. For delivery or drive-thru customers, you could offer an antipasto variety plate. Try more unique and healthful salads that customers would like to buy even if they don’t purchase an entree, like salads made of special grains like quinoa or bulgur, bean salads, lentil salads or whole-grain pasta salads. You could also serve sides of vegetables like sautéed rapini in garlic, braised kale or roasted sweet potatoes. In order to attract more health-conscious patrons to your restaurants you can always find something from your existing menu and promote its healthy advantages.

Become the top-of-mind choice

I am not a great believer in discounts and coupons; however, in order to stimulate potential customers it is best to target them by providing some sort of discount. The percentage should be enough to attract the targeted group of customers and make you a profit. You can also offer two side salads for the price of one, which is a very useful way of attracting new customers, getting customers to try your salads, and standing out from the crowd. Whatever you choose, it is important through what you offer and through the ways you offer it, that you make yourself stand out as the restaurant to visit this spring and summer.