The winter months, especially just after the holidays, can be the most depressing time of the year for many of us. Research has shown that weather can have a great effect on the buying habits of consumers, with many restaurant and foodservice operators reporting that bad weather usually comes with a decline in sales.
In order to stay ahead of your competition during these slower times, it is now a good time to think outside the box and to strategize about how to increase your restaurant’s sales. Here are 7 ideas to help your restaurant boost sales during the winter time.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers these ideas to help battle the winter blues:
Make your restaurant warm and cozy
People tend to hibernate during the winter months, so why not create an environment where your customers feel comfortable enough to hibernate? Consider installing an electric fireplace, or place comfy couches with pillows and blankets. Cozy outdoor spaces can also be very popular when it’s not too cold outside; you may consider investing in commercial portable patio heaters. Invest in some board games, magazines and books. Turn your restaurant into a place that your customers will find comforting to visit on a cold, winter day.
Promote comfort and coziness
The holidays are over, and we are now just faced with cold, dark days for several more months to come. Consumers are looking for comfort. As a restaurant operator, consider creating a comforting winter menu, with emphasis on the word “Comforting”. Adding a homemade hot, Italian-inspired vegetable soup to your menu can be easily done using most of the ingredients you already have on hand. Turn fresh, hot rolls that can be used to dip into the soup. Create winter beef or chicken stews with roasted root vegetables and squash, caramelized onions and fennel, and roasted tomatoes. Or offer a pizza fondue that is fun and entertaining for your customers to order and eat. Be sure to also put more hot beverages on your menu including ciders and hot chocolate.
Design a creative ‘Happy Hour’ hot drink menu
Happy Hour means Happy Customers. Putting on a great Happy Hour promotion will bring in more customers, boost sales, and create loyalty among your guests. Create a Happy Hour program with mini-plates of appetizers or shareable platters such as nachos, wings and sliders along with a small hot drink menu featuring warm, mulled spiced wine or cider, eggnog, spiked hot chocolate, hot toddy, Irish coffee, and other tasty beverages and cocktails. You should also consider live entertainment and special events such trivia/game night, Karaoke, cooking classes and wine tastings or simply invest in a pool table or dart boards. By getting people to buy a few drinks and share appetizers with their friends, as well as providing them with fun activities, they are more likely to stay and order dinner.
Give out “Snow-Day” special coupons
Give your customers extra incentive to come back to your restaurant. Consider offering snow day specials to draw regular and new customers into your operation. Create a marketing campaign that will get consumers to choose your operation over anything else. For example, if more than an inch of snow falls in your area, you will offer a discount on homemade lasagna. Or give away a free cup of hot soup or a free cup of coffee with every meal purchased.
Ramp up your home delivery
When it’s freezing cold outside, and cars are covered in a layer of ice, the last thing people want to do is go outside to get dinner. Restaurant operators can get a leg up on competitors by promoting delivery service. Create a direct mail marketing campaign for your area using the cold weather as an excuse to call your restaurant to deliver a fresh, hot meal in minutes. Be sure to offer free delivery to sway potential customers from ordering food from other delivery services.
Use mobile marketing
You should always market your restaurant all year by staying in touch with your customers via email, mail or social media. During a snowstorm, most people are bundled on the couch, scrolling through their mobile phones. More people are also apt to take to mobile and social channels to monitor the weather and see how others are coping. Take this opportunity to deliver a message to your customers. Upload photos of fresh, steaming hot, delicious meals coming out of the oven. Offer special deals to encourage people to get out of their homes and come to your operation.
New Year’s low-calorie meal resolution
While many customers are seeking carb-loaded, comfort foods, don’t forget about the many people who have vowed to lose weight for their new year’s resolution. For example, pizza doesn’t have to be bad for your customers. Consider adding a low-calorie healthy option that still offers comfort, for example, a thin-crust pizza with low-fat cheese that is loaded with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.