Most retail businesses have seasonal slowdowns at some point of the year. Here are nine ideas for restaurant owners who want to eliminate the ups and downs that come along with slow seasons.
Counterpunch Seasonal Slowdowns – 9 Marketing Ideas for Restaurant Owners
Most restaurant owners have no problem identifying – or even predicting – which weeks or months of the year are slower than others. Your restaurant may see a decline in the summer months when local residents flee to vacation spots, or when they abandon your restaurant’s cuisine for competitors with more summery fare. You may see a decline in traffic in the winter months if many of the people in your area depart for warmer climates or opt to eat at home instead of venturing out.
Whatever the cause, and whenever your slow season occurs, you may have the ability to negate the consequent slowdowns in your restaurant’s sales by adjusting your marketing strategy. Let’s take a closer look at nine different tactics restaurant owners can use to counteract seasonal slowdowns to ensure more predictable, consistent revenues year-round.
9 Ways Restaurant Owners Can Turn Slow Seasons into Cash Cows
Double Down on Local Marketing
A slow season is the perfect time for restaurant owners to double down on their restaurant’s local appeal and outreach. Reaching out to the people who live and work in your community won’t just help generate sales, it will also enhance your reputation in the community. If you’re not currently reaching out specifically to local residents, try one or all of these ideas.
1. Local discounts. The people who live or work near your restaurant represent the individuals most likely to become regulars at your restaurant; turning them into fans of your business could be gold! Start a promotion that includes a free drink, or 10% off of a local’s order. This will entice them to come back to your restaurant and tell the people they live and work with to check out your restaurant.
2. Local rewards programs. When your local-only promotions successfully draw local people in to your restaurant, show them you don’t stop there. Give them a punch card and every 5th or 10th visit they get a buy-one, get-one free entrée. Not only will they be encouraged to return, they’ll be encouraged to bring other people with them.
Update your POS (point of sale) merchant services systems to feature payment processing software that integrates seamlessly with your customer rewards and loyalty programs. Point of sale loyalty and rewards programs can even generate business with triggered marketing automation based on customer preferences and purchasing behaviors.
3. Host local events. If a local girl scout troop is looking for a place to hold their awards dinner, offer your restaurant. Create a special menu for the event and offer them a percentage off since they are bringing in a large group. Now you’ve not only got the girl scout talking about your restaurant to their friends, but their parents as well. That’s a lot of good chatter about your restaurant! Other groups you might extend a welcome to include:
- Non-profits, churches, schools
- Business networking groups
- Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and other civic groups
- Coaches, parks and rec teams, etc.
Beef Up Your Restaurant’s Online Presence
Chances are, if you’re experiencing a slow season your business-neighbors and competitors are too. You can leverage a strong online presence to differentiate your restaurant from the pasta place, burger joint, or bar and grill right down the street. Since many online marketing activities require only an investment of time, using your energy to build your online presence is a low-cost way to reach out to a large group of people.
4. Social Media. If you don’t already have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram the time to make one is now (and you can use them for free). Use these online platforms to call out your customer of the week, talk about your restaurant’s community involvement, and share seasonal promotions. Not to mention all of these platforms make it easy for your followers to share all the great content you are posting. If you do have a few dollars to spend, you can also bolster your local marketing efforts with targeted Facebook ads and sponsored post.
5. Think visual and video. If you have an awesome seasonal promotion, pictures are a more captivating way to promote your menu items than words. Say you’re holding a promotion that allows customers to buy one entrée and get the second half off. Your followers are more likely to read your post if there is a picture of yummy, yummy food associated with your post. Or better yet, share a photo that has the promotion included on the picture. Taking time to edit a photo, will definitely pay off. Likewise, capturing a real customer’s review on video with your smartphone creates a video testimonial that can be instantly shared on your website, social networks, and other marketing channels to help promote your restaurant.
6. Thank your reviewers. The slow time of the year is a great time to respond to those people who left you glowing reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and other sites. This will not only show your past reviewers that you value their opinions, but will show all future customers that your restaurant has great customer service. 70 percent of consumers read reviews before purchasing from a business, so it’s that much more important that you know what your reviews say and you take time to personally respond to them.
Hold Events at Your Restaurant During Slow Hours
7. Host meetings and events. Reach out to local professionals, alumni organizations, consultants, coaches, and small business owners who could benefit from a networking or corporate meeting space. Holding events during slow seasons can help you bring in more revenue and introduce your restaurant to new people. This could also be a convenient way to test out new dishes, since you will often be asked to create menus just for the event.
8. Happy hours. If you don’t have happy hours yet, slow seasons are the perfect time to experiment. If you already have happy hours, you may need to consider changing or expanding happy hours to make it more convenient time for people coming from work. Happy hours are a great time for old friends to reconnect and for consumers to try new places they wouldn’t usually go for a full-fledged dinner. Whatever your hours, it’s imperative to make your happy hour enticing to drive the traffic you want.
9. Research competitors. Take time on your off day to check out other restaurants and see what they are doing to attract patrons during slow seasons (or to see why your slow season is their ‘hot’ one). Once you understand what they are doing, you can make sure your marketing strategy is unique enough to bring in the consumers you need to continue to drive sales.
The keys to overcoming your slow seasons are to reward local businesses and families, establish a strong online presence and plan events. The best thing about a slow season is that you can really execute your thought-out marketing plan to ensure you not only bring in traffic now, but build your customer base for seasons to come.