One major challenge within the food industry is knowing how to keep a restaurant surviving during the off-season. Any business is prone to a fluctuating number of patrons, and most of the time, restaurant owners can prepare for it. Still, a loss in revenue is never an ideal situation, so it’s crucial to have a plan in place to combat the slow times and utilize this period to your advantage.
Here’s what you need to know about the restaurant slow season, as well as some things you can try until the slow season ends.
What to Do During the Restaurant Slow Season
While a restaurant’s slow season may see fewer customers, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage and make some worthwhile adjustments. First and foremost, it’s important to be aware of the slowest months for restaurants so that you can prepare ahead of time. This ‘season’ can differ per region, but it usually lasts from December to February. Once restaurant owners become familiar with their typical slow season, they can move forward and try out various business and/or marketing strategies to boost business or maintain efficiency.
Some of the best things a seasonal restaurant surviving the off-season can do include:
- Evaluate Finances and Cut Costs – A lull in customers can be a great time to evaluate your financial situation and operating costs. Whether it’s temporarily removing specific items from your menu to trim down ingredient costs or adjusting your menu entirely, you can sift through unnecessary purchases and save money. Menu aside, you can also evaluate your utility usage, such as electricity, water, and gas, to tinker with areas that may be wasting your money.
- Update Layout – Wouldn’t it be nice for patrons to return to a revamped space and updated layout? If you anticipate fewer customers, it might be a good time to switch things up; painting the walls and redecorating can provide a fresh aura to your eatery, and swapping in new tables or chairs can add extra comfort for visiting customers.
- Make Use of Online Services – The slowest months for restaurants are usually periods when patrons aren’t willing to make the trek out to eat. Fortunately, they can still order from the comfort of their homes. Utilize this time to improve your online experience and build your presence. Consider adding an online order and delivery option if you haven’t done so, and maybe respond to some online reviews for added customer satisfaction. You can also be more active on social media, showcasing ways in which your restaurant is still alive and well. That, or you can announce special promotions!
- Holiday Specials – The holiday season may contribute to slow business, but it can also be a smart way to bring in fresh business. Consider running food or drink specials for specific holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or Valentine’s Day to increase foot traffic. Don’t shy away from promotions or special events with a secret menu, too.
- Collaborations with Local Businesses – Seasonal restaurants surviving the off-season can benefit greatly from partnering with small, local businesses. Networking in this fashion can often be a win-win for both businesses, whether it’s to simply spread the word or form mutually beneficial arrangements that can help increase traffic for both sides.
- Small-Business Financing – If the slow season is going to dampen your financials, it may be beneficial to consider small-business financing options. Loans and merchant cash advances can also work, but they often take months to qualify for and can be extremely expensive. Small-business financing provides a quick and reliable way to get the capital needed to survive an off-season without much risk involved.
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