Not-so packed dinner rush? Try these slow season survival tips for restaurants

When a businessman enters the restaurant industry, he very well understands the aftermath of a seasonal slowdown. After all, there is no business that flourishes year-round, and this can make the off-seasons for a restaurant a trying time.

But expecting a slow period and experiencing it for “real” are two different things. Seeing empty tables collecting dust can make any restaurateur feel powerless. Customers may increase or even take a dive depending on a number of factors. Holidays and seasonal changes particularly can have a significant impact on a restaurant, which forces many restaurant owners to cut back on operations and staffing.

But again, we've seen many restaurants that successfully manage the consumer cycle all year round, so there must be a secret (or secrets) to thrive in the downtime. To help you get through the quiet period, we share few creative ways that’ll keep the cash coming in until things pick up again.

Tweak the Menu

January is considered to be one of the ugliest months for restaurants worldwide. The weather gets colder, and diners are still reeling from the costs of festivities. It is also the month of making new resolutions when too many folks pledge to get healthier and develop healthy eating habits in the new year.

What can you do to beat the January slump and stand a better chance of coming out ahead?

It's all about understanding the needs of your customers and giving them a more compelling reason to visit the restaurant or order from your website. Consider adjusting the menu to appeal to those who may be trying to maintain a healthy diet. Introduce salads, soups, and healthy-sounding meals to help your customers stay toned and trim. Apart from this make sure that the price of these seasonal items is reasonable.

Restaurants that offer a good mix of favorite fast-food items and healthy food options tend to survive the downtime effectively compared to the ones who only focus on the same menu all year round.

Introduce New Specials

When trying to attract customers during a quiet period nothing is better than an irresistible specials.

For instance, New York's winters can be very harsh and diners are looking for a different experience during the season. Weekday Specials like Wine Thursdays are fairly popular among restaurants and bars looking to make some extra bucks during winter slow down. You may offer a glass or two on select bottles of wine with the purchase of two appetizers. For summer months, Pint Tuesdays for Beer Lovers can be an effective strategy to limit seasonal declines

Another popular option is "Dinner for Two" where the customers buy one and get one dish free of the same value. Regardless of the time of the year, such specials always work great to bring people in. If you have a mobile ordering app for your restaurant brand, you can use the push notification feature to introduce new weekly offers and stay fresh in their minds.

But run promotions before the slow season comes to build loyalty. You need to let the word out before your fans go away for holidays. If your promotions are attractive, loyal customers will visit you more often and also bring in new customers, maintaining a steady flow throughout the year.

Collaboration with others

Across the United States, food sales take a dip in January and February as people tend to cut back on money-spending after a hearty holiday season. Use this time to be creative. Host events, collaborate with food bloggers and celebrity chefs to bring traffic to your restaurants.

For example, at the beginning of January, you can collaborate with a celebrity chef who can create a new line of "Organic" kombucha or "Resolution" meal boxes, as well as organize cooking workshops on Healthy Eating to create a little excitement amongst those with a heightened awareness of health and wellbeing.

Collaborations work well both in-person and digital form. You can work with social media influencers in your town to create a collaborative menu item or event. These individuals have a strong fan base on social media and are able to communicate with their followers easily through social media. Encouraging them to document their experience is a great way to bring in new customers and spread the word about different events.

Focus more on Online Orders

The slow months are a great time to make the most of the digital tool i.e online ordering and delivery. The motto is simple - If people can't come to you, go to them. If you haven’t invested in a good online ordering system, it’s time you do so when the slow season hits, you are prepared to handle online orders much more efficiently. Offering deliveries could give your bottom line the much-needed lift.

Redo your website, make it user-friendly, or have a mobile ordering app - whatever you do just make sure that your customers, especially the loyal ones know that they can enjoy their favorite dishes from the comfort of home.

An efficient and well-promoted online ordering platform can open new revenue streams for you as well as provide various customer engagement opportunities. The best part is that customers can place orders conveniently on your website and use its benefits!

Everything about the online transaction is better and can help. High frequency of orders, high average ticket, and increased restaurant customer satisfaction are just a few benefits of online ordering. Want to know how implementing an online food ordering system can benefit your business in the long run? Read here

Lastly, slow doesn’t mean “Dead”. The above steps can be taken to make staying open worth your while. Don’t let any time go to waste: see this downtime as an opportunity to grow and improve as your business faces seasons of change. Above all else, keep carrying on - stay active and positive.