The slow season often gives employees and managers a chance to exhale. In fact, this is the best time to rebuild the marketing strategy, try out new entrées, and clean up the restaurant. Some of the best evolution in business is a product of simply fine-tuning the business, and this is difficult to accomplish during the day-to-day grind of running a business. The slow season almost always provides a unique chance to build the restaurant and try a few new tricks.
Revamp Your Marketing
The single best thing a restaurant can do during the slow season is to revamp the marketing platform, especially as it relates to online marketing. The biggest reason more independent restaurants don’t actively market the business is that they don’t have time. The second biggest is that they don’t know how. This is the time for managers to hunker down and rededicate themselves to selling the business.
There are several opportunities for managers to explore. Among those that can have a lasting impact on the business are:
- Improving social media: Daily texts, Facebook, and Twitter posts can help expand the clientele base and give local customers a reason to walk into the building.
- Providing online only deals: This can be implemented through the website or on a group discount platform like Groupon.
- Build a loyalty program: Collecting names and emails from comment cards and building a listserv of customers can create a backbone for continuous marketing throughout the year.
- Partner with local businesses: Partnerships can include sharing online advertising space that incentivizes the customers of neighboring businesses to give yours a try.
In most cases, the best online messages in this business involve creating events, promoting special offers, and building buzz about the business. The slow season can provide a great opportunity to build a laundry list of go-to buzzworthy messages that can be promoted on various platforms throughout the year.
Experiment with the Menu
The slow season shouldn’t be the time to reinvent the wheel, but trying out new entrees and special menus can provide a clearer sense of what the clientele is looking for and even build a new revenue stream. One of the best examples is the trend toward prix fixe menus over the past few years. These are generally three-course meals at dinner that include smaller portions and lower costs.
But the prix fixe menu is just one example. The slow season is a great occasion for challenging employees to compete for menu space and come up with new entrees. Combining this competitive environment with new price points and unusual proteins can add an air of adventure to the building when the energy might otherwise be lagging.
More restaurants than ever are hosting special events that give locals a reason to walk in the front door. There are many possible occasions for hosting event but two stand out a working most frequently: Ladies’ Nights and wine dinners. Both have obvious advantages, including:
- Hooking up customers with deals from local businesses
- Spreading information about products people like
- Creating special menus
- Building buzz about the restaurant
The bottom line with special events is that they provide a great opportunity to impress new clientele. They’re not about making money on an individual night. They provide a chance to spread the word by giving people a reason to walk through the front door.
Clean the Building
Delegating is never more important than during the busy season, and the best tasks often involve cleaning the kitchen and dining room. The standard should be the appearance of the building to someone walking through the front door for the first time. Every employee should be involved, along with some rags, some bleach cleaner, and elbow grease. Providing incentives like pizza or a holiday party is a great way to make the occasion fun and productive, and refinish the front of the house.