It’s common knowledge that the holiday season leaves a significant dent in one’s wallet - to the point where they will quite happily forgo the luxury of eating out during the hangover months of January and February. We catch up with our consultants and hospitality experts, Adam Russell and Amy Dennis, to get their top 6 secrets on how restaurants can stay busy during the quiet winter months.
1. Allocate holidays after December
Amy recommends that restaurant managers encourage their staff to take holidays over the quiet winter months of January and February, rather than December.
“Any sensible waiter knows that they will make more money over the peak holiday months, so use that as an incentive to forgo taking holidays over the Christmas period. They can enjoy the spoils of their toil over the festive season in January or February, where there will be less customers and their services will not be in high demand,” Amy advises. Adam agrees, saying, “To be honest most chefs will have had their fair share of long hours spent labouring over stoves and ovens over the festive season, and will be more than happy to take a break in the beginning of the new year.”
2. Keep customers coming back
If you are wondering how to go about doing this, the answer is actually quite simple. “During the peak months of November and December, offer a January two for one meal voucher that will motivate customers to return to your restaurant during the quiet periods,” Amy advises.
“The great thing about this tactic is that you can target a great range of patrons over the busy months, and a substantial percentage of them will be inclined to cash in their voucher,” adds Adam.
3. Offer a Winter special
“After spending a substantial amount of money over the Christmas period, it is only natural that many customers will be looking for a bargain,” says Adam. “You really have to find and promote an incentive that will get those customers through the doors,” says Amy, “And lowering the price on your menu is the best way to do that.”
Adam believes that a great way to offer a bargain without costing the company too much is to offer specials on food, whilst making up for the cut cost with other expenses. “In the long term, it is worthwhile to cut the cost of the food, but push out the drinks.”
4. Consider organising an event with neighbouring restaurants
Winter festivals, concerts and sporting events definitely bring more business into local areas. “If you have access to local marketing bodies, consider how you can get involved in local events of interest,” Amy advises.
Teaming up with an existing restaurant or having your own pop up restaurant to align with a popular local event is sure to be beneficial in attracting customers,” says Adam.
5. Focus on branding
According to Adam, branding shouldn't start when customers become less inclined to break their banks over January, but it should begin in December. “Many patrons will book restaurants or catering venues for their Christmas parties, and owners of these businesses should do all within their power to facilitate an optimal customer experience. This means bearing in mind that a bad review spreads, and will decrease their business chances during the winter months.”
“Employers should never underestimate the power of social media,” says Amy. “Aim to have an annual PR plan, and don’t be shy about emailing contacts with frequent noise about upcoming specials and events.”
6. Take Stock!
“It is crucial that restaurant owners have an annual budget plan, whereby they can ensure that their peak months such as June through December can get them through the quiet months in the year,” advises Adam.
“Taking stock is important, and planning ahead is crucial for survival,” says Amy.
In conclusion, keeping an open mind and an optimistic outlook is sure to attract and retain customers who are looking to escape the winter chill!
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About our Contributors
Amy Dennis has been a Specialist Hospitality Recruiter at Search Consultancy for nearly 2 years. She is responsible for placing candidates into temporary hospitality roles such as hotel housekeeping, waiters and bar staff in Manchester. Before becoming a Recruitment Consultant, she was a chef for 6 years in gastro pubs and fine-dining restaurants around Cheshire, making her an expert in the Hospitality and Catering Industry.
Adam Russell is a Specialist Chef Recruitment Consultant for the Hospitality & Catering Division in Manchester. He recruits permanent chefs of all levels, ranging from commis to executive, across the North West and Midlands, with a particular focus on the hotel, bar and restaurant market.