Now that the Holidays are over, many restaurants are entering the slow season of their businesses; depending on the type of restaurant, the slow period could last just a few weeks or extend several months, depending on the economic uncertainty that is causing ripple effects on consumer behaviour.
Although the number of patrons for their dining rooms, takeaway, delivery and online ordering may temporarily drop, that doesn’t mean restaurateurs can’t seize the opportunity to generate sales.
What’s more, due to the current volatility of the economy, you need to act now while you have the time that you don’t typically have to set up your business for long-term success. One of the best ways? Future-proof your business to navigate through a potential economic downturn with a solid online presence.
We’ve put together a list of ideas to help you accomplish these goals and safeguard your profitability.
Re-evaluate your current technology stack.
Re-evaluate your current technology stack. While technology may be the last thing on your mind, now is a good time to reassess the performance-cost ratio of your POS system and online ordering platform. Are your technology vendors helping you maximize sales from all online channels and simplifying your operations, which have been compounded by a tight labor market? Reach out to other companies to determine if they can provide better features and service—with minimal disruptions if you switch.
For example, not all online ordering platforms allow you to centralize orders from all delivery partners in one place or offer the Order With Google integration. You may be missing out on online sales channels that can expand your reach to new customers and drum up more sales.
Develop your marketing calendar.
It’s not going to get done by itself—and you always need to be marketing. Marketing your restaurant does not have to cost an arm and a leg. You can start by investing more time in social media and encouraging customers, whether on-site or through their online orders, to follow your accounts, engage with your posts, participate in your contests, refer friends and family, and even give reviews and their email addresses. But don’t stop there! Consider revamping your website, checking out local ad opportunities, and starting a newsletter. And if you already have a customer email list, now is the time to reach out to your loyal patrons with enticing deals!
Build or rethink your loyalty program.
Customers are no longer just satisfied with a punch-card loyalty program to get a free beverage after 7 visits to your restaurant. In fact, patrons evaluate the goodies your loyalty program offers against your competitors and even other companies. Of course, revamping your loyalty program should make you break the bank. However, there are several innovative and more modern approaches to designing a successful loyalty program. Check out our latest guide for some ideas.
Create closer ties with surrounding businesses.
Cross-selling activities with other businesses in your area can do wonders to drive traffic to your restaurant and/or online ordering platform. For example, form mutually beneficial arrangements with local hotel concierges that award them a gift card after a certain number of referrals. Think of joint promotions with florists for special occasions or specialty food stores to highlight their unique ingredients in your next daily special.
Leverage your vendor partnerships.
Contacting your food vendors can be extremely advantageous in two ways. Above all, work with them to identify ways to cut food costs or rationalize food items that are becoming problematic for your margins. Bigger vendors may be open to contributing financially (co-op dollars) to special promotions/contests that attract restaurant customers while promoting their brands. It never hurts to ask or even propose ideas your vendors may not even think of!
Re-engineer your menu.
Whether you have a consistent menu all year long or switch things up during holidays/special events/seasons, take this quiet time to crunch out the sales numbers of existing menu items, food costs, and how they impact your margins as well as cash flow. Also, get your creative juices flowing! By understanding what types of foods have not been as affected by inflation as others, you can whip up new creations and seasonal menus to improve profits.
Get your recruitment game on.
There is no point in recruiting front- or back-of-the-house staff last minute when sales are good. More and more restaurateurs are using their slow seasons to reimagine their employer brand, employee benefits and on-site operations. The goal? To continuously recruit throughout the year (going beyond the Help Wanted door sign, of course) and identify ways to cater to more customers with less staff. This is particularly true of optimizing online orders, online ordering platforms, and contactless self-ordering and payments that reduce pressure on expos and front-of-the-house employees.
Slow periods for restaurants can initially seem daunting from a sales perspective. However, restaurateurs can uncover hidden marketing and management gems to keep sales coming in and get ready for an influx of customers in the not-so-distant future!