Does a change in season influence a change in heart amongst your diners? Do customer dining decisions change with the seasons? Your numbers will be a true test, but anecdotally, you can see how it can make a difference: It gets colder outside; it gets darker earlier, new television shows are premiering every night, and football schedules start to dictate social schedules. Personally, I dine differently in the colder months than in the warmer. Do your customers? More importantly, what do you differently in those months to keep your restaurant sales as high as they could be?
Beyond menu updates, which are important, do you make operational and marketing adjustments to accommodate for changing seasons and changing needs? Here are some ideas to help influence dining decisions this fall and winter:
Deliver a great experience:
If your guests are less willing to come to you in the cold, make it easy and accessible to go to them. The fall and winter seasons are a great time of year to not only promote your delivery and carryout options, but to make them appealing.
- Be sure all of your guests know you have a carry-out and delivery option – include a carry out menu with the bill, or have extra at the door or hostess stand and promote it on your social media channels
- Don’t offer delivery? This time of year you may want to consider adding it – before the snow hits
- Take a look at your delivery/carry-out process and evaluate if it is appealing to your customers: do your fries get soggy? Consider separate paper bags vs. sealing them in a plastic container. Do your salads wilt? Consider packaging hot proteins separately and letting guests put them together at home.
- When guests place a “to-go” order, offer wine – most guests don’t think of ordering it to go, but why not? It will increase their overall spend and continue the in-restaurant experience they would have had.
- Upscale restaurant? Make it an upscale delivery by surprising your guests with some candles or flowers along with their dinner order (the Instagram photos and word of mouth will go far)
Pick a premiere:
The fall tv lineup is big news to a lot of people. Even with DVR’s, most people don’t want to miss the big show for fear of spoilers the next day. Why not make your restaurant the place to watch it, rather than their couch?
Find out what shows are most popular for your restaurant customers (Ask them, ask your servers!) and create watching parties or events around them. Special menus and drinks – themed or not – on certain nights to support certain shows that you can screen in your bar or dining room could pull in groups or even individuals who are looking for a group to share in the joy of their favorite show. It doesn’t always have to be about football.
This is a great way to fill seats on slow weekday nights and to promote high-margin items.
Colder months call for cozier foods and cozier atmospheres. Gone are the days of patio dining and open windows. Now is the time for heavier comfort foods, more red wine than white wine, and lower lighting. If you can’t dim the lights, consider more candles, Christmas-tree lighting, fireplaces or other alternative lighting sources that can change your atmosphere into a warm and welcoming winter rescue.
In addition to your menu updates, don’t forget about your bar menu. Try adding more coffee drinks or hot chocolate themed drinks, in addition to seasonal flavors such as pumpkin, cranberry or spices.
Want a leg up on the competition in understanding dining decisions?