Summer is upon us and people everywhere are ready to get out and enjoy the warm weather! Restaurants can certainly take advantage of this time of year, but they have more competition than just other businesses in their area: namely, the grand tradition of the home barbeque.
That’s right. Warmer weather means people are wanting to go outside their homes to eat. It also means plenty of would-be restaurant guests are grilling and hosting barbeques at home or going out on picnics. It’s not just enough for restaurants to have good food and service. They need to offer guests something special to make going out to eat during the summer more attractive than DIY.
Set up a great patio.
Restaurants with patios can be huge hits during the summer months for guests who want to bask in the sun, but who also want table service and that extra attention only a restaurant can provide. If you have patio space, make sure it’s up to par with the rest of your restaurant. Clean it up at the beginning of the season and keep it clean throughout the summer. If your business is known locally for its great outdoor space, guests will think of your restaurant when deciding how to enjoy the warm weather on any given weekend.
Adjust your menu.
Who doesn’t want summery food during the summer? Lighter dishes are so popular during the summer to offset the seasonal heat – no one wants to have a big bowl of creamy soup when it’s sweltering outside, after all. So make sure your menu is appropriate for the weather. Focus on in-season produce (locally grown is a plus) and dishes that work for the hot summer months. Think about the kind of food that reminds people of the season and which dishes fit into or can be adapted for your restaurant concept.
That includes the barbeque fare at home you’re trying to lure your guests away from, like burgers and fresh salads. And don’t forget drinks! Delicious smoothies, fruity mocktails, other refreshing drinks can be just want your guests are looking for when the heat gets unbearable.
Use your social media accounts to post photos of your summertime menu items to entice social media followers to come out to your restaurant for their next meal. You can also mention or post your summer menu on your website, but you must be diligent about updating your menu again after the season is over. Nothing looks quite as bad as a business still advertising summer specials in the dead of winter. It comes off as unprofessional, like you simply forgot to keep your website updated.
Take advantage of the standard holidays.
There are a few federal holidays that fall in summer vacation time. Fourth of July and Memorial Day are both big ones for which families usually celebrate with picnics or barbeques instead of going out. The trick is to entice hosts that don’t want to make a big meal at home and would rather go out for that family meal. Consider having a special barbeque menu on those holidays. You can really get creative and make it a prix fixe menu, as you might on Valentine’s Day and events in other seasons.
Consider adding a catering option for those who want to stay at home on these holidays, but don’t want to cook (or who would rather make only part of the meal and order in the rest). You’ll need to prepare carefully. Don’t start doing full on-site catering on holidays unless you have experience handling that kind of service. Have no fear, however. Catering for family get-togethers can be as simple as expanding your take-out menu, making family-style portions of your main dishes, and having the customer pick up their orders at your restaurant.
And what about Father’s Day? Plenty of restaurants have Mother’s Day menus, so why not apply the same mindset to dad’s special day in June!
Take advantage of the not-so standard holidays.
There are plenty of fun, silly holidays throughout the summer (Like July 10: Teddy Bear Picnic Day) – and lots of them are specifically about food. See which ones fall on the weekend and talk to your chef about tying in one of your dishes or a special. Make sure to train your servers to bring up these timely choices when serving tables (while also promoting the summer-long menu items, too).
Hire live music.
If your restaurant can manage it financially — and physically with available space — why not make room to have a local musician or band play during a weekend shift? Whether it’s on your patio or in a corner of your indoor space, live music can bring in people who would otherwise have just grilled at home.
Treat the musicians like any vendor you might have. Get everything in writing and pay them correctly (and on time). If the night is a success, then you can plan to do more music nights with a reputation for being a good venue. Just make sure whomever you hire to play has a sound that fits with your brand. And most importantly: do not forget to advertise the day and time!
Participate in small community events.
As a business owner, you should always keep an eye on local events that could dovetail with your own interests. Food festivals, street fairs, and other events are all fair game! If you’re in a high traffic area (especially for tourists), think about connecting with fellow local restaurants and other businesses to host a neighborhood event or promotion. If you’re not in a touristy area, try hosting a “staycation” promotion. This can help bring in the local families staying home for the summer months who still want to go out and have a good time.
One last note: For all of these idea, marketing is crucial. How will potential guests know about your cool summer menu, live entertainment, or your prix fixe Father’s Day dishes if you don’t engage with your community? Get the word out. Make good use of social media (whether that’s tweeting your summer special or creating a Facebook event page), flyers, radio promotions, and other local promotion so that customers know what you’re doing this summer!
Want more ideas about how to prepare for summer?