There’s nothing like a summer night filled with great people, delicious food, and cool drinks. But what happens when your restaurant isn’t just competing with neighboring establishments for summertime diners, but also with guests’ own backyards?
Here are some suggestions for restaurant owners looking to lure customers away from at-home barbeques and into their establishments.
Assemble the Perfect Patio
One of the first steps in competing with a customer’s backyard bash is to set up a killer patio. Your patio should function as an extension of your interior’s aesthetic and offer plenty of space for guests to congregate and chat. Incorporate subtle touches like plants, twinkle lights, candles, and seasonal décor to amp up the ambiance. Don’t forget to add a few umbrellas and shaded spots for those scorching hot days. Guest will appreciate the homey al fresco dining vibe, minus the hassle of tackling the hosting, cooking, and cleaning tasks themselves.
Craft a Seasonal Menu
Encourage repeat visits by serving delicious on-trend seasonal fare. Lighter dishes to offset the seasonal heat are especially popular during the summer. Fresh fruits and veggies, shareable apps, citrus-infused salads, and grilled meats and seafood are sure to be crowd pleasers. You can even team up with a local farm to supply your diners with garden-fresh produce.
Don’t forget about your littlest guests’ summer palates. Feature kid-friendly and parent-approved elevated options such as mini-grilled sliders, char-grilled chicken strips, and grilled sweet corn. If parents know that they and their children can enjoy a mouthwatering outdoor dining experience at your restaurant they’re more likely to ditch the backyard barbeque for a night out.
Mix Up Summertime Drinks
Now that you’ve got your seasonal food offerings locked in, what about the drinks? Fresh summer cocktails can be a big draw, especially when compared to the typical beer and wine options found at most backyard gatherings. Wow your diners with seasonal favorites like frozen margaritas, piña coladas, and daiquiris. Or, get creative and mix up a summer-themed sangria or other non-frozen concoction that’s sure to have your guests ordering seconds. You’ll also want to have a few non-alcoholic drink options on the menu as well. Spotlight summer-inspired lemonades, teas, and mocktails that incorporate frozen fruit, fresh herbs, and other seasonal ingredients.
Become a Holiday Hot Spot
Warm-weather holidays such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Fourth of July often inspire people to celebrate by throwing a barbeque. Convince customers to dine at your restaurant instead by offering group promotions and a special holiday menu that includes all the favorites they’d otherwise be grilling up at home, such as burgers, steaks, and fresh veggies.
Holidays are also an opportune time to increase your off-premise sales. Add a catering option for those who prefer to celebrate at home, but would prefer to forgo the stress and sweat of preparing a party-sized spread. However, if you don’t have catering experience you might want to start out with a few simpler options. For example, consider expanding your takeout menu and/or offering family-style portions.
Welcome Four-legged Friends
If your local laws allow it, consider making your outdoor space dog-friendly for the summer. Encouraging guests to bring their canine companions along is one surefire way to attract customers who might otherwise opt to grill at home rather than feel guilty for leaving their pooches behind. If you really want to roll out the welcome mat for your four-legged customers, ask your chef to create a few dog-friendly items to add to the menu, such as a peanut butter-based ice cream treat, brown rice and beef burger, or a scrambled eggs and bacon bowl.
Curate an Experience
One reason people like to go out to eat is to enjoy an experience they can’t get at home. Consider hiring a local band for the summertime months so your patrons can enjoy open-air live tunes while they eat and drink. Or, add a few patio-friendly games like bags/cornhole, jumbo-sized Jenga, and darts to get people excited about your spot. Take stock of what’s working at other local joints — maybe it’s featuring a projector to display major sporting events or adding firepits — and assess what initiatives might work best in your space.
Involve the Community
Compete with the convenience of a home barbecue by providing guests with a strong sense of community. Connect with local businesses and groups to host a variety of events that appeal to a broad range of interests, such as open-mic nights, trivia, charity/fundraising events, movie nights, and wine/food tastings. By demonstrating to customers that your restaurant is more than just a place to grab a bite, you’re putting yourself on their radar as the ideal spot for a unique and fun night out.
For these summertime initiatives to work, your customers first have to be aware of them. Post about your upcoming events, promotions, and seasonal menu items on your restaurant’s website and social platforms. Keep in mind that photos are great for social media, but videos are even better and have been proven to garner more eyeballs and engagement. Finally, try testing different promotions and food/drink items to further grab the attention of that potential guest who might otherwise be tempted to fire up their grill.
For more ideas on how to get your restaurant ready for the summertime rush without breaking the bank, check out our free e-book “Get Your Restaurant Ready for Summer on A Budget.”