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How to Increase Your Summer Restaurant Sales

June, July, and August can bring enormous opportunity to increase your summer restaurant sales — if you plan ahead — by:

Download this free eBook today to develop your restaurant marketing plan for the summer months — and keep service moving as smoothly as ever.

Excerpt from Chapter 2:

Every savvy chef with their eye on the bottom line knows that adding seasonal menu items can be a huge benefit to a restaurant. From a customer perspective, those menu items are something really special, a dish that’s just for a limited time to celebrate the season — in this case, summer. And for the restaurant owner and chef, it’s a great way to build on your overall brand.

There is an endless variety of options for adjusting your menu for the season, but there are a few trends we consistently see pop up in preparation for summer.

It can be a very smart business move to take advantage of farmer’s markets in your area. You can get great fresh ingredients in season and then advertise to your customers that you proudly use local ingredients at your restaurant.

The catch is that you’ll also have to anticipate what the farmer’s market is going to have available. This is where building relationships with the vendors come in handy. If you get to know the local farmers and artisans at the market, you can start getting an idea ahead of time what produce will be like from month to month.

You can also tell farmer’s market vendors what you’re planning to do for your dishes and — knowing you want to buy from them — they can prepare in advance to have what you need. It all comes down to building those relationships at the beginning of the season and then doing a lot of networking throughout the summer and beyond. It’s not a short term solution – it’s long term investment in building professional relationships.

The summer season allows you to also explore new specials. After all, bringing appropriately seasonal flavors into your dishes can be especially enticing for guests. If you’re going to the farmer’s market to pick up ingredients for your special, make sure to be flexible with your plan if the produce you need isn’t there. If you have a yellow squash recipe but can’t find any, consider substituting with fresh green zucchini.

Also think of your specials in terms of “stars and plowhorses.” Star items are the ones with high popularity and high profitability. They’re ordered often and give you the most profit after food and labor cost. Obviously you want to see as many of these items on your menu as possible — and if a special ends up being one of those stars, consider incorporating it into your menu.

Plowhorses are the ones that are high in popularity but lower in profitability. For these items, see if you can adjust the ingredients so that they are more profitable without lowering overall quality (and lowering the popularity of the dish in the process). While testing out adjusted plowhorse items as specials, you can see if those adjustments can turn it into a star.

Salads are very popular in the summer when guests are looking for something fresh and light compared to the warm and heavy staples of the winter months. Look to seasonal produce like endive, butter lettuce, cucumbers, hearts of palm, and sugar snap peas to create summer salads that go beyond the iceberg lettuce standard.

Choosing seasonal vegetables is not only a good way to incorporate summer flavors into your menu, but they’re also likely to be the least expensive in summer because they are in season. Plus there’s the added benefit of adding the bright colors of those vegetables to your summer menu.

Don’t forget about fruit – it’s not just for traditional fruit salads. Blackberries, peaches, elderberries, Asian pear, and cherries are all fair game among your leafy greens, but they are far from the only fruit you can incorporate into special summer salad fare. And since it is a fruit, you can never go wrong with the many varieties of summer-picked tomatoes. Talk to your cooks, get creative with your salad choices, and see what happens!

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