Restaurant Seasonality: 3 Ways to Overcome Seasonal Changes

By
Nicole Georgiev
Table of Contents
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    It’s common for business sales to fluctuate, especially if those sales are part of the restaurant industry. Establishments will oftentimes see customer numbers increase, take a dive, or remain the same. This is due to a number of factors, one of which is restaurant seasonality. 

    Season changes have a big impact on the restaurant industry and this causes restaurant owners to make changes of their own. Such changes may include cutting back on their restaurant inventory, relying heavily on social media marketing for restaurants, and adjusting staff levels. 

    Executing these changes is part of the effort to keep up with the latest trends. The trends in the food industry include food trends, beverage trends, restaurant technology trends, and fresh produce trends. By staying on top of what’s trending, restaurants have a greater chance to keep visitors coming in and achieve restaurant success.

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    Restaurant Seasonality: What Is Restaurant Seasonality?

    Restaurant seasonality refers to the demand fluctuations that restaurant establishments see during different seasons throughout the year. It’s common for restaurants to have their highest sales volume during the warmer months of the year. This is due to an increase in tourism and locals spending more time dining out. 

    During the warmer months, i.e. May through September in the United States it’s common for restaurants to increase their seating capacity by adding more outdoor seating. This also makes it possible for them to host outdoor events, such as live music, which drives in more business. 

    In the colder months of the year, restaurant establishments often see a decline in business. This is due to the cold weather and potentially snowy climates. It’s more common to see a decline in business during the winter season if the restaurant or bar doesn’t offer delivery or to-go options.

    However, just because it’s cold doesn’t mean your restaurant business won’t thrive in the winter. In fact, how much (or little) you’re hit by restaurant seasonality depends on the location of your business. It also depends on what’s in season in your climate.

    If your seasonal restaurant is located in an area that is popular for snowboarding or skiing, the winter season might be your peak season. This makes your restaurant an in-season restaurant during the winter. The winter is prime time for cold weather activities, which means an increase in tourists. 

    Having a restaurant in a college town might see a similar increase in traffic during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. This is based on the school year and the increase in students who might be your prime customers. 

    Are you interested to learn more about the restaurant industry? Get our free Restaurant Industry eBook to learn the ins and outs of the business.

    Restaurants and Seasonal Holidays

    For restaurants, the holidays may be a hit or miss based on the type of dining establishment you have. This includes fine dining or casual dining. It’s common for fine dining restaurants to see a drop in business during seasons’ holidays. This is due to the fact that many people are preparing meals at home, allocating their money towards travel or gifts, and spending time with family.

    However, there are in-season restaurants that see a boost in business during the holidays. This is due to other businesses throwing annual holiday parties or families celebrating the holidays by dining out. It’s common for casual and fast dining establishments to see an increase in business as shoppers are stopping by for a quick meal in between shopping.

    Restaurants During the Winter Season

    Restaurants may see a negative impact on their ability to thrive during the winter months. During the winter season, it’s common for customers to feel less inclined to travel for a meal. This is especially true if they have to deal with wintery conditions such as snow, ice, or below-freezing temperatures.

    With fewer customers, there is a decline in food sales. However, a way for restaurants to combat this slow season is to offer the best food delivery service possible, the same way that a ghost kitchen does. This way, customers have the opportunity to use an online ordering platform or Googlefood to have their meals delivered to them. 

    Curbside pickup options may also be part of the action plan to increase restaurant sales year-round. Learn about the benefits of curbside pickup to see if it’s worth integrating into your restaurant business plan

    Restaurants During the Summer Season

    The summer and warm months of the year are when most restaurants tend to thrive. This is due to the fact that warmer temperatures encourage people to go outdoors. There’s also an increase in tourism during these months.

    Due to the increase in tourism, hotels also see an increase in business. Restaurants that are located in or around hotels may see a boost in business as a result. 

    Key Takeaway: Restaurant seasonality affects most food establishments, but there are ways to combat this slow period with proper planning and action.

    3 Ways to Overcome Seasonal Changes 

    It’s normal for the common restaurant or business owner to anticipate a decrease in sales during the winter months compared to busy restaurant season. Some establishments compensate for this decrease by utilizing strong restaurant marketing strategies during the busy season.

    It’s possible for restaurant marketing campaigns to limit seasonal declines. However, if restaurant sales do decline, owners may offer promotional discounts and deals to attract customers. 

    This is also possible to do through a loyalty program. Some of the best restaurant loyalty programs offer exclusive discounts for returning customers. Offering a restaurant promotion to an exclusive group of people inclines more to join, so they can be included. 

    An example of potential promotions includes offering free appetizers or desserts and two-for-one meals. Giving away free items may result in lower front-end revenue, but will lead to higher long-term profits and a more recognizable restaurant brand.

    Some restaurants may tailor their menus according to the season as a way to increase their profits and draw in customers. Restaurant seasonality often inspires new menu items, decor, and events. Taking advantage of this is crucial for long-term success

    1. Offering a Seasonal Menu

    Changing entire restaurant menus isn’t necessary, but adding a seasonal menu may keep business up during the slow season. Offering different types of menus allows you to add specialty items and showcase the chef’s creativity.

    One of the powerful restaurant marketing tips and tools is to incorporate a seasonal menu when possible. These menus should include fresh, in-season, and new offerings that will appeal to the customers. By offering this kind of limited-time menu, there will be a sense of urgency for customers to try it out.

    A seasonal menu will allow restaurants to focus on lowering their food cost. This is because in-season items, like fresh produce, don’t always require the same chemicals and preservation methods compared to off-season items. As a bonus, the food tastes better which will appeal to customers.

    2. Hosting Seasonal Events

    A way to bring in more business to any food establishment is to host an event. This can vary based on the establishment and its niche market. One event may be a tasting of the new seasonal menu offerings. 

    It’s also possible to host promotional events such as a Valentine’s Day dinner promotion. Establishments may consider having live music or events related to their local community.

    3. Incorporating a Loyalty Program

    Loyalty programs encourage repeat customers to keep coming back. It’s also a great way to introduce new seasonal offerings to your loyal customers. Include promotions, exclusive offerings for loyalty members, and discounts. 

    Do you want to learn more about the restaurant industry? Download our free Restaurant Industry eBook to learn the ins and outs of the business.

    How Do Seasons Affect the Restaurant Industry?

    Restaurant seasonality has a big impact on restaurant sales as a whole. During major holidays, most restaurants see a decrease in traffic due to customers likely preparing meals at home. For many people, the holidays are associated with family, and it’s common for customers to reduce eating out.

    While fine dining establishments might see a bigger decrease in restaurant sales, fast food establishments may thrive. People with busy schedules and a lack of time to cook may frequent fast food restaurants for ease of access. 

    Tourist seasons vary by location which also plays a huge role in how restaurant seasonality affects the restaurant industry. Locations that are warm year-round may see an increase in customers during the winter months as people look to escape the cold weather. However, for mountain resorts, the winter months are the peak and most establishments in the vicinity are considered in-season restaurants. 

    An increase in tourists means an increase in people that are looking to eat out. This is mainly due to the fact that many of them don’t have the ability to cook due to their hotel accommodations. Locals are also out and about during peak seasons. 

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Seasonality

    It’s possible for different seasons to affect the food industry. However, there are ways to combat this and prepare for success year-round. Here are some commonly asked questions about restaurant seasonality that may prepare you and your business.

    Do Restaurants Have Seasonality?

    Yes, restaurants have seasonality, along with every other business. All businesses tend to have a slow and busy season along with fluctuations that are due to the economy. The restaurant industry in particular is prone to seasonal fluctuations due to a number of factors. These include weather conditions and tourist season. 

    What Is the Slow Season for Restaurants?

    The slow season for restaurants is generally between January and February, but it will vary based on the location of the establishment. This post-holiday time is often a slow period for many restaurant establishments. However, with the right restaurant marketing budget and restaurant marketing plan, you can get people coming into your establishment.

    How Does Seasonality Affect Inventory?

    Seasonality affects inventory because it may result in overstocking of supplies to meet expected demand. If that demand isn’t met, there will be excess inventory and food waste. This is why it’s essential to focus on demand planning and inventory forecasting

    In most cases, it’s a good idea to have safety stock on hand. However, having proper inventory control methods that eliminate food waste is crucial. 

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