Business within the restaurant industry fluctuates regularly, even with efficient business systems. It’s common to see customer numbers increase, decrease, or stay the same due to various factors. One factor is restaurant seasonality, otherwise known as seasonal restaurant changes.
Seasonal changes have a direct impact on the restaurant industry and often force the restaurant manager or owner to quickly adapt. Such adaptations include high-performance restaurant marketing campaigns, adjusting staffing levels, and cutting back on stock levels.
It’s common for an in-season restaurant to see business go up and down throughout the year. A common factor determining if you have a seasonal restaurant is the location of the property. The restaurant may be located in a college town and be busy during the school year, but during summer break, business slows almost to a standstill.
This article will cover five ways to plan for restaurant seasonality and how to keep your business thriving. Let’s start with the basics.
Seasonal Restaurant Meaning
A seasonal restaurant refers to an establishment that is open during specific seasons of the year instead of year-round. Seasonal restaurants may operate during one, two, or three seasons of the year.
These seasons typically generate the peak of their business volume and when business slows down, they close up until the next busy restaurant season. However, this doesn’t mean that seasonal restaurants are always busy. In fact, they also experience restaurant seasonality.
A typically seasonal restaurant will operate during specific dates associated with the weather or vacation seasons. For instance, a seasonal restaurant in Vale, Colorado, may operate from the end of November through the beginning of April. This is because it’s accompanying the winter and ski season.
On the other hand, a restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland, may open from late May through mid-September. The establishment operates during the summer which is when the area sees a drastic, seasonal increase in the number of tourists.
3 Seasonal Factors That Impact the Restaurant Industry
Whether you have a year-round or in-season restaurant, various factors may impact your business and the restaurant industry as a whole. These factors include the restaurant location, the weather, and your menu offerings.
The location of your restaurant often has a larger impact on your revenue than the weather. This is especially true if you’re located by the beach, by a destination popular for skiing, or in a college town.
In areas like these, it’s crucial to look into population data during the year. The data will allow you to determine the busier and slower months of the year. For instance, in a college town, restaurants may see a slow period during the summer but will require extra hands during the school year.
It’s common for restaurants to see their highest sales volume and customer frequency during the warmer months. This is due to an increase in tourism and local spending.
An in-season restaurant may also increase its seating capacity during the warm months by adding rooftop or outdoor table seating. By expanding seating options, restaurants may host events that bring in extra business such as live music.
Another consideration would be to host happy hour events. If you don’t know “what is happy hour”, it consists of drink and food specials during specific hours of the day. Happy hour deals will incline people to come in and order multiple items to take advantage of the promotions.
During the winter, many restaurants see a decline in business. In most cases, this is due to the cold and snowy climates. This is especially true for businesses that don’t offer 24 7 food delivery or curbside pick up options.
Restaurant seasonality affects menus and product offerings. This is due to the availability of certain products and what people are craving. Incorporating menu changes or adapting them to weather changes may help keep up the demand.
This includes following current dessert trends, fresh produce trends, beverage trends, food trends, and restaurant industry trends. This is what will keep your customers interested in coming back, even during the off-season.
Key Takeaway: If you have a seasonal restaurant, there are ways to prepare for the off-season and profit during the slower months.
5 Ways to Plan for Restaurant Seasonality
Both a seasonal restaurant and a year-round restaurant will have to plan for seasonality in order to thrive. Your restaurant business plan should include ideas of how you plan to adapt to seasonal changes.
Five ways to plan for restaurant seasonality include:
- Offering a seasonal menu
- Utilizing social media and social media ROI
- Using POS analytics
- Working on labor planning
- Taking advantage of holidays and promotions
Following these tactics may allow your season restaurant to stay open longer and into the off-season. It’s possible to use these tactics to increase business during the regular business season, too.
1. Offer a Seasonal Menu
As the seasons change, it provides a great opportunity to update restaurant menus. Guest preferences are also changing and the different types of menus at your establishment should reflect the in-season and fresh produce there is to offer.
A seasonal menu showcases in-season offerings such as trends, flavors, and ingredients. Different types of chefs, such as Michelin star chefs, a sous chef, and an executive chef will use seasonal menus to get creative.
Each year-round or seasonal restaurant will have the option to partner with local farms and wholesale produce suppliers to get the freshest ingredients. This shows they value their community and are purchasing in-season and flavorful items.
These are the ingredients that should be featured in your menu based on the season:
- Fall: Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yams, pears, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, and green beans.
- Winter: Brussels sprouts, winter squash, collard greens, rutabagas, cranberries, leeks, and cauliflower.
- Spring: Lemons, broccoli, peas, apples, pineapples, spinach mushrooms, kale, asparagus, and radishes.
- Summer: Strawberries, peaches, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, corn, summer squash, eggplant, and mangos.
While most fruits and vegetables are available year-round, showcasing in-season produce may decrease a restaurant’s food cost. They will also add flavor to your dishes.
2. Utilize Social Media
A popular way to increase clientele to your restaurant is through social media. It’s also a way to promote your seasonal food offerings. Social media is one type of eCommerce content marketing that allows you to engage with users online and motivate them to visit your restaurant in person.
Social media should be one of your restaurant marketing strategies. You may choose to promote new dishes, holiday specials, or new restaurant loyalty program ideas you’re implementing. The loyalty program may be just what you need to keep business up. Be sure to consider your social media ROI to ensure your efforts are working in your favor.
3. Use POS Analytics
A restaurant POS system is crucial to have for a number of reasons. Modern POS system features include the ability to process transactions,record data, and display it in analytics dashboards. These analytics are crucial to use when planning for restaurant seasonality.
You may not remember when the start or end of your busy season was. However, your restaurant POS system will. With proper restaurant POS integrations, you will have the ability to look into past data and plan ahead. This includes your total sales volume, how much staff worked each week, and your most popular menu items.
With this information, you will be able to work on demand planning and inventory forecasting for your next busy and slow season. Your seasonal restaurant can stay on top of the highs and lows based on its performance and actions from previous years. POS analytics may also help you calculate inventory turnover.
4. Work On Labor Planning
Restaurants won’t need the same staff, such as wait staff and bar staff, all year round. In fact, during the slow months, fewer staff members should be scheduled, whereas, during the busy months, restaurants often seek out weekend shift servers.
Labor planning will help owners determine the right amount of staff to hire during each season. It will also guide you in making the proper cutbacks when necessary. This will help with the restaurant’s labor cost and restaurant monthly expenses. Keep in mind the ongoing restaurant worker shortage and how you can reduce its effects on your business.
5. Holidays and Promotions
Holidays take place all year long. They provide numerous opportunities for restaurants to run promotions and attract business while increasing revenue. Focusing on holidays, especially during the off-season, will help a seasonal restaurant thrive.
Consider the following holidays and promotion ideas to incorporate each season:
- Small Business Saturday. Offer discounts to promote dining locally and shopping small.
- Thanksgiving. Incorporate a seasonal or prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving.
- Halloween. Offer spooky or themed drink specials.
- Valentine’s Day. Consider offering a Valentine’s Day dinner promotion such as food and wine pairing menu, dinner specials for two, and Galentine’s specials for the ladies.
- St. Patrick’s Day. Incorporate green-colored foods and beer into your menu.
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Host a countdown party, and offer champagne toasts, bottomless mimosas, and brunch specials.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Serve winter-style cocktails, special menus, and dessert specials.
- Cinco de Mayo. Consider adding Mexican food appetizers, taco specials, and margaritas. Include different types of tequila from the best tequila brands and the best tequila for margaritas.
- Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Feature special menus and discounts for mothers and fathers.
- Memorial Day. Offer Memorial Day weekend specials. Incorporate menu options including burgers and barbecue food.
- Labor Day. Offer Labor Day weekend drink specials and discounts.
- Fourth of July. Decorate with red, white, and blue colors. Offer barbecue food specials and red, white, and blue popular cocktails.
Frequently Asked Questions About Having a Seasonal Restaurant
With a seasonal restaurant, you may feel as if the slow season is just something you have to get through. However, even the slow seasons are profitable. Here are commonly asked questions about seasonal restaurants and how to plan for success.
What Season Is Best for Restaurants?
The season that is best for restaurants is the summer or during the warm months. However, a seasonal restaurant that is located in an area popular for skiing and snowboarding will thrive the most during the winter. This is due to the increase in tourism and in the summer, the warmer temperatures encourage people to venture outdoors.
What Is a Seasonal Menu?
A seasonal menu is a limited-time menu that offers foods and flavors that are in season. This includes fruits and vegetables that are ripe and full of flavor. These products are often cheaper to purchase due to their limited time, wide availability.
How Do You Plan for Restaurant Seasonality?
To plan for restaurant seasonality, you have to consider the establishment’s location, weather, and menu. Be sure to also:
- Offer a seasonal menu
- Utilize social media platforms
- Use POS analytics from previous years
- Work on labor planning
- Take advantage of holidays and promotions