Seasonality in Business and in the Restaurant Industry

July 16, 2023
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Within the restaurant industry, it’s common to see business sales fluctuate throughout the year from the holiday season to the peak season with seasonal adjustment showing up in sales data. Restaurant establishments may see customer numbers increase, decrease, or remain constant. This is a result of many factors, including seasonality. 

Seasons have a large impact on the restaurant industry and businesses-including small businesses-overall. Seasonality in business may cause a restaurant owner or restaurant manager to make changes in order to adapt to seasonal periods and seasonal patterns with working capital. Such changes include relying on social media marketing for restaurants and email marketing to boost sales, cutting back on restaurant inventory, and adjusting staff levels in accordance with cash flow over a time series. 

These efforts are a way for restaurants to combat business seasonal issues. This article will cover everything you need to know and how to plan ahead for success within your restaurant business.

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What Is Restaurant Seasonality?

Restaurant seasonality is the fluctuation in business that restaurant establishments face during different seasons throughout the year. Many restaurants will have higher sales volumes during the summer or warmer months of the year. This is mainly due to the rise in tourism and locals spending time dining out. 

In the United States, the warmer months are typically from May through September. During this time, restaurants take advantage of this warm weather by increasing their seating capacity by adding outdoor seating. This also allows them to drive in more business through outdoor events and live music.

During the cold months, such establishments may see a decrease in business mainly due to the cold weather and possibly snowy climate. However, the cold season doesn’t mean a restaurant business can’t thrive. In fact, if a restaurant is located near a snowboarding or skiing location, the winter may be the busy season. 

3 Seasonal Factors That Impact the Restaurant Industry 

Different factors will impact your business, especially in the restaurant industry. Regardless of whether the establishment is a year-round or in-season restaurant, the weather, the location of your establishment, and your menu offerings are factors to consider.

1. Weather

The increase in tourism and local spending may lead to higher sales volumes for restaurants during the summer months. Restaurants may also consider bringing in extra business through live music, happy hour events, and expanding seating options. 

Be sure to look into “what is happy hour” and how happy hour deals may increase business, especially during slow seasons. During the winter, businesses may look into offering curbside pick up or 24 7 food delivery options. 

2. Location

The location of an establishment is crucial for restaurant success. It also has a large impact on your revenue, especially if you’re located close to a popular skiing destination, by the beach, or in a college town, all with different credit card usage rates. 

If your restaurant is located in such locations, it’s best to look into the population data for the year. This will allow you to determine the seasonality of your restaurant or the slow and busy months. For example, restaurants in a college town may experience a slow season during the summer and a busy season during the school year. 

3. Menus

When it comes to restaurant menus and product offerings, restaurant seasonality is a huge factor. This is a result of the availability of certain food products. 

Restaurants may take advantage of this availability by incorporating seasonal menus to keep up with demand. They may also keep up with fresh produce trends, dessert trends, food trends, beverage trends, and restaurant industry trends

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Seasonal Menu: What Is a Seasonal Menu?

A seasonal menu refers to a limited-time restaurant menu that consists of in-season and fresh offerings. These menus create a sense of urgency with customers due to the fact that they’re available only during a specific time of the year. 

Seasonality in business may come as an advantage, especially in the restaurant industry. Seasonal menus provide different types of chefs with the opportunity to diversify their kitchens by getting creative. Chefs get to experiment with in-season flavors, products, and cooking styles.

For a business owner to update their seasonal menu, they must have solid supplier relationship management. This is how they will source the in-season supplies. 

In order to efficiently update your restaurant menus, it’s best to invest in a digital menu or restaurant QR code menu. This way, you will be able to add and remove menu items without reprinting paper restaurant menus

Integrating a digital menu ordering process through a touch screen menu ordering system is also something to consider. These restaurant technologies will streamline restaurant operations

5 Benefits of a Seasonal Restaurant Menu

Restaurants take advantage of working with local food suppliers and farms when offering seasonal menus. They’re also promoting the freshness of their food items which may help cut down their food cost

These are five benefits of having a seasonal restaurant menu:

1. Experiment With New Flavors

Restaurants with seasonal menus have the opportunity to experiment with new flavors. Rotating menus will set your restaurant apart from the competition, and it’s a way to take advantage of seasonal factors. It’s one of the restaurant marketing strategies to take advantage of if you want to drive in customers, even during the off-season. 

Seasonal menus have fresh and in-season items. This means that the dishes will have full and distinct flavors, which is important for customers.

2. Cut Costs

A seasonal menu can help increase restaurant profits and decrease the cost of goods sold (COGS). Restaurant profit margin is calculated by using a restaurant profit and loss statement

In-season products are often sold for less than out-of-season products, due to their availability and abundance. This means that purchasing items, such as wholesale produce will be more cost-effective for your seasonal menu.

3. Chance to Use Local Foods and Products

Many restaurants will take advantage of working with local suppliers and farmers to purchase their in-season products. These include meat products, seasonal vegetables, and fresh produce

Working with local suppliers and farmers will allow your restaurant to have a farm-to-table aesthetic. This will appeal to customers as it shows that your offerings are freshly prepared and contain locally harvested ingredients. 

4. Stay On Top of Trends

The restaurant industry has many trends, including produce trends, food trends, beverage trends, and seasonal restaurant menu trends. Following these restaurant industry trends will keep customers interested and coming back.

Following trends such as offering an Irish whiskey cake during St. Patrick’s Day or a Pumpkin Spice flavored dessert in the fall will keep people talking. That’s the goal of staying on top of these food and restaurant trends. 

Since seasonal menus will often change, it’s best to incorporate a restaurant QR code menu. This will make it easy to make additions or changes to your menus, especially when experiencing seasonal issues in business. This includes your table d hote menu, prix fixe menu, and your drink menu design.

5. Improve Staff Engagement

New and seasonal menu offerings will give your bar staff and wait staff new opportunities to upsell. Familiarize yourself with the upsell meaning and the difference between cross sell vs upsell

What Is Busy Restaurant Season?

Busy restaurant season refers to the most active months of the year for the restaurant industry. For most restaurants, this is between the months of April and September. There are restaurants that experience a busy season between November and January 1st. 

The busy restaurant season for your establishment will depend on its location and the weather. Tourists and locals have a greater chance of venturing outdoor when the weather is nice and warm. That’s the reason for such high restaurant visit volumes during the summer since tourism is at its peak. 

Restaurants that are located close to ski and snowboarding resorts have their busy season during the winter months. This is because it’s the prime time for these activities. 

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5 Ways to Thrive During the Busy Restaurant Season

As a restaurant manager, you want to plan ahead to ensure that your establishment thrives during the busy season. When you write a business plan, such as a restaurant business plan, it’s important to include your strategies for managing the rush. 

Five ways to have a thriving business during the busy restaurant season include: 

  1. Employing the proper staff
  2. Incorporating online and mobile ordering options
  3. Forecasting demand through past-year data
  4. Tracking inventory
  5. Utilizing social media marketing efforts

Utilizing restaurant management software will be a great advantage for most establishments. It allows employees to stay calm while managing the restaurant rush.

1. Employee the Proper Staff

Hiring and training the right staff for the job is essential for any successful business. Your restaurant will need different chefs. These include an executive chef, sous chef, and maybe Michelin star chefs

The right staff on hand will allow restaurant operations to run smoothly. As a restaurant manager, you’ll have enough hands on deck to handle the rush. This will cut down on labor cost and restaurant expenses

2. Encourage Online and Mobile Ordering

Having online menu ordering options will allow your restaurant staff to focus on increasing customer satisfaction and food preparation. Aside from having an online ordering platform, you should consider investing in self ordering kiosks and similar restaurant management technology.

This kind of technology will allow you to work towards your action plan to increase sales in a restaurant. As a result, you will be able to speed up the order fulfillment process at your establishment and increase efficiency. 

3. Forecast Demand Based on Last Year’s Data

Different restaurant technologies help restaurants keep up with daily operations. A POS system is a kind of restaurant tech that provides businesses with the opportunity to look into data analytics from previous years.

Restaurants can utilize inventory forecasting and demand planning techniques with their restaurant POS system and its POS system features. This will help them plan ahead for the year’s busy and slow seasons, as well as inventory control

4. Keep Track of Inventory

Some restaurant POS integration features will help keep track of inventory including what is low in stock. This information is crucial for knowing what to keep as safety stock and what needs to be replenished based on the reorder point

5. Utilize Social Media Marketing

Getting the word out about opening a business or opening a restaurant, is essential. One way to do this is by utilizing social media. This is one of the restaurant marketing strategies that will create buzz about your business. Such strategies should be included in your restaurant marketing plan based on your niche market.

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Slow Season Meaning for Restaurants

The slow season meaning for restaurants is the time period when business drops and establishments are competing for fewer customers. With a small customer pool, restaurants will have to improve their marketing tactics and one way to do this is through restaurant promotions

These include running events and promotions. This is possible through a restaurant loyalty program. Most restaurants will have their loyalty program feature promotional events and exclusive discounts for members. 

During the slow season, it’s common for restaurants to take advantage of happy hour deals. These occur during various happy hour times and may include happy hour themes. Another way to increase revenue during the slow season is to host events or promotions for the holidays, such as Valentine’s Day dinner promotions

Staying on top of inventory management practices is crucial during the slow season. Utilizing the FIFO method, otherwise known as the first in, first out method, is essential to ensure the freshness of ingredients. Investing in restaurant inventory software is also useful. 

Using Seasonality to Your Advantage

When it comes to business seasonality, it’s important to take advantage of the situation that you’re in. In both a slow and busy season, restaurants are able to thrive with proper planning. This includes the use of marketing strategies and promotional techniques that will help cut costs and increase customers. 

Seasonality in business will depend on factors such as location, weather, and your menu offerings if you’re in the restaurant industry. Evaluate these factors to determine when your busy and slow seasons may be. Formulate your business plan based on this insight and plan for success. 

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