Smart operators overcome challenges of fewer customers, revenue swings
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Vacationers who like some humidity in the winter continue to flock to Florida, boosting restaurant business from January through March. Speaking of his 5-year-old Boca Raton restaurant, Casa D’Angelo, Angelo Elia says, “We make most of our money in the winter. Summer is very tough.”
Seasonal fluctuations are much lower at his other four restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach, and the Bahamas. Profits from those restaurants help to support his Boca Raton outpost in the summer, he notes. Another boost there results from donating gift certificates to charitable events, which brings in more locals during slower times.
Miami has been experiencing lower seasonal swings than previously as the city has grown, according to Steven Haas, owner of City Hall Restaurant, opened last year, and former chairman of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Still, most Miami and Miami Beach restaurants do about 50 percent more business January through March than they do in midsummer, he estimates.
A big help to Miami restaurant business has been the recent trend of well-heeled South Americans, especially Brazilians, buying foreclosed properties, which are filling with renters and condo owners. Many such formerly vacant buildings now have 100 percent occupancy, Haas says.
In sharp contrast to Florida’s frequent sunshine, the Pacific Northwest generally gets more rainfall than any other part of the country. Raw, rainy days typically put the damper on restaurant business, particularly on those that are on water.
“If it gets sunny by 11 a.m., we’re packed by 11:30,” says Duke Moscrip, a restaurateur for 40 years who runs six Duke’s seafood restaurants in the Seattle area, of which four are on water. “From December to January I’d rather be other places, but this is home.”
In those rainiest months, Moscrip runs his popular Rain Check program, which is a tongue-in-cheek reversal of most such programs. His staff gives customers business card-sized “rain checks” on sunny days to use when it’s raining for various discounts. “It gets people back in when it rains,” Moscrip notes.
To staff up efficiently on sunny days, when lines of customers often run out the door, Moscrip has a certain number of workers on call and closely watches the weather forecast. “By 10:30 a.m. we know how much staff we’ll need. That’s how we control staffing, so labor costs don’t go crazy,” he says.
The difference in sales at Moscrip’s waterfront restaurants can vary by 75 percent, depending on the weather. Usually, doing five-to-six turns a day in the good weather makes up for the slow days.