By offering delivery options or special promos, operators can still reach guests.

It’s no surprise that heavy rain and intense cold deter customers from dining out. But restaurants keep the doors open even in dreary conditions, so how can they overcome the dipping temps of February?

Commercial weather forecasting company AccuWeather suggests that marketing against certain weather patterns could help brands bring in the business, even when it’s freezing or pouring outside. When the weather is miserable, the trick is to offer a food or beverage remedy that capitalizes on what customers already want.

“Weather creates buying intent. The effect of weather on mood is undeniable, so it typically affects what people want to eat and drink,” says Eric Danetz, global chief revenue officer at AccuWeather. “Offer foods with an emotional appeal; in colder months, we see customers seeking out comfort foods such as ramen, soups, or stews.”

In February 2019, the restaurant industry saw its worst guest counts since September of 2017—a month when the East Coast was slammed by back-to-back hurricanes—with a 3.7 percent drop in foot traffic, according to data firm Black Box Intelligence. In such a difficult season for sales and traffic, it’s not only crucial for concepts to market menu items that correspond to customers’ seasonal desires, but also to tailor those offerings to the individual guest. It’s all about context.

“Customers are deterred from dining out especially in cities that are walkable, like New York City and Chicago—places where people will actually be out in the elements. There is a need to target, very specifically, by location. For instance, 45 degrees in New York feels different from 45 degrees elsewhere. At AccuWeather, we have RealFeel, which is a proprietary way that we measure how a human will react to certain weather,” Danetz says.

Off-premises dining and delivery are generating plenty of buzz in foodservice as of late, and bad weather could entice concepts to hop on the delivery train. Of course, marketing a certain comfort food through social media during a bad storm could be the key to drawing in a customer who might otherwise be tempted to stay home. But if a restaurant switches tack to focus on delivery options, it can also do business with more fair-weather guests.

“Dine-in marketing will not always be successful. Depending on location, you can shift your marketing to delivery. That individual is still going to want that specific food. Now there’s the ability to take it to them, which will still add sales even without a visit,” Danetz says.

Feature, Leader Insights, Marketing & Promotions