The holiday season is a great time for restaurant sales. Diners are out shopping and ready to splurge while visitors are in town feeling merry and up for festivities. Most of us don’t feel compelled to cook at home during the short span between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s because we are anticipating the massive preparation going into these events.
After all the excitement is over, the inevitable slump arrives. Credit card bills start rolling in, spending is slashed, and New Year’s resolutions are focused on fiscal goals. Given this, restaurants can expect for January through March to have a dip in sales.
But not all hope is lost, restaurants can overcome the post-holiday slump by being proactive and creative including these eight tips that will help you survive this temporary dip in sales.
BE PROACTIVE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Reward gift cards purchases. Everyone loves something for nothing. Offer a free $10 gift card to be used after January 1 with the purchase of every $50 card prior to December 31, or some combo of sorts. Not only will your guests find the perfect gift for a friend or loved one, but they now have a reason to return in the New Year for a discounted meal.
Push post-holiday specials. During the holiday bustle, hand out promotional discount coupons that can be used after the start of the New Year but be cautious that these discounts do not cut deep into your profits. Take a careful look at your menu and consider offering “buy one get one half-off” specials on low food cost seasonal specials or plates from your regular menu that have a higher profit margin.
Get your finances in order. Whether it gets to the point where you need it or not, it never hurts to have a cash reserve. While sales are up, start squirreling away the extra profits. Review your expenses and decide what you can let go of without diminishing the customer experience, should you need to cut costs during these months. Studying your sales history from previous years will also provide you with a good idea of the toughest weeks and help you staff and order product accordingly.
Give your staff a pep talk. Set expectations with your staff so that they have a heads up of what to expect based on previous years’ data. What is the typical drop in sales? When did business pick up again? Inform everyone that this is a typical pattern in every restaurant and there is no need to panic. Keep your eyes on the big picture. You don’t want a temporary situation to put a dent in your moral or drive out your key players. Be honest. Be patient. And most of all, be encouraging and let them know that it will get better.
BE CREATIVE IN THE NEW YEAR
Offer New Year’s Resolution dining alternatives. Like most of us, many customers may be looking to cut a little holiday cheer from the waistline. However, they may not associate your brand with healthy options. Be sure to begin the promotion ahead of New Year’s Day to make diners aware that they can come back without spoiling their weight loss goals. If your restaurant does a lot of catering or take out, be sure to include a printed flyer listing seasonal menu items along with their order.
Create a seasonal menu. Not everyone is on a diet after the holidays. Try a seasonal menu with warm, flavorful options that use low-cost seasonal items. When it’s cold outside soups, stews, and chili are always a big hit and are usually easy on food costs. Mom’s meatloaf or potpie is also a budget friendly option that bring comfort for those feeling the post-holiday blues. Reminding diners that these selections are available for a “limited time only” may encourage people to try these new items.
Partner with local businesses. No matter how determined people may feel to cut back on going out, special occasions will always prevail. If you are located near a movie theater, bowling alley, escape room, or venue of this type, contact them to see if they are interested in partnering to promote each other’s businesses. Agree on something that is beneficial to both parties, such as patrons receive a discounted entrance to the escape room when they present a valid receipt from your restaurant. Likewise, the escape room customers receive a free appetizer from your restaurant with a valid receipt from the escape room. Chances are, they are experiencing the same post-holiday slump and would welcome the chance to get more guests in the door. Win-Win.
Focus on other holidays. Before the end of March comes Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. All the games leading up to the Super Bowl are a chance for you to run game day specials. Promote fan favorites and advertise take out specials, which are always a big hit. Simultaneously, or immediately as it’s over, begin pushing Valentine’s Day date night menu and specials. Valentine’s not your demographic? How about an anti-Valentines girls’ night out or boys’ night out package? Perhaps a Sheppard’s Pie and Guinness special for St. Patty’s Day? Consider using low-cost promotional strategies such as table tents, flyers, window signs, and social media to promote different offers and specials to make the most of your efforts.
As CMO of Compeat, Kristi Turner oversees product marketing strategy, competitive positioning, brand awareness, digital presence, customer retention, lead generation, inside sales, and internal and external communications. With over 27 years of domestic and international strategic business and marketing experience, Kristi has a successful track record for building scalable SaaS revenue growth, empowering employee cultures and customer centric marketing strategies. Kristi holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from University of South Florida. She resides in Atlanta with her husband and two children.