The fall is the biggest season, by far, for opening a restaurant — just look at the countless guides that religiously go up starting in late August. But just because fall boasts the greatest number of new eateries, does that really mean it is the best season to open a restaurant?
This week, with the help of a few top restaurateurs and chefs, we are considering all four seasons, weighing the pros and cons of opening during each of them, and what restaurants work for which seasons.
* Fall usually gets the most media buzz out of any other season, so you are more likely to be considered for a roundup or a larger feature.
* Who doesn’t love fall weather? It’s a season where people are out and about and looking to enjoy the city scenery.
* Patrick Lee, the owner of Grafton Group, says that timing your restaurant right before the holiday craze, in early November, is a great way to grab people’s attention before the season gets very busy.
* Since so many restaurants open in the fall, there is tons of competition, and it is harder to stand out.
* Companies are usually the busiest during the fall months, so people have less time to go out and try new places.
* Winter allows you to capitalize on big-ticket dining holidays like Christmas and New Years’ Eve to give your spot an early revenue (and publicity) boost.
* If your space has cozier, more intimate vibes, it can become a great go-to during chilly weather.
* If you think that your restaurant might need some time to find its footing, Lee advises, “The winter months can be used to smooth out any rough edges before significantly adding to the stress of the restaurant with the addition of outdoor seating in the spring.”
* If you are in a cold weather spot, people may not want to venture out to eat — in fact, many restaurants see an acute decline in sales during the winter months.
* Opening right at the beginning of the year can be difficult, as so many people opt to spend January getting in shape or going on a restrictive diet after the holiday season.
* “I’d avoid a December opening,” says chef Ricardo Zarate of Rosaliné in Los Angeles. “People are traveling, and you’re competing with busy schedules, so it’s difficult to create a strong opening presence.”
* After a chilly winter, people are often ecstatic to get the chance to go out as soon as the weather warms up, meaning you will have a captive audience. “People tend to want to spend money,” says Jeff Pond, chef/owner of Area Four in Boston. “They are excited to be outside exploring new restaurants.
* According to Zarate, springtime is the perfect balance between great weather and a not-too-intense crowd, so you can get settled in before the craziness of the summer.
* The abundance of spring showers can put a big damper in revenue, making otherwise-enthusiastic diners less likely to go out.
* Mid-March (usually when schools have spring break) is a popular time for traveling abroad, so you’re likely to lose some of your early crowd.
* If you have an outdoor patio, you are practically guaranteed crowds (and inclusions in the numerous outdoor dining lists that are generated each summer).
* Summer is prime tourist season, so it’s a great chance to get additional business from the steady flux of incoming vacationers. Thanks to the season’s “rush of visitors,” Lee says that his Boston spot Temple Bar was one of his more successful openings, and being open in the summer was a good way to quickly get the business going.
* Many people are on vacation, so it’s very hard to cultivate a solid group of regulars early on.
* “People are just too distracted during the summer,” says Pond.
Photo credit: Temple Bar (Top); Forked Up (Lower).