As February comes to a close and the temperature turns a few shades higher, it can only mean one thing for the restaurant industry: the winter sales slump is almost over. Hooray! While it may not be fully into the new season, now is the time to think about preparing for the uptick in traffic and revitalizing your spot (and staff) for the warmer weather. Here are a few actionable ways that you can make the jump into spring that much smoother.
1. Get your outdoor patio in order. The minute the temperature inches above 60 degrees people will be clamoring to sit outside, so make sure you’re ready. Take out the patio furniture (and replace anything that’s looking worn down), and don’t forget to Mother Nature-proof your set-up with umbrellas, bug zappers, and fans, if you’re somewhere particularly hot.
2. Refresh your drinks menu. Out with the Hot Toddies, and in with the seasonal beers and cooling cocktails. Alcohol sales are most likely the backbone of your business — and warmer weather means more people will be out to socialize — so it’s worth going the extra mile to promote your new drink offerings on social media, or with a press preview.
3. Up your outdoor signage game. Take advantage of the increased outside foot traffic during the spring and make your restaurant stand out with colorful, creative signs that will bring locals through the door. A no-brainer is the classic chalkboard sign, which you can use to advertise happy hours or any other seasonal promotions.
4. Get rid of your winter enclosure. Don’t be the one restaurant on your block that still has your winter enclosure in the middle of April. When the weather turns, just stick it in storage. It’s an easy task that will automatically make your restaurant feel fresher.
5. Plan events. On warm weather days, people are actively searching for creative ways to get out of the house. This means it’s the perfect time to host a seasonal beer tasting or designated live music nights. Just be sure the event is well thought out and feels unique to your restaurant.
6. Get ready for spring showers. Yes, winter (and winter storms) may be over, but that doesn’t mean that severe weather isn’t as possibility anymore. Prepare for those seasonal rainstorms by having umbrellas on hand for customers and valet, flyaway-resistant outside furniture and utensils, and a contingency plan in case you need to bring outdoor diners indoors.
7. Make a plan for spring holidays. Mother’s Day, of course, is one of the busiest days of the year for the restaurant business, so you should make sure you have your menu and promotional schedule decided at least a month in advance. But don’t forget about other holidays, like Easter and April Fools Day — is there another fun, easy promotion that you can do to drum up business? Chances are, just a little bit of creative brainstorming on two or three marketing initiatives will pay big dividends.
8. Match your décor to the weather. Even little things like opening a window, fresh flowers, and colorful plates can go a long way in making your space feel airier and brighter for the season, and in creating generally positive vibes in the dining room. But you don’t want to go too over the top — you still want your restaurant to feel like your restaurant.
9. Support community events. In addition to planning your own events, make the effort to engage with local community programming. Participate in a festival, donate food to an outdoor charity block party, host a BBQ for a local sports team. These sorts of initiatives will go a long way in building good will between you and your neighborhood.
10. Take advantage of March Madness. Nothing makes people want to eat and drink like a sporting event. If you’re a casual restaurant, offer live viewings of big games, with food and drink specials. If you’re slightly more high-end, offer takeaway packs with portable, game-day friendly dishes.