The summer season for restaurants is a mixed bag - some restaurants do a great business such as places that cater to tourists in top holiday destinations. Some restaurants do well by tying in with local festivals and outdoor events. Many restaurants draw increased foot traffic during the warmer months. However, most restaurants suffer severe slowdowns when their regular customers go on vacation and eat outdoors in parks. Hotter weather naturally makes people order lighter and less profitable foods. That's why it's important to develop a summer marketing campaign.
Restaurant chains are facing downturns, and many are pulling back on development plans according to Rewardsnetwork.com. In this environment, it can be difficult for small operators to survive during a long, hot summer.
Your customers don't mean to abandon you during the summer - there's just so much to do that people don't get by as often. Your regular customers might choose to brown-bag their meals to enjoy in the park on beautiful days while your restaurant remains bare. Many people buy meals and snacks from food trucks. In France and other countries, some large restaurant operations close for the whole month of August. This could be a great marketing opportunity for restaurants that stay open all summer.
An article at Restaurant.com puts the value of local tourism at 30% of sales for fine dining restaurants. Travel experts predict that travel is on the decline this year in the United States, so that could be good or bad news for restaurants depending on their anticipated revenue from tourism. Regardless of your share of the tourist dollar, you can still promote summer restaurant events to ignite sales and reinforce customer loyalty.
Securing Your Base of Loyal Customers
You can crystallize customer loyalty by giving people a reason to dine during the summer months. Summer is a great time to market a new menu, hold special tasting events and sponsor charity fundraisers. Promote your loyalty rewards programs with special incentives for dining during the summer months. Social media offer plenty of promotional opportunities such as contests, scavenger hunts, bar crawls and popup events.
Tasting events might include partnering with a local winery or craft beer brewery. You can hold a wine or beer tasting once a week throughout the summer months. You can also hold tasting events for your summer menu. Creating some interesting new bar beverages, ice cream sodas, homemade lemonade, smoothies and iced coffee beverages can ignite sales during the hot months.
Catering can also provide extra income. During the summer, there are indoor and outdoor parties, receptions, weddings, barbecues, sporting events and other opportunities for catering jobs.
Real Holidays, Summer Events and Mock Celebrations
There are dozens of events during the summer no matter where you live. Find out what's happening locally, and see whether you can run a booth or sell food from a trailer or a food truck. A mobile POS system makes these kinds of sales easy to manage. Regardless of whether you can participate directly, you can piggyback on the event with social media marketing and GPS-targeted advertising campaigns.
You can celebrate real holidays during the summer with special menus, outdoor barbecues, boxed carryout meals and prepackaged picnic baskets. Most countries celebrate some kind of independence day during warm weather such as Independence Day in the United States, Cinco de Mayo in Mexico and Bastille Day in France. Other summer holidays include Father's Day, and in the United States, Memorial Day and Labor Day bookend the summer season from start to finish. In Europe, hundreds of film festivals, concerts, national holidays, boating events and medieval fairs provide great marketing tie-ins for restaurants.
Summer holidays include National Egg Day, Ice Cream Soda Day, National Chocolate Éclair Day, FIFA World Cup, National Martini Day, Summer Solstice and National Junk Food Day. If you can't find a holiday that suits your needs, just create one. Fake holidays might include Christmas in July, Summerween, Weasel Stomping Day, Packing-the-Kids-Off-to-Camp Day or any idea that you think might bring in business.
Special Menus for Summer
Summer is a great time to market local produce such as strawberries, tomatoes, arugula, salad greens, peaches, bell peppers, squash, zucchini and fresh herbs. Create fresh dishes daily based on what's available at the local farmer's market. Show your creative flair by churning out gallons of homemade ice cream in fabulous flavors using local fruit.Personal note: My restaurant was located right on a century-old farmer's market, and I used it most of the time to find ideas for a "vegetable of the day." This daily special was so popular that it often generated more interest than my regular menu items.
Expecting something new each week is a big drawing card for restaurants - especially in summer. Heavier winter dishes include most types of comfort food, and regular customers tend to stick to their favorites during cold weather. Summer guests are often more open to new food experiences. When you create a dish, post pictures on your website and social media pages. Encourage customers to share pictures and reviews to generate media buzz.
In summer, you can make big profits with simple but colorful fruit platters and desserts. All you need to do is macerate some strawberries, peaches or other berries in a little sugar and lemon juice or honey and balsamic vinegar. Spoon these over shortcake, sponge cake or angel food cake for a scrumptious seasonal treat. Arrange fruit slices in colorful patterns, and drizzle simple syrup over the fruit for a premium summer dish. You can create a summer smoothie menu to help you move your fruit and produce rapidly to prevent spoilage.
Partnering with Local Tourist Attractions
During the summer, referrals from local hotels, motels, museums, art galleries and amusement parks can increase your revenue and cover the shortages caused by reduced business from regular customers. Your customers are traveling, so it makes sense to replace them with tourists to your city.
You can offer discounts for hotel guests, leave copies of your menu in the lobbies of local hotels or provide hotel delivery service to capitalize on visitors to your city. Other options include partnering with local retailers such as a beachwear shop, sunglasses emporium or surfboard and paddleboard rental shop.
Lots of professional and amateur groups offer entertainment options. You can book musicians, stand-up comics and theatrical events for a limited run at your restaurant. You can even book fortune tellers, palm readers and magicians to attract tourists and regulars. Enlist local artists to display their work at your restaurant. Booking live entertainment attracts new people who come for the event but return for the great food and friendly atmosphere.
You can also get mileage from city-sponsored entertainment events by offering a discount for showing a ticket to the event, using GPS-targeted marketing to advertise in real-time before and after the event or opening your patio or outdoor-dining deck for viewers of parades, neighborhood festivals and concerts.
One of the most effective restaurant promotions for summer is romance. You can promote a romantic candlelight dinner for two throughout the summer. You might design an all-inclusive package that includes favors, appetizer, entree, dessert and wine. The meal might include flowers, chocolates and a menu featuring foods reputed to have aphrodisiac effects. This is a great way to market expensive wines and champagnes during the summer months. Live music might include romantic tunes played on the guitar or piano.
The creative marketing of summer events can prevent the loss of income caused by customers who prefer to dine outdoors during the summer months. Just find out where the people are in your city, and target them for relevant marketing. You'll be amazed at how well this works.