Business in the restaurant industry is chaotic at the best of times. Customer numbers may increase or remain steady in a good economy yet may suffer tremendously if the economy takes a tumble. As portrayed in Anthony Bourdain’s memoir Kitchen Confidential, struggling restaurateurs can get awfully desperate, relying on gimmicks like brunch and 2-for-1 dinners to help them keep the doors open. But one way in which smart restaurant owners and chefs can save themselves money all year long is by paying attention to seasonality and how changes in season can have an impact on their business. Let’s look at some of those forces at work and address how vision, strategy and technology can help restaurants to minimize the negative impacts of seasonal changes and use the food of the season to their advantage.
Seasonal Holidays Impact Restaurants
Restaurants often notice a decline in patrons during a seasonal holiday or major local event with sales dropping as much as 20 percent. During the holiday season, customers are spending time with family and preparing meals at home, so they’re less likely to book an evening out. But by using sophisticated video intelligence, restaurants can develop a moment-by-moment snapshot of their traffic throughout the year and use that analysis to predict when the restaurant is going to be busiest, such as the day after a holiday. Video intelligence has many other applications as well, such as allowing chefs to monitor their stores in order to use up ingredients that are approaching their sell-by dates, reordering from suppliers on a timely basis, and ensuring that kitchen staff are preparing their best meals with a minimum of product waste. Video intelligence also allows restaurants to recognize their character and their audience. For example, fast food or casual fast restaurants may thrive during the holidays when busy shoppers are looking for a quick bite between shopping or entertaining guests. By recognizing the true traffic patterns and the nature of their food sales, restaurants can far more accurately predict how business to going to react to seasonal changes.
Summertime for Restaurants
Of course restaurants are going to thrive during the summer months when ingredients are fresh and talented chefs are applying their generous imaginations to wonderful meals. During the summer months, one will find celebrity chef Jamie Oliver browsing through the stalls at London’s Borough Market, picking out ingredients for his next food escape. In northern California, one might find the genius Thomas Keller browsing through farmer’s markets looking for inspiration to drive his world-famous restaurant, The French Laundry. By utilizing a video surveillance system to track purchases and keep stock of inventory, restaurants can use these sometimes delicate ingredients and create marvelous dishes that drive traffic during the warm summer months. Restaurants also typically see a boost in business in the summer because of tourism in many cities and resorts, and warmer temperatures encourage outdoor dining, which helps provide even more tables for a restaurant to seat customers. Many restaurants also hold events like outdoor music, trivia contests and other fun entertainment that are very effective in drawing in customers and increasing sales.
Wintertime and Restaurants
Winter can be tough on restaurants. During cold winter days and nights, customers might wish to stay home and make soup rather than make a tough drive to a restaurant through snow, ice and cold temperatures. By monitoring a restaurant’s operations, though, owners and chefs can more appropriately provide staffing, order the right amount of stores and ingredients from their suppliers, and optimize operations. By monitoring internal operations, restaurants may also discover new insights like an increase in delivery or take-out traffic or a higher amount of bar-and-snacks customers.
Combating Seasonal Changes
Some restaurants throw marketing dollars at their businesses during a slow season, exhausting one of their major resources during a time when higher visibility might not be worth it. By implementing extensive video surveillance, analytics, and strategy, restaurants can improve their bottom line, prevent loss, and increase business without breaking the bank on expensive and gimmicky marketing campaigns.
Chuck Briggs has been helping restaurants run efficiently and profitably his entire career. After nearly 20 years in restaurant operations, Chuck began leveraging that experience as a hospitality technology sales consultant beginning in 1997.
Working with clients big and small, independent and multi-national, Chuck has represented point-of-sale solutions including Aloha POS, MICROS, POSitouch, RPOS, Digital Dining, Future POS and others. His emphasis the last several years has been on POS-integrated solutions for loss prevention, customer engagement, enterprise reporting, inventory and labor management.
Chuck holds a master’s degree in communication from Western Michigan University with a focus on organizational leadership, culture and climate.