Happy summer, friends! Like most people, I'm enjoying the longer days and warmer weather, but I also know that this can be a difficult time for restaurants. While we're all enjoying grilling at home and heading off on vacations, so are your customers, making it a slower time than most for restaurant owners.
This is my fifth summer working in restaurant marketing, and I've seen how difficult it can be. From small, independent restaurants to big restaurant groups, the summer slowdown struggle is real. I've spent summers executing it all for the big and small, from large-scale events and intricate loyalty programs to simpler flash sales and promotions. But, there are a few, SIMPLE tried-and-true tips I've learned along the way for increasing summer restaurant sales. We're digging into those today.
Here are three steps to get over your summer slump and pack the restaurant all season long — and, because we're all about #digitalhospitality over here, you can do all of these online.
Summer-ize Your Messaging
No, that's not a typo. We aren't "summarizing" here — we're sprinkling summer sparkle into our marketing messaging for the upcoming months. This may sound simple, but it's so often overlooked. Just like the holidays, it's important to step into the typical customer's thought process during the season and adjust accordingly. Here are my steps that I walk through with clients.
- Make a list of everything that excites you about summer dining, at your place or somewhere else — patios, air conditioning, rosé, summer cocktails, sessionable beers, seasonal produce, grilled meats... you get the idea.
- Narrow your list to the THREE things you do best. (Please don't say "we do all of it so well!" and focus on what your strengths really are.) Keep these as the focus for your marketing messages for the upcoming months.
Document & Disseminate
Now that we know what our focuses will be, we need a plan for how to talk about them and share them with others. Under each of your three focuses, make a list of things you can do to talk about them with guests. Go beyond "we have a great selection of rosé" and build upon it in ways that can be educational, informative or entertaining.
Here are a few examples of how to document and disseminate:
- Gather photos of every seasonal summer dish or drink on your menu
- Take photos of your patio (with or without people)
- Make a list of every local farmer you're working with this summer
- Get tasting notes and fun facts from the bar manager about drink specials
- Boasting as a great place for families or date night? Take photos of families or couples enjoying the space.
- Use this summer content on your owned channels — social media, email marketing, your website.
- Consider your timing. Posting about brunch on Sunday morning is good, but also adding one in on Friday while people make weekend plans is even better.
- Create a hashtag to start a larger campaign. Ex. #SummerAtThe5thSense
Spread the Word
Now that you're rocking this on your own platforms, it's time to get it out into the world. Whether you have a PR team or not, there are plenty of steps you can take on your own to spread the word.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Contact the Media
- Email the food writers in your area about your big three for summer! Look out for common seasonal topics that you could contribute to — most are writing about the same things we put on our summer list, so look for places you could fit in and reach out offering information on what you're up to.
- Contact the Mini-Media
- Get on community calendars for events and invite local food Instagrammers in to try your summer specialty. Most would love to come in and engage with you, they just like to be invited! (I also always suggest clients comp whatever the treat is)
- Package It
- People are always looking for fun new ways to experience the neighborhood, provide it! If you operate next to a popular summer activity (a theatre, putt-putt, something outdoors, etc.), reach out and see if they'd like to partner on a package deal to offer a full summer experience.