Restaurants go through slow periods for many reasons. A popular New Year’s resolution for many people is to save money by eating out less. In winter, we tend to stay in and fill our homes with the aromas of rich stews and curries. Then there are restaurants in tourist destinations that go through a dip in business whenever the tourists pack up and leave.

Slow months are so worrying for restaurant owners that some of them choose to close down to cut costs. The only problem with this strategy is that it might turn away the few customers you were going to receive and they might never return. My recommendation is to stay open and use these restaurant tips to keep yourself afloat.

Use the power of promotions

An oldie but a goodie. Promotions are a guaranteed way to get more people through your doors. Try adding double-points days or referral points to your loyalty programme or offering your patrons a free meal on their birthdays (they probably won’t be dining alone) or, if your restaurant’s atmosphere permits, host events such as quiz tournaments or karaoke nights. It’s good to plan all your promotions for slow periods during peak times. In that way, you can set aside some of your profit while business is good. Your promotions should never leave you in worse financial shape so slashing prices should be the last thing you consider.

Stay in touch with newsletters

A strong newsletter campaign will ensure that your patrons are always aware of any promotions you’re running. You could use win-back emails with enticing personalised offers to re-engage patrons who haven’t returned to your restaurant. Slow months can also be used to get feedback from your patrons. Find out what they love about your restaurant and if they have anything new they would like to see, but make it worth their while. Try sending out a survey and give all your respondents a coupon for a free refill or dessert. Well-timed correspondence with engaging messaging has the power to tempt people off their diets.

Connect with your community

Partnering with local businesses helps you to get your name out there if you’re a new business. If you get any of your ingredients from local supermarkets, enter into an arrangement where they give their customers coupons for your restaurant. You can sponsor a local charity or sports team to build some necessary brand equity. There’s something about community-focused businesses that inspires people to support them even when times a tough.

Become a social media butterfly

I preach the gospel of social media like a fanatic because I think it’s an important marketing tool that is underutilised. It’s one of the most casual ways to engage with your patrons about promotions or general updates. You can launch right into whatever conversations your followers are already having and speak their language. Becoming social media-savvy is something all consumer brands should do because when your patrons are not in your business, they’re probably online.

For more restaurant tips to see you through the slow months and busy seasons, download The definitive 21st-century restaurant playbook.

Author: Rudi Badenhorst