10 Steps to Make the Most of Your Restaurant’s Seasonality

Make the most of your restaurant's seasonality

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Introduction

Like with most industries, restaurants see occasional peaks and lulls throughout the year. Depending on the season, your restaurant might need to hire extra staff, invest in menu changes or get financing to cover a revenue decline. For example, the summer holidays usually see increases in diners, while the winter holidays are more quiet as families opt to cook at home. No matter where you are in your year, these tips can guide you to meet each season with strategies to thrive.

  1. Find and Train Candidates Early

Shifts in demand for extra staff means your restaurant should be looking for new employees roughly three to four months before the start of your busiest season. While, this might seem early, the extra time will allow you to better train your new hires and see if they can handle the high flux of traffic and fit in with your business. It’s important to train your entire staff at the same time, across multiple sessions, to save time and money on training costs. There are many ways to source candidates, including local ads, newspapers, job boards or even word of mouth. Toast offers a Restaurant Hiring Kit including a job posting template, interview questionnaire and offer letter template for those who might want more help with conducting the search. You should also consider the cost – of time and money – it takes to hire new employees, especially if they leave your business quickly. Did you know that the average cost per hire in the hospitality industry comes in at just over $1,000? By measuring your employee turnover rate, you’ll see just how much it costs you to refill positions and understand where investments in training and employee retention can save you dollars.

  1. Create a Marketing Cadence

Each social channel offers a different audience for you to reach, whether organically or through paid posts. You can also run contests to encourage trial, repeat and engagement, which can sometimes be overlooked from an organic standpoint. Contests or giveaways can expand your user reach with little financial investment. Prizes can be as simple as gift cards to discounts to fully paid meals. Ask your followers to like, share, comment and/ or repost/retweet/regram/repin to enter to win. Once they share the posts, you’ll gain more exposure to their followers, who might not be following you.

  1. Create Blended Teams

Blending seasoned and newer team members will help newcomers get in the groove of things even faster. Even if you’ve trained them efficiently and effectively, there are bound to be some bumps in the road as new hires start. Mix newcomers and veteran employees in the same shifts to ensure if something goes amiss, the problem can be solved quickly. Veteran employees can also teach newcomers their own tricks for running the house more smoothly. For example, if a new hostess forgets to evenly distribute customers to certain sections, a veteran employee can help remind her to do so. For each position, make a list of what needs to be done and hand it out to the staff member in charge that day. To ensure all tasks are accomplished, create checklists for each position. Simply make a list of what needs to be done and hand it out to the staff member in charge that day.

  1. Emphasize Key Financials

The busy season spreads your focus in various areas from serving more customers to driving more revenue. However, it’s important to remember to keep your financials at the forefront of your focus and efforts. After all, you have to pay your vendors, taxes, utilities and other operational costs to keep your restaurant going. Let’s face it: Sometimes businesses need extra capital, especially during seasonal highs and lows. This is where small business loans can help. Unlike some financing sources, lines of credit help you make smaller purchases with shorter term limits. Lines of credit can range from six months to two years, whereas large, traditional loans can span for decades. No matter what your goals are, you should ensure your financials are front and center of your focus and that they’re in a healthy place.

  1. Leverage Technology to Optimize Customer Experience

Technology that serves your customers should be the heart of your small business. You might wonder how technology can support your restaurant beyond just your POS system, technology increases the speed of your table turns while also capturing the attention of online consumers (GrubHub, UberEats, Delivery.com, etc.). A customer-relationship management (CRM) system can collect data to measure your performance indicators, which can affect your financials. With a CRM system, you can more easily identify customer information for insights into marketing and promotional campaigns. If you haven’t updated your restaurant’s technological equipment, consider doing so and soon.

  1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

While it’s important to focus on expanding your restaurant through marketing, technological updates or staff hires, you must remember to focus on why customers are there in the first place: your food. Healthier options have been, and will continue to trend. Three out of four Americans say they’re more likely to pick a restaurant that offers healthy entrees. Looking into the future, local sourcing, fresh produce and authentic items (for example, a Greek restaurant being run by a Greek person) will continue to trend until 2020.

  1. Help Your Staff Wear Multiple Hats

While the new hires are breaking in, give your seasoned workers more responsibilities. Find out their talents and interests and have them help with small maintenance projects, run the hostess stand or even manage the books. To successfully have staff perform various tasks, ensure the goals are clearly communicated, develop an accountability system and structure your restaurant to meet its demands. Your staff helping with various tasks can ease your workload and can offer you new perspectives. It can also show if certain employees might be better in different roles or grow their careers in their roles. Collaborate with your team to see what task they might thrive in.

  1. Embrace Credit Lines

People sometimes shy away from borrowing money because they worry about high interest rates, payment periods or even defaulting on the loans. However, you shouldn’t let hesitation stop you from starting a partnership with a lender who wants to see you succeed. Most banks don’t offer short-term loans for small businesses. They typically lend out larger amounts of funds (six-figures) and repayment begins almost immediately. However, lines of credit can fill smaller cash-flow needs (e.g., inventory purchases, equipment leases, etc.). The biggest benefit of a line of credit is that interest rates are only charged on what you borrow, not your credit limit. You also don’t have to start making payments until you take out the funds. So, if you’re approved and don’t need the funds right away, you’re covered. For example, let’s say you’re approved to take out $20,000, but you only take out $2,000. You’re paying back the $2,000 plus interest on the $2,000. You also want to wait until your peak season to take out the funds. That means you don’t have to pay anything back until that peak season.

  1. Engage with Your Regulars

Tourists can be great for your restaurant, but it’s local patrons who will keep you in business. While you should market to tourists, your larger focus needs to be your local customers. Engagement can be as simple as making emotional connections with your customers. Remember their names and, if you can, their birthdays. You can also hold contests on social media. By sharing photos of their meals and using a certain hashtag, customers can be eligible for a free meal (or two!). Another great way to keep your neighbors dining at your restaurant is to create a loyalty program, change menus seasonally and to offer items that are dietary-restriction friendly. As a small business owner, it’s also important to give back to your local community. This can be done by organizing or participating in local events, providing gift certificates to local honor students or locally-sourcing produce to support your local economy. 

  1. Celebrate Now to Help Recruiting Later

When things calm down, you’ll want to take it easy and relax. However, make sure you show appreciation for your staff for helping you get through the season. Throw a staff-only party or seasonal potluck. You can also plan a company outing to a brewery or bowling alley. If you have enough revenue, you could also get them small gifts, thanking them for their hard work. Your staff will appreciate that their hard work was recognized and will be more productive. Restaurant turnover rate is a whopping 73 percent, with the average costs of an employee turnover being around $6,000. To avoid this high percentage, invest in your restaurant’s culture. You want your employees to enjoy working at your restaurant because they’ll be more productive and efficient. They’ll also tell others how much they like working with you and what exactly they like about it, which is great word-of- mouth marketing for future hires.

Conclusion

It’s important to take as much advantage of your busy season(s) as you can while keeping an eye on your seasonal lulls. By planning ahead, you can realize extra revenue when foot traffic increases and minimize expenses when it slows. Kabbage is here to provide extra support to ensure you’re reaching your potential. Kabbage provides small business lines of credit of up to $150,000 that can help you more adequately cover hiring extra staff, operating expenses, cash flow lulls and more. With Kabbage, you’ll have the partnership you need, when you need it.

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