Marketing Tactics For Restaurants to Win in the Winter
Restaurants , 6 May 2021
When winter rolls around each year, it can be a real challenge to entice customers to leave the comfort of their home and head out for the evening for a bite to eat. Maybe it's because the days get shorter, or the thought of venturing out into the whether is unthinkable for most patrons - whatever the reason, typically the winter months in New Zealand are the slowest for the hospitality industry;
"According to figure.nz, May to August represents the period with the fewest number of guest nights spent in commercial accommodation in New Zealand. Additionally, New Zealand residents are contending with higher costs of living at present, rendering them rather frugal, with not a lot of disposal income to speak of. The result of this is, as a culture, we don’t tend to eat out as much as others and so businesses cannot rely on our local populations to carry them through the winter months." - Andrae Gaeth, Hospo IQ
So how can you prepare for the slower months and and boost your revenue generation over the winter? Here are a few tactics to employ that are helping Kiwi businesses win.
1. Create Specifically Targeted Events
For a lot of people, dining out isn't just about the food, it's about the atmosphere and the opportunity to socialise and get together with their friends and family. During the winter months especially, creating events that specifically target your regulars and give them a good reason to head out of the house and into your restaurant is paramount.
So what do we mean by specifically targeted events? Well, we'd begin by taking a look at who your customers are demographically and what their interests and dining preferences are and building from there. For example;
- If your target customers are usually businesses and young professionals, a mid-winter Christmas themed banquet with team building challenges, designed for companies to take advantage of might be a good event for your customers to get behind.
- If typically your restaurant is attended by younger university students a themed quiz night or open mic evening might suit better, or even a 'bring your mates and get a beer free' promotion for house drinks.
- If you're usually a hot spot for upper-class dining or special occasion dates, a 'Special occasion you've been saving it for BYO' night, encouraging customers to bring in their own nice bottle of wine or champagne they've put aside for a while and have a night out to treat themselves.
The key message is to know your customers, get creative and make a dinner out a special outing. Any promotional event is a good excuse for customers to splash out and unwind with their friends - and sometimes an event is exactly the extra incentive needed to head out of the house in the cold.
2. Collaborate with Your Neighbours
During the colder season, it's safe to say that a lot of the hospitality industry is in the same boat. But don't feel like you have to bare the burden of the off-season alone, this is the perfect time to get friendly and collaborate with other Kiwi businesses and put together some exciting promotions.
"Restaurants can begin a possible partnership with a fitness center, a car dealership, a coffee shop, or another establishment for a unique approach to drawing in new customers that you might not have previously reached before." - upserve.com
There are two ways to approach this; working directly on a promotion, and working with other Kiwi businesses to go 'NZ made'. Here's how these might work:
i. Work with others on a specific promotion
Reaching out to other Kiwi businesses with a specific collaborative project in mind is a great way to cross-generate revenue. If there's something in it for both vendors and you're giving your customers something awesome to attend, then there's no reason not to collaborate.
This could be as simple as heading to social media and working with an influencer to promote your brand on their profile and expand your reach, to something more complex like working with a specific wine brand to host a wine tasting evening. If your restaurant has really popular and well known dish, working with a 'social cooking' chef and teaching your restaurants fans your signature dish would be another great way to cross-promote.
The opportunities are endless - and often when you're working alongside another company, the options and ideas flow and your audience reach increases.
ii. Go local and source 'NZ made'
If you're not interested in getting to know and work with your hospitality neighbours on promotions, you can still champion 'Kiwi Made' by working with local suppliers for your meats and produce. In the current climate (given the pandemic and Kiwis banding together to support each other) this is a great way to keep your supply chain local and support NZ.
This is a great marketing angle to work as well. Put simply, Kiwis love backing Kiwis, and there's nothing more appealing right now than choosing a restaurant that's keeping it local and giving back to NZ. It'll get new customers through your door and position your restaurant well as a local favourite.
3. Re-Brand Your Menu for Winter
Naturally, the dishes that you serve throughout the summer months such as salads, wraps and other light options will wane in popularity when the weather gets cold. People tend to look for comforting foods in the winter that are hot and filling, so preemptively adapt to your customers' change in appetite by refreshing your menu is a great call.
- Start by swapping out menu items for seasonal veg. Instead of offering a side salad with a steak, offer roasted veges. You can keep the costs down by staying seasonal and adapt menu items without having to re-design a menu completely.
- Even adding a side or two to your menu options (like a mac n cheese or winter roasties) that don't require a lot of effort from your kitchen team but add a lot of value and comfort to your customers is helpful.
- Pick a day of the week and offer a winter special for a discounted price. For example, a popular option for many restaurants is to hold a 'Sunday Roast' night where customers pay a set price.
- If you don't want to touch your food menu, it's always an option to simply adjust your drinks for the colder weather. Promoting things such as a free after dinner coffee or even a mulled wine special can entice customers and differentiate your restaurant for the others on your street. Why not flip the popular 'bottomless brunch' on it's head for a Friday evening - we've never seen a 'bottomless mulled wine' special!
- Another option is to consider your dessert menu. Offering a winter special dish like fondue or hot puddings is a great angle to take without having to change too much on your menu.
Just remember, menu changes don't have to be extensive and costly, sometimes they might actually save you money. Plus, a little winter innovation to align with the types of meals that your customers are after will get a few patrons through the door.
4. Up your Take-Away Game
What do people love more than leftovers? Taking their leftovers home and enjoying the comfort of not having to cook two nights in a row when it's cold outside. A good way to incentivise people to visit your restaurant (and buy those bigger menu items) is to encourage taking home leftovers.
Make sure you've considered your options for packaging and let your customers know that they're totally fine to do so! Knowing that they're going to get more than one meal out of their excursion when they're already feeling reluctant to leave home is a great sell for your customers.
If you'd rather not encourage your customers to take home food, there are a few other things you can do in terms of takeaways. Offering your customers a free takeaway slice of cake, dessert or coffee with any main is an easy to execute option that sweetens the deal of dining at your establishment.
5. Offer Early Bird Specials
During the winter months when the sun goes down early, people tend to be more reluctant to stay out late and happy to have dinner at an earlier slot in the evening. This is the perfect season to take advantage of early bird specials. If you can, we'd recommend:
- adding in an early evening 'happy hour' for drinks to entice after work diners to grab a drink and catch up with some food at your establishment
- offering a discount on mains or sides for early birds happy to take an early evening table
- encouraging families to bring the kids for a before bedtime meal special
Of course, First Table is a great way to make the most of that first table of service and encourage customers to dine earlier in the evening during off-peak hours in winter.
If you'd like to find out more about how we can help you to make the most out of your typically slower hours in the cold winter months, grab our FREE guide below!