Eateries at many beach locations have to cram the bulk of their business into just a few summer months. And the competition is fierce throughout vacation season—especially at specialized concepts, such as ice cream parlors, seafood shacks or breakfast spots. During a recent beach vacation, I stumbled upon three restaurants that effectively market to summer crowds by reinforcing their brand message in clever ways.
1. Shell game
Summer crowds often mean long waits for food at popular waterfront destinations. At The Dock House, a laid-back seafood shack in Sag Harbor, N.Y., customers order their lobster rolls and fried clams at the counter, then step aside to wait until they’re ready. But instead of giving guests an annoying buzzer or sending a text as a ready alert, Dock House hands out small shells painted with a number surrounded by local motifs and the restaurant's name. The shells build brand awareness and are a conversation piece that made the time pass quickly while waiting for my number to be called.
2. Planting a message
The crowd winds around the porch at Cape Cod Creamery in South Yarmouth, Mass., as ice cream fans line up for after-dinner cones and sundaes. Hanging planters shaped like ice cream cones and filled with flowers only increases customers’ cravings by reminding them of the treats ahead. As you inch closer to the counter, employees offer free tastes of the more than 30 flavors, all with names reflecting Cape Cod towns and attractions. The subtle and tangible cues did the trick—I ordered a double scoop instead of the kiddie ice cream cup I had originally planned on.
3. A bonus for early birds
Hungry hordes jostle for tables all morning long at Red Cottage, a breakfast classic in the Cape Cod town of South Dennis, Mass. This summer, the roadside restaurant is offering a “Rise and Dine” special in honor of its 85th anniversary. From 7 to 9 a.m., customers get a complimentary newspaper with an order of Red Cottage’s famous stuffed or plain breakfast popovers. The incentive brings in early-morning vacationers and locals, easing traffic at the height of the morning rush.