Most of us put extra effort into our marketing, training, menu, and service for the winter holidays. Then things slow down and unless we're in a heavy summer tourist area, we fall into the summer doldrums. It doesn't have to be this way. Spring and Summer seasonal changes can bring some unique opportunities to lighten up your menu, freshen up your image, and gather up the business.
Out with the steamy soups and hearty fare. In with the salads, chilled soups, fresh ingredients, seasonal recipes, smoothies, and refreshing drinks. Serve items that offer substance and value without making people want to take a nap after their meal... unless you're providing the pillows. Add grilled steak, chicken, prawns or salmon to salads featuring unique garden ingredients and zippy dressings. Pour signature spritzers, smoothies, flavored teas and other alternatives to a cold soda.
Take advantage of the increased labor pool during the summer months. You never know which student on their summer break might become your next superstar team member. In fact, I recommend taking a proactive approach. Before school lets out, talk to the student employment office at local colleges and the career counselors at local high schools and let them know that you'll be hiring. Leave some applications and recruiting materials with them so they can send qualified students your way. And even if you're only hiring for the summer, don't skimp on training & orientation.
Misters, umbrellas, pest repellents, hand-held fans and even loaner sunglasses are good things to have on hand if you're seating guests outdoors. Make sure your indoor fans and/or air conditioning is in good working order, and try to find a temperature that keeps guests comfortable, but not overly chilled to compensate for the heat... a big mistake in many restaurants.
Are you located near a park, a beach or other recreation area? Encourage take out items or special boxed meals. It's a great way to boost sales and lower labor costs. Create a special take-out menu to leave with surrounding businesses, the chamber of commerce, tourist information centers, bicycle rental shops, etc., and coordinate with special events held in your community. If there's a summer theatre series, outdoor concerts or sporting events, design a marketing piece that describes how your restaurant can be part of the day or evening. Ask event promoters to include your materials in their mailings. They usually have excellent data bases and this is a great chance to reach new customers. You can offer to cross promote their event at your restaurant and with your own mailing list. If it's a fund raiser, you can donate a portion of your profits. You might also consider creating your own summertime destination with live music, "dinner & a movie" night, or menu theme nights.