When it snows, it, well, snows. Coming off a less-than-robust holiday season, restaurants in much of the country are battling heavy snowfall and bitter-cold temperatures, which keep could consumers at home. But that’s not a given.
On social media channels, people are claiming bragging rights for braving the elements to get to their favorite places—and operators, in turn, are liking, commenting and reposting these consumer comments to try and draw in additional guests.
One college student in Oklahoma City, Okla. tweeted “Standing in 28 degree weather waiting to get into @KDTrey5’s restaurant” on Dec. 29. Others are turning to restaurants as a place of temporary refuge from the weather—and using Twitter to alert their friends. A New York radio personality posted on Jan. 2, “Peeking through a restaurant window as a Blizzard sky sets in. #nyc #snow @George’s New York.” His tweet included a link to an Instagram photo from inside the restaurant, which got more than 50 likes.
Similarly, operators are using Twitter to promote their restaurants as cold-weather relief. After @Treasure_MA, a Boston culture writer, posted to Twitter that Puritan & Company (@PuritanCo) was a “Top Pick 4 Braving Storm,” the chef from the Cambridge, Mass., restaurant wrote his own follow-up post. Chef Will Gilson used Twitter to thank patrons for venturing in the cold and encouraged others to do so, posting, “Thanks for coming out tonight and braving the elements everyone. We’re doing it again tomorrow @PuritanCo. 4 courses $40, $1 roasted oysters.”
Operators aren’t ignoring the shut-ins, either, coaxing business from the stay-at-homes with tweets about carryout services. After more than a foot of snow fell on Chicago Jan. 2, Epic Restaurant tweeted “Winter weather advisories mean #delivery is a must. @DiningIn has you covered,” along with a picture of its food and a link to a carryout service’s site with its menu. The same post was retweeted several times in a few hours, including by @FoodiechatsCHI, a self-proclaimed foodie community chat group with more than 7,000 followers, which added its own, “Menu looks great” comment. That same day, Doc B’s, another Chicago restaurant, tweeted a similar message: “Not ready to venture outside? Get your meal delivered straight to your door via @DiningIn. #chicago #snow.”
The weather-related challenges follow what early assessments depict as a lackluster holiday sales season. Consumers spent more during the 2013 holiday season than they have in years past, but the increase was a mere 2.3 percent in the United States, according to the Mastercard Advisors SpendingPulse report. Much of that was driven by deep discounting and price cuts.
Discounting and dealing was evident in the restaurant industry as well, as some operators offered free food or gift cards with gift card purchases, while others ran promotions such as Starbucks’ “12 Days of Gifting.”
Gift cards were a big seller. More than a third of holiday shoppers planned to buy restaurant gift cards during the holidays, according to an article from CNBC’s Consumer Nation.