Every restaurant experiences a slow season at least once a year. Therefore, having a plan to tackle this lull should be a priority for every restaurant owner. The best way to deal with this downtime depends on what type of restaurant you have, but the following are three key ways to bring in more business when things start to slow down.
This is the perfect time to utilize all the e-mails you have collected over the course of the year by putting together a dynamic e-mail campaign with special deals at least once a week. Each week should have a different deal, giving consumers a different reason to visit your restaurant. If you didn’t collect any e-mails all year, it’s not too late to get started. Leveraging e-mail services such as Constant Contact or MailChimp can help you build and market your e-mail list. You can also activate an in-restaurant e-mail program; have your consumers sign up for your e-mail list to receive exclusive specials, updates and deals.
2. Facebook offer
If you have been building, engaging and growing your targeted Facebook fan base for a while, then now is the time to leverage the site’s free tools. Once you have a Places page, you can launch a Facebook offer, which is a great way to drive new people to your restaurant and engage your customers. Offers also encourage people to talk about your page when shared between friends.
This is also an effective way to reach the friends and family of your existing fan base. It takes about a minute to set up and go live, and there is no minimum discount or value required. Offers are like coupons and don’t cost anything to create. When someone claims an offer, they will receive an e-mail that they can bring to your restaurant to get the discount.
A new feature in Foursquare allows you to reach out to your most loyal customers when they are nearby. The best part about this feature is that it lets you connect with customers who frequent your restaurant. Foursquare Local Updates allows restaurants to send updates about specials to their “best customers” when they are nearby. Updates, which can function similarly to a tweet or Facebook status, can be in text message or photo format (or both).
Restaurants can use this option during a slow season to send a blast to nearby customers about an exclusive special or deal. Local updates do not go to the customer’s phone as push notifications; instead they are sent within the stream alongside check-ins, “likes” and tips.
The bottom line is that if you’ve been running your business for a while, you should know when the slow season will occur — so plan ahead. Create in-restaurant coupons in advance and give them to consumers who dine during your busier season. The catch is that those deals will only be usable during specific dates when your restaurant is looking to drive more traffic.
One common misconception is that businesses cut back on marketing during their slow season, which is something that I have never quite understood. Are there any restaurant owners or managers who would like to explain this? Leave a comment below.
Andre Kay is CEO and chief marketing officer of Sociallybuzz, which provides social media management, marketing, fan-page application development and social media consultation. The company is designed to help brands and businesses develop a firm foundation in social media and marketing while delivering the greatest number of options in how they define or reach their relevant audience. Read the company’s blog, follow it on Twitter and “like” its Facebook page.