While restaurants typically see an increase in business over the summer, patio season has been the key to survival for many restaurants worldwide. With the weather warming up, customers are ditching their winter coats for lighter fare and are beginning their hunt for the best patio to enjoy the rising temperatures.
However, competition can be intense as restaurants setup their outdoor shops and get ready to receive locals and tourists. The sooner your restaurant gets set up, the sooner potential guests can pick you from the pack.
Expanding and modernizing your outdoor space early can set you apart from your competition and give customers more reason to visit you for a summer beverage and salad. From updating your menus to adjusting your floor plan, we’ve got the action plan you need to prepare for patio season.
- Review seasonal data
- Update your menu with seasonal offerings
- Offer new ways to order
- Prepare for warm weather deliveries
- Adjust your floor plan
- Hire and train your seasonal staff
- Enhance your online presence
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1. Review seasonal data
Data can be your biggest ally—if you know how to use it. Before making any major seasonal changes to your current offerings, take a look at previous years’ performance. If you’re using a cloud-based point of sale with reporting capabilities, you should be able to access historical data on seasonal performance. Which menu items are regularly sold out? And which flopped? Were there specific drinks that were constantly on high demand? Did you offer any special promotions that worked really well? What worked during the winter or spring might not necessarily work during the summer. Having access to these insights will help you kickstart your summer restaurant revamp, choose which menu items are worth keeping and hit the ground running.
Use data to plan your inventory
Inventory management can be tricky, and if done incorrectly it can lead to waste and increased costs. While you can always manually do your inventory counts or use a par inventory sheet for example, opting for an automated inventory management system lets you easily keep track of your ingredients, telling you how much food you went through, how much you still have and how much you should order. Having an integrated inventory system within your point of sale, reduces the potential for human error, and gives you insights that help you plan ahead. If you’re regularly seeing spoilage on specific ingredients, you’ll be able to get a better idea of the amount you should be ordering and identify where you can save on your cost of goods sold.
2. Update your menu with seasonal offerings
Now that you’ve reviewed your data, it’s time to look at your menu. With the insights you’ve gathered you should have a better idea of your best and worst performers during the previous summer seasons, so you can add or remove accordingly.
Data, however, does’t need to be your only resource for menu planning. Adding a few menu items with seasonal ingredients can help drive sales and increase customer loyalty in the process.
Sustainability has become more important to all diners, but people aged 25-40 are leading the change. 73% of millennials say they’re willing to spend more on environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients. Since food produced out of season is typically imported or takes more energy to grow, seasonal produce and ingredients is a great way to reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint and show today’s customers that you’re listening.
Not only are seasonal items better for your restaurant’s sustainability mission, they also add excitement around your menu. Get creative with new items that’ll help customers beat the heat. Do you want to start offering ice cream but don’t have the right tools? Consider partnering with a local dessert shop. Through a shared discount code for customers, this partnership is beneficial to both businesses since they aren’t in direct competition.
3. Offer new ways to order
Gone are the days of only having one way to order while at a restaurant. Offering online ordering is a great way to modernize your patio experience.
Online or QR code ordering lets customers take control over their dining experience, allowing them to view menu items, order and even pay their bill directly from their phone. For guests that regularly visit your restaurant, this is a great way to freshen up their dining experience with minimal changes to the way you work. Guests can place orders how they like and staff can put extra focus on improving their customer experience.
New restaurant hardware is also making it easier for restaurants to move faster and serve better. A handheld POS system lets your staff to take orders and payments on the go, without having to run back and forth to a central POS.
These technologies aren’t just great options for your customers, they can also be incredibly helpful when you’re low on staff. With the ongoing labor shortage in the restaurant industry, many restaurants have started automating their ordering process to reduce the amount of work that their limited staff has on their plate.
4. Prepare for warm weather deliveries
It’s important to keep in mind that some customers will prefer to dine at home. This is where a smart takeout and delivery strategy is essential to keeping customers loyal to your business.
While delivering in the winter has its own challenges, mainly keeping food warm, summer deliveries face the opposite issue. The last thing you—or your customers—want is your orders overcooking in a hot car while they’re en route to your customer’s doorstep.
When delivering items like salads, you need to make sure your packaging can accommodate ice or other cooling methods without making the contents soggy. To do that, you’ll want to invest in the right type of packaging and limit your delivery radius so your meals arrive at your customers’ homes the same way they would at a table in your restaurant. It’s important to adapt your menu so you can be confident that your customers will be satisfied outside of your restaurant.
Looking to streamline this process so your orders get to where they’re going faster? Lightspeed Delivery syncs with major apps like UberEats, Skip The Dishes and DoorDash so orders are sent directly to your POS.
5. Adjust your floor plan
When customers are visiting your restaurant patio or dining room, comfort is key. Start with circulation. Spacing out your tables is a great start, but you’ll need to look at the paths your customers could take to the washroom, exit, entrance and how many people could potentially be at your restaurant at one time. You want to develop a flow that lets customers move comfortably around the patio, but will also let you maximize the space in terms of seats available.
Other things to consider include shade and ventilation. Patios are only a draw if they’re comfortable for guests to sit in and enjoy their meals for an extended period—rain or shine. Place special attention on shading, whether it’s adding a retractable awning, or big umbrellas. Summer days can also get particularly uncomfortable with rising temperatures. Besides refreshing beverages on your menu, equip your patio with fans and other forms of outside ventilation to keep them cool no matter the temperature.
You’ll also need to identify how employees move through your space. Identify the space your employees need to do their jobs and ensure a separation between them and your guests. Maximizing your space will involve some trial and error, but consulting with your employees to understand their day-to-day movements is a great place to start. Changing your space doesn’t need to be a nightmare logistically. With a point of sale like Lightspeed, you can easily modify your floor plan on the go and keep your staff up to date.
6. Hire and train your seasonal staff
Whether you’re adding a few tables on the sidewalk or opening a full patio, chances are you’ll need to hire some extra help during this busy season.
Not only will you have to find, hire and train your new employees, but savvy restaurant owners will also take it one step further and actively connect with and motivate them as well. As Forbes points out, it can be hard for employees to give it their all when they know that they’re gone at the end of the season. Give them a shout out when they do a good job to boost their morale, provide unique benefits and a competitive salary when possible to attract and keep the best.
The restaurant industry is notorious for incredibly high employee turnover, with a 73% turnover rate. When the average cost of finding and hiring a new employee is $4,000, that means a lot of resources are lost due to employee turnover. You can cut costs and training hours by investing in a POS system that’s user-friendly. With an intuitive system, your employees will know how to use your restaurant POS faster and be up and running with all the answers at their fingertips.
7. Enhance your online presence
Marketing is absolutely critical any time of the year. A strong online presence can help with brand recognition and attract new customers.
Think about the last restaurant you visited. Did you look up their website? You’re not the only one. 77% of diners do the same and, of that group, nearly 70% can be discouraged from visiting an establishment because of its website. Capture that audience by ensuring your website is easy to navigate, sharing your menu and taking it one step further by enabling reservations online.
In the food industry, looks matter. Visual representation of what your customers can expect is important. When browsing for a spot to eat online, 45% of people say they specifically look for photos of a restaurant’s food. But don’t worry if you don’t have the budget to hire a photographer—follow these simple tips and you can start filling your online feed.
While a strong online presence is important, think outside of the box and get creative with some other branding elements like eye-catching flyers and employee merchandise. These physical branded items will strengthen your brand identity and help tell your story.
Prep your restaurant for a busy season
Make the most of the summer season by getting your restaurant—from the patio to the kitchen—ready for both your new and loyal customers.
If previous seasons taught us anything, your patio and outdoor seating is going to be a major draw, but it’s important to look at all aspects of your business. Perfecting your delivery and takeout offering and putting your restaurant online are all things you can check off your list now before the high-season starts.
Looking to take your restaurant to the next level? Talk to one of our experts today.
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