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The Financial Benefits of Investing in Your Restaurant for the Summer: A Guide for Business Owners

The Financial Benefits of Investing in Your Restaurant for the Summer: A Guide for Business Owners

Restaurant owners across North America have been preparing for summer and the peak foot traffic that comes with good weather. As we head further into patio season, there’s always time to invest in your restaurant for the better–and potentially see big returns. 

Seasonal planning is key to any restaurant’s success. Whether you’re implementing a new menu, hiring or rearranging your layout to optimize service, everything you do adds up to an improved customer experience–and subsequently, higher sales. 

From June to August, restaurants see an uptick in sales due to tourism, school holidays and favorable weather. According to the National Restaurant Association, 60% of consumers dine out more frequently during the summer months. 

Plus, according to a survey by OpenTable, outdoor dining reservations increase by 25% during the summer months. And another survey indicates that 40% of diners prefer restaurants that have outdoor seating during the warm months. That tells you all you need to know about why you should optimize your outdoor dining area. 

Summer season in full force: Terrace Bay Hotel

Lightspeed customer Terrace Bay Hotel knows all about summer demand. They make half their revenue from June to August. 

“It’s just a really popular tourist destination and you’ve basically got, for a few months, unlimited demand. So it’s really important for us to be able to turn tables quickly and maximize that peak four month season,” owner Jarred Drown says. 

Investing in Lightspeed POS and Payments has helped them succeed during their peak season: with pay at the table, their staff eliminates back and forth between a payment terminal and tables. This allows them to turn more tables without compromising on quality of service. 

“We’re able to get that customer in and out faster. They have a better experience and we’re able to get more people at those tables.” 

Despite a natural increase in customers in the summer, there’s plenty you can do to boost your revenue, and that starts with having the funding to execute your plans. 

In this article, we’ll cover the following: 


How to fund your restaurant

There are plenty of funding options for your business, from bank loans to lines of credit to merchant cash advances. This table breaks them down for you. 

Financing option Description Pros Cons
Bank loans Traditional loans offered by banks with fixed interest rates and repayment terms. – Lower interest rates compared to other options.

– Fixed repayment schedule

– Requires good credit. 

– Potentially lengthy approval process 

– May require collateral

– Late payments may incur fees

Lines of credit Flexible funding where restaurants can borrow up to a certain limit and pay interest only on borrowed amounts. – Flexibility to borrow as needed

– Pay interest only on the amount used

– Variable interest rates can fluctuate

– Requires good credit 

– Annual fees may apply

Merchant cash advances Lump sum of working capital provided in exchange for a percentage of future sales. – Quick access to funds

– No set payment schedule

– Approval based on sales, not credit score

– No long application

– Potentially high flat fee

– May impact cash flow for smaller businesses

Did you know? Eligible Lightspeed customers can take advantage of Lightspeed Capital, our merchant cash advance program. If you’re approved, you can get funding in as soon as two business days, which you can use for any expense. Plus, there are no payment schedules, fluctuating interest rates or lengthy applications. The advance is remitted daily through a portion of your sales. To find out if you’re eligible, sign in to your Lightspeed account and go to the Financial Services section, or email us at [email protected].

Restaurant funding in action

Lightspeed customer and multilocation restaurant Dabangg Group received restaurant funding through Lightspeed Capital. They used their cash advance to invest in modern hardware. 

“When it comes to opening a restaurant, there are a lot of overhead costs and capital assets we need to inject into the new sites. So, when Lightspeed Capital came in, that helped us maintain the infrastructure and invest in new systems,” said purchasing manager Joju Shibu.

Key areas to fund your business

While preparation for the peak sales season typically starts months in advance, you can act on the areas of opportunity we discuss here any time. 

1. Optimize outdoor seating and patio space

Adding more patio or outdoor seating can increase the number of covers you can serve, which can help increase overall revenue during peak times when demand is high.

But it’s not just a matter of adding more chairs in the mix. You can actually optimize your layout to serve customers better and help your employees become more efficient. Creating a more attractive dining environment–particularly in good weather–can bring in more customers and increase interest from passersby. 

This is a great investment during the summer months because you can accommodate more guests. 

Potential cost considerations

Setup purchases

  • Furniture: Tables, chairs, umbrellas and other outdoor furniture.
  • Decor: Plants, lighting and other decorations.
  • Construction: Build out your patio, deck or other outdoor areas.
  • Licenses and permits: You may require outdoor dining permits, noise permits or zoning permits. 

Operational costs 

  • Maintenance: Regular cleaning, repairs and upkeep of outdoor areas.
  • Staffing: Additional staff may be required to serve outdoor areas, especially during peak times.

Potential ROI 

Increased revenue 

Despite these costs, improving your outdoor area can increase restaurant capacity, allowing for more customers and higher sales during these key summer months. Not only that, higher customer satisfaction due to your new and improved environment could lead to longer stays and more spending per customer. 

Customer attraction 

Those looking to enjoy good weather may be more attracted to your patio if it is aesthetically pleasing, offers plenty of seating and appears welcoming. You can also appeal to pet owners by offering pet-friendly seating areas.

2. Offer seasonal menu items

Did you know 37% of diners are more likely to try a new menu item if it features seasonal ingredients? Not only that, adding exclusivity to your menu helps attract more customers, with 35% of consumers more likely to order an item if it’s on the menu for a limited time. 

That’s your cue to incorporate seasonal offerings into your menu. Invest in developing new dishes and drinks and highlight them strategically on your menu. You don’t necessarily need to have a theme for your menu, but ensuring enough diversity helps attract more customers (for instance, having both vegetarian and meat options), especially in the summer months when many people are strolling by patios glancing at menus. 

One key here is high-margin speciality items, which are menu offerings that yield a high margin compared to their cost. This includes unique, seasonal or gourmet dishes and drinks that customers are willing to pay a premium for, like specialty cocktails. 

Potential cost considerations

Ingredient costs

Seasonal ingredients can sometimes be cheaper because of their availability, but it’s important to account for fluctuations in availability and prices.

Menu development

Menu-related costs include developing and testing new recipes, which involves chef time and kitchen experimentation. This may also take long-term planning. 


Promoting new menu items through advertising, social media or in-restaurant promotions.

Potential ROI 

Increased sales

Making your menu more enticing can increase foot traffic and draw in customers, especially those looking for novel dining experiences. It can also boost word-of-mouth reviews.

Plus, limited time offers create a sense of urgency, which may encourage customers to visit and spend more frequently. 

Customer retention

By offering seasonal menu items, you’re keeping the dining experience exciting. This can turn first-timers into repeat diners. Showing that you care about customer preferences also helps to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Brand differentiation

One downside to summer being the peak season is competition among fellow restaurants. In fact, 45% of restaurants expect competition to be higher this year than last. Thankfully a seasonal menu can set your restaurant apart, making it a go-to destination for diners. 

3. Invest in marketing and advertising

Speaking of increased competition, you may have to step up your advertising in response. This table breaks down some of your options. 

Marketing strategy Description
Social media ads Invest in paid ads on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to increase your reach. You can promote special offers, dishes or events. 
Host events With enough funding, you can host special events, inviting the local community through social media and in-person advertising. This will help your restaurant gain favor among new and existing diners alike and solidify your presence as a positive one in the neighborhood.
Email marketing Offer exclusive deals to your loyalty program members or send newsletter promotions on special menu items, discounts or events.
Local partnerships Collaborate with local businesses for joint promotion. You can even sponsor local events or festivals to attract more visitors to your restaurant.
Influencer marketing With the popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels, food bloggers have a lot of reach. Invite local food influencers to dine at your restaurant and share their experiences. You could encourage your guests to share their experiences online with a branded hashtag, to be featured on your socials.
Google Ads Using the search ads function, you can target keywords related to your restaurant’s cuisine and location to appear in search results when potential customers are looking for dining options. Google’s Display Network also allows you to host visually appealing ads, which can help you attract more customers in your area.
Traditional advertising Despite a huge focus on online advertising, traditional ways of marketing still work. Flyers and posters on community boards or in high-traffic areas, as well as store signage, are all low-cost ways to attract customers.

Potential cost considerations 

Digital marketing

For social media ads, costs vary based on platform and targeting. The average cost per click on Facebook, for instance, is around $0.97. For an email campaign, consider software subscription costs (like MailChimp) and design costs. 

Traditional marketing

You’ll incur costs for any print ads you run, as well as design, printing and distribution costs for flyers and posters. 

Event marketing

If you plan to sponsor an event, prepare for sponsorship fees. In-house events would involve planning, design and overhead costs. 

Potential ROI 

Increased visibility

As always with marketing, you have to do your research to maximize impact. Consult user data and know your target audience well. That being said, well-targeted marketing campaigns can significantly improve brand awareness, leading to higher foot traffic and sales. Not only that, engaging social media content can create buzz and attract new customers. 

Customer engagement

Interactive promotions like giveaways and contests can increase customer engagement and loyalty. Seasonal promotions and discounts can drive repeat business while creating a sense of urgency. 

Brand loyalty

Effective marketing campaigns can enhance brand loyalty. This lead to higher lifetime value per customer, as they’ll be more likely to spend at your business. Plus, sponsoring and hosting events will boost your brand presence as well as your presence in the local community, leading to more word-of-mouth recommendations as well as higher foot traffic. 

4. Hire seasonal staff

As we mentioned earlier, summer is a peak season for restaurants. That means higher foot traffic due to tourists and locals enjoying the warm weather. Staffing your space adequately ensures efficiency and improved customer service. 

Staffing is often a sore point for the restaurant industry, but you can ensure happy staff through improved conditions and thorough training. It’s super worth investing in.  

Typically, seasonal staff are hired months in advance of the summer. With this in mind, let’s talk about how you can invest in the right training to keep things running smoothly.

Staff training and management strategy Description
Initial training Develop comprehensive training programs for new hires to ensure they understand your restaurant’s standards, procedures and culture. This can include training on menu knowledge, customer service and operational tasks.
Ongoing training Implement regular training sessions to keep staff updated on new menu items, seasonal changes and ongoing customer service techniques. This can include workshops, online courses or in-person training sessions.
Cross-training Train staff in multiple roles. This allows employees to cover for each other during peak times or staff shortages, ensuring smooth operations and a better customer experience.
Performance incentives Avoid high turnover with bonuses, recognition programs or other incentives to motivate staff and improve performance. Examples include employee of the month awards, performance-based bonuses and public recognition of outstanding service.
Scheduling tools Invest in scheduling software to optimize staff shifts, ensuring adequate coverage during peak times while avoiding overstaffing during slower periods. This can help reduce labor costs and improve staff satisfaction by providing more predictable and fair schedules.
Customer service training Focus on training staff in customer service skills, including handling complaints, upselling menu items and creating a positive dining experience. Well-trained staff can significantly improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Feedback and improvement Make sure your staff feels heard: gather feedback on training programs and procedures. Use this feedback to make improvements and address any issues, ensuring a collaborative and supportive work environment. 

Potential cost considerations

Training programs

You may incur costs for developing training materials (especially if you hire an agency to help with this, for instance) and conducting sessions. 

Staff incentives

Investing in performance-based incentives and recognition programs is important to boost morale and productivity, and you may have to pay for awards, certificates or small gifts. 

Operational costs

Consider how optimizing your scheduling system factors into your budget. You may also have to pay employees for longer training sessions due to cross-training, as that requires more resources.

Potential ROI 

Improved efficiency 

Staff that are well-trained can operate more efficiently. This leads to faster service, which contributes to more covers served, as well as higher customer satisfaction. Not only that, cross-trained staff can fill in for one another, reducing downtime and ensuring a smooth workflow. 

Better customer experience

Staff that are highly trained (and happier due to a good work environment) will provide superior customer service, which can encourage repeat visits. They’re also more likely to go above and beyond for customers. 

Reduced turnover

Investing in staff training and incentives can reduce employee turnover. This will save you costs associated with hiring and training new employees.

Other areas to fund your business

Now that we’ve covered some of the main ways you can invest in your restaurant for the summer, here are a few other ideas:

  • Purchase new equipment: Boost your efficiency and ensure fewer hiccups on those busy summer weekends with modern equipment
  • Invest in the right technology: A flexible, modern POS system can take you far and allow you to take orders and payments from anywhere in your restaurant. 
  • Air conditioning and ventilation: Ensuring your customers keep cool with fans or indoor ventilation during the hottest months of the year is important, and can lead to longer stays and potentially higher spend per customer. 

Energy-saving upgrades: From energy-efficient lighting to appliances and insulation, these investments can save you money in the long run, especially during extreme weather.


How to measure the return on investment 

We’ve talked about ROI, but how can you measure the impact of your restaurant investments this summer?  

1. Track key performance indicators (KPIs) 

Sales revenue: Compare your sales figures before and after these summer investments to see if there was a significant increase in your sales. You can also compare them year-over-year to see if you made more sales this summer compared to the previous one. 

Customer foot traffic: POS data and door counters can help you measure how many customers came in during a given time period. 

Customer data: Use your POS data to determine how many covers you served this summer compared to last. 

Average transaction value: Monitor average spend per customer. You can even check whether it increased due to new menu items or promotions.

Track spend: Using your POS data, check how certain menu items performed. This can help you determine how to plan your menu next summer for optimal sales. 

2. Analyze customer feedback 

Surveys and reviews: Collect feedback from customers about their dining experience. You can focus on aspects you’ve invested in, like outdoor seating or new seasonal dishes. 

Social media engagement: Track interactions, comments and shares from your summer ads. You can use analytic tools to do this. 

3. Calculate cost savings

Operational efficiency: Measure any reductions in operational costs due to any upgrades, technology investments or staff training. For instance, you can track your energy bills. 

4. Use financial metrics

Return on investment: Calculate ROI by dividing the net profit from summer investments (as best as you can gather) by the total cost of investments. For instance, if you invested $10,000 over the summer in these projects and it generated $15,000 net profit, your ROI would be 50%. 

Payback period: Determine how long it takes to recoup these costs. A shorter payback period indicates a more successful investment. With a Lightspeed Capital advance, for instance, you can see this information in your back office. Since your advance is remitted via a percentage of your daily sales, you’ll be able to calculate this period easily. 

5. Monitor repeat business

Customer retention rates: Track the number of repeat customers compared to new customers. A higher retention rate can indicate higher customer satisfaction. It’s always helpful to compare to the same period last year if you can. 


Invest in your restaurant’s success this summer

If you invest in the right projects this summer, you can improve your sales significantly. Getting started early helps, but you can implement any of the strategies we’ve discussed when the season starts, too. 

We encourage you to plan wisely for the summer season in order to ensure smooth workflows, higher customer satisfaction and potentially greater revenue. 

Are you a Lightspeed customer? See if you’re eligible for funding through Lightspeed Capital by emailing us at [email protected]

Editor’s note: Nothing in this blog post should be construed as advice of any kind. Any legal, financial or tax-related content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for obtaining advice from a qualified legal or accounting professional. Where available, we’ve included primary sources. While we work hard to publish accurate content, we cannot be held responsible for any actions or omissions based on that content. Lightspeed does not undertake to complete further verifications or keep this blog post updated over time.

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