Many industries prepare for seasonal changes in their consumer base, including culinary establishments. Proper preparation for restaurant industry trends around the holidays is a must to ensure a smooth season. When the holidays roll around in November and December, people generally spend more time indoors with their families. And while there are certain exceptions, seasonal restaurant trends are to be expected. To prepare for the season, restaurants should plan to budget differently for December and up their marketing game and seasonal menu to entice people to make the trek.
Expect a Drop in December Business
A drop in traffic and revenue is one of the most well-known seasonal restaurant trends. According to the Houston Chronicle, 61 percent of restaurants notice a seasonal slump in business, some of which can experience up to a 20 percent decline in patronage. In many places around the country, going out to eat in December may mean driving in dangerous, snowy conditions and traveling in sub-zero temperatures on the way to a date or a night out with friends. With many holidays throughout the month, regular customers may prefer to spend more time indoors making home-cooked meals, going to a party or traveling to visit long-distance family.
Anticipate Catering and Parties
An exception to this downward trend is holiday parties. Restaurants may see larger groups dining in for a corporate holiday dinner, or receive more catering orders in lieu of foot traffic. A great way to maximize catering business and accommodate larger groups is to offer specials and incentives, introduce new menu items and advertise these services early. Whether it's a corporate event, a private party or a dinner reservation, holiday parties are a great way to make it through the holiday season.
To stand out from the crowd, use marketing tactics that appeal to your target consumers, such as using social media to encourage consumers to "brave the elements" and dine in after the holidays, like Restaurant Business explains. And for the people making the trip? Offer deals that customers can't resist! Holiday celebrating often means an extra round of beer, wine and mixed drinks (and maybe a second slice of cake), so start your specials with bar and dessert items.
How to Approach the Holiday Budget
Restaurants need to re-evaluate the budget before December, keeping in mind restaurant industry trends around the holidays, and adjust food and staff budgets accordingly. The National Restaurant Association stresses the importance of handling personnel changes carefully along with seasonal changes to maintain a consistent dining experience for guests. It's a delicate balance: An understaffed establishment will make more mistakes and respond slowly to customers, but an overstaffed restaurant is wasting money. Regular employees will likely request time off around the holidays, so look at vacation requests and hire temporary help as needed.
How to Handle the Holiday Menu
While pumpkin-spice everything is a must throughout the fall, peppermint, nutmeg, gingerbread and champagne are winter flavors that can boost sales. Chicago-based foodservice trend tracking firm Datassential, says FSR magazine, found consumers dining out don't want to see the same dishes, especially around the holidays. This provides restaurants an opportunity to add creativity to existing dishes. Restaurants can appeal to nostalgic diners by serving traditional holiday meals like roast beef, or modernized twists on traditional dishes, such as an updated version that caters to dietary restrictions. Offering small plates helps diners avoid over-indulging during the holidays.
While the holiday season is typically slow for restaurants, it is a trend culinary establishments can anticipate. By focusing on promotional items, specials and appealing to the needs of the seasons, restaurants can adjust their marketing and menu to accommodate this slow period.
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