Ready Your Restaurant for Winter With This Simple Checklist
Frigid weather presents unique challenges to restaurateurs. If this is your first winter, you’ll learn why many establishments struggle this time of year when unprepared.
Use these tips to make your restaurant the hottest spot in town during the coldest months.
Winterize Your Outdoor Space
Use patio heaters to ensure cozy al fresco dining experiences. They come in propane, electric and natural gas models. They can make frigid air toasty with radiant heat, but some may be unsuitable for your restaurant.
Propane ones are the most powerful but expensive to run. Electric models require no refueling but may have lengthy cords and batteries with short lives. Natural gas patio heaters are cheap to operate but unportable. Study what they can and can’t do before making a decision.
Moreover, buy winter-hardy outdoor furniture. Poly lumber, plastic, aluminum and concrete are the best materials. Among wood species, teak is the exception regarding winter weather damage susceptibility. Use this decay-resistant option if you must use hardwood furniture to create an inviting outdoor area.
Furthermore, fabrics are vulnerable to the harsh elements, so bring out the cushions only when needed. Providing your patrons with blankets for additional warmth is a nice touch.
Prioritize Safety and Accessibility
Address snow and ice accumulation proactively. This gesture tells the public you’re ready for seasonal challenges and to make their experiences as convenient as possible.
Stock up on supplies to neutralize winter hazards effectively. Shovels, rock salt, ice melt, safety signs, floor mats and rugs are must-haves.
Switch on Warm Lighting
Winter daylight creates a muted atmosphere, which is the opposite of what you want your restaurant to project. Fix that with proper artificial lighting. Flameless candles, hanging pendants, chandeliers, wall lights, sconces and track fixtures are some of your best options.
Only a few lighting combinations will make sense for your establishment. What works for fast-food chains, cafes, bistros, concession stands, food trucks or sports bars may backfire on contemporary casual and fine dining concepts.
Determine the suitable ambient, task and accent lighting sources for your business. This way, you can easily manipulate bright and low lighting to tailor your restaurant ambience for this gloomy season.
Craft a Seasonal Menu
Curate a winter menu of comfort foods your patrons will find delightful in chilly weather. Incorporate seasonal produce to replenish your supplies quickly, minimize costs, and serve your limited-time offerings without fail. Ask your chef to invent dishes or reimagine popular cuisines involving the following:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Sweet potatoes
Rethink Your Marketing
Cold weather strongly motivates people to stay at home — even when they want to leave. Give your prospective guests a compelling reason to wear their coats and brave the biting wind to visit your restaurant.
Discounts can get patrons in the door but do more than promise savings. Family days, game nights, live entertainment and guest chefs are excellent ideas to generate interest and boost occupancy.
Why not host events? Partner with local businesses looking for a venue for cooking classes, food tours, viewing parties, trivia competitions, talent shows, corporate celebrations, basic and advanced beer tastings, networking opportunities and internet celebrity meet-and-greets.
Running promotions and holding events can be exhausting but rewarding. These marketing strategies can help maintain or even increase your sales in the winter.
Serve Breakfast All Day
Offering breakfast and brunch food options while you’re open is an effective way to encourage your regulars to visit later than usual. This way, you can keep them engaged with your brand when they enjoy their morning favorites in the afternoon or the evening.
Think of To-Go Options
Boost your takeout revenue to compensate for your potential dine-in losses. If you consider this aspect of your business as an afterthought before, step up your game and heed these tips:
- Create a separate carryout menu to exclude foods unfit for takeout.
- Consider selling take-and-bake options with heating instructions.
- Master spillage-proof packaging.
- Label packed food items.
- Optimize your ordering system to process transactions from as many channels as possible.
- Accept alternative payment methods.
- Train your employees to handle your point-of-sale system properly to avoid errors.
- Dedicate safe and convenient pickup spots.
Your ultimate goal is to make life easy for your patrons. If you do this right, takeout can be your restaurant’s new cash cow.
Double Down on Delivery
The online food delivery market in the United States will be worth $473.50 by 2027. This staggering figure means people love ordering food, even if it means paying extra for convenience.
Getting your offerings dropped at your patrons’ doorsteps is uncomplicated, thanks to DoorDash, Grub Hub, Uber Eat, etc. Popular food delivery apps can widen your reach and spare you from investing in a private fleet and hiring extra staff. The problem is that the margins can be slim because of high commissions and stiff competition.
Alternatively, handle everything. The initial cost can be expensive, but an in-house food delivery service can yield handsome returns with large order volumes.
Look for Signs of Under Insulation
The winter is the worst time to have poor insulation. It will inflate your electricity bills, force your heating system to work harder unnecessarily, and increase the chance of ice damming, which causes a host of headaches in itself.
How do you know your establishment has inadequate insulation? Indoor temperature fluctuations, chilly drafts and rodent infestation are some red flags to watch out for.
Be Ready for Fires
The fire risk increases in the winter months because of the increased usage of heating units. Have a qualified technician inspect your heating system and clean your commercial vent hoods to head off costly fire damage.
More importantly, retrain your employees on fire safety. A timely refresher empowers them to identify and manage hazards and use fire extinguishers correctly.
Make This Winter Your Hottest Season Yet
Cold weather makes going outside less appealing, but people still need to eat. If you follow these tips and play your cards right, you can put your restaurant in a solid position to succeed.