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Oh winter, the season of staying indoors, watching movies at night, and leaving the house as little as possible. Maybe it’s because our days seem shorter in the dark winter months, or maybe it’s because we just don’t feel finding a parking spot amongst snow banks and extra cars. Either way, we don’t like to dine out in the dead of winter as much as we do in every other season of the year.

First, let’s discuss the reasons why people don’t dine out in the winter:

  1. It’s cold, wet and uncomfortable outside.
  2. Locally-grown fruits and veggies aren’t so locally grown.
  3. It gets dark too early to go out.
  4. There are more than enough family get-togethers to eat at.
  5. January resolutions mean more dieting and saving money.
  6. You have to put on boots. The real kind, not the cute kind.
  7. Ice is abound, which makes it hard to walk.
  8. Black ice makes it hard to drive at night.
  9. Much harder to find a parking spot.
  10. Comfort “home cooked” food is just better when it’s cold out.
  11. We hibernate with seasonal affective disorder.
  12. Fear of the flu.
  13. The possibility of getting a chilly seat near the door.
  14. Limited seating with no extra seating on the sidewalk.
  15. There’s plenty left in the fridge and freezer from the holidays.
  16. We’re all busy saving for a Caribbean vacation to get out of the cold.
  17. Nobody else want to go out either.
  18. Better TV shows play in the winter than summer.
  19. No chance of getting a suntan on the patio.
  20. Because, face it, we’re all a little lazier in the winter.

How to bring more guests (and revenue) into your restaurant this winter

There’s no golden ticket for getting more customers in your restaurant during the chilly winter months, but there are certainly ways to accommodate the most popular diner complaints.

Plow your parking lot – Snow in the winter makes small parking lots even smaller. Pay the dough to have someone scrape all the corners and leave enough room for anyone who wants to dine with you.

Offer valet – People don’t mind walking six blocks for dinner in the Summer, but that kind of commute in the winter turns many people away. Offer valet in the winter to greet chilly customers at the door.

Keep customers away from the door – A polite hostess asks the customers if they mind sitting near the door on a chilly day, or if they want to wait for a seat further in.

Salt and shovel your walkways – One walkway isn’t likely to turn someone away, but may make them re-consider coming back if they’re older and more careful of their balance.

Throw events worth attending – Everyone wants and needs to “get out” during the winter, but the holidays re-program us to think it’s only necessary when there’s an event. Throw a fondue feast like Farmstead, or an aphrodisiac tasting menu like Whisk.

Host TV nights – In your bar, host series premier and finale nights that will bring cabin fever sufferers out into the wild to watch TV in a group.

charcuterie board with glass of wine

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Host an indoor beach party – Crank up the heat and host a winter beach party, like Gardner Ale House does every year. Host contests for the best summer attire and cue the limbo!

Grow your own veggies – A growing trend among restaurants is growing their own rooftop gardens. In the winter, heated greenhouses can be just as effective.

Put together some “winter cold” specials – You don’t need to go as far as creating a flu promotion, but finding good soup in most cities is a lot harder than it should be! Cook up your own version of “medicine soup” and keep it on your take-out menu all winter.

Build A Winter Menu: You can still include your regular favorites, but make an effort to feature the heartier items on the menu like your soups and comfort foods.

Add Some Festive Flare To Your Bar Menu: Sure, many people can make a vodka cran at home, but can they get your special gingerbread martini? Nope, they can’t. (More winter cocktail ideas here).

Enhance The Scene: During the summer months, everyone has entertainment planned. In the winter months, it can be easy to forget that guests are looking for an experience still. Try adding live entertainment or a trivia night to your weekly lineup to encourage guests out of the house and to your table.

Take-Out Meets… Meal Prep: You may not typically offer take out for many reasons, but consider this trend: prepared meals ready for your guests to heat up. It takes the pressure off of staffing needs for an influx of take out, but lets guests get a taste of your menu year round.

Reward Your Regulars: Whether or not you have a loyalty program, it’s important to reward your loyal regulars. Sure, these guys may likely be coming in regardless of the season, but their chatting to their friends about your $10 reward for every $100 spent in January is hugely beneficial.

Check out Upserve’s seasonal restaurant trends guide!

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As part of Upserve’s family of more than 10,000 restaurants, The Chef is Restaurant Insider’s secret weapon in the kitchen. As a restaurant expert in all things marketing, menu building, management, training and more, restaurateurs trust The Chef and the award-winning Restaurant Insider to dish out the ingredients needed to make your business a sweet success.
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