The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the snow may even be melting (depending on where you are). Spring is in the air -- or at least, it will be soon. It’s time to pull Hot Toddys and Eggnog from the menu, and time to make some appropriate seasonal adjustments. For many establishments, these seasonal transitions can be an especially trying time, for one reason or another. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a little cheat sheet for how to transition from Winter to Spring effectively. It’s not always easy, but a smooth transition is going to set you up for success all season long.
Use Up Those Leftovers
Moving out of winter, it’s easy for food waste to accumulate. Winter spirits and heavy beers aren’t exactly the most spring-friendly menu items. Even down to foodstuffs, some perishable items might be left without a spot on the weekly specials board. But...don’t start throwing things away just yet! When engineering specials for spring, try to sneak in some of those leftover winter ingredients. Herbs like rosemary and sage can make for interesting (and shelf-stable) infused simple syrups. Darker beers can be incorporated into cocktails. New Years Champagne can be even more easily floated on top of highballs for an interesting twist on a classic. Get creative!
Keep Some of the Seasonal Hires
Depending on your market, this tip could go either way. For some places, winter is a busy time of year. If that’s the case, you probably brought on some seasonal help. Now’s a great time to evaluate whether any of those would-be temporary staff could make for positive team additions. Conversely, many places see a slower winter and a heftier business in the spring and summer. If that’s you, consider bringing in some seasonal help, but be sure to start hiring early! The last thing you want is to be left up a you-know-what creek without a paddle.
Bring Out the New Menus
‘Tis the season for pink gin, rosé, and sessionable craft brews. Bring ‘em on! This time of transition is a great time to look at overhauling your menu. As we all know, consumer tastes change with the seasons, so your establishment’s menu should likely do the same. Still not convinced? You don’t need to go all-in on this one. Even bringing in a small selection of four or five seasonal brews can do wonders for those patrons looking to celebrate the season. On the cocktail side, try to move in a lighter, more brunch-friendly direction. Chances are, you already have the ingredients to make those drinks anyways! Still not convinced? According to market research, seasonal beers alone account for about 14% of all craft beer sales.
First: We know this one isn’t possible for everyone. But if there’s any way under the sun (haha, get it?) to set up outdoor seating… do it! According to some estimates, outdoor seating can increase total restaurant profits by up to 30%. On top of that, we don’t want to play ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ but… In one study which featured the Top 100 Bar and Nightclub venues, 73% featured an outdoor patio, terrace or rooftop space. Outdoor seating can attract customers by the droves -- aside from regulars, passers-by can be easily lured into your restaurant by seeing diners enjoying themselves outdoors. Consider it like an always-on advertisement that actually generates money. Lastly, and most obviously, anytime you can increase seating capacity, well… that’s certainly a win.
Create a Marketing Strategy
Celebrate the season! And of course, let people know you’re celebrating the season. Use smart marketing tactics to turn the seasonal transition hurdle into a verifiable event! Promote new drink specials or seasonal food options via social media, in-house signage, or even print advertisements. The last thing you want to do is go into springtime blind. Take some time (and invest, if necessary) to develop a strong, seasonal-based marketing strategy. This way, you can establish your restaurant or bar as the place to be this spring. We’d suggest tying in some of the other tips on our list to your marketing strategy to double-down on your establishment’s festivities.
Keep Your Food Costs Down
This one’s tricky, and basically boils down to exercising some well-applied self-restraint. With spring produce coming into season, it can be extremely easy to over-purchase. And truthfully, we get it. Spring’s in the air, and you want to take advantage. Unfortunately, going too aggressive with start-of-season spending is going to lead to a lot of avoidable waste. In addition to produce, spring presents a wealth of other perishable goods that could quickly turn into lost money. Keep your food costs where they are this spring.
We know cleaning isn’t fun, but it’s gotta happen. Take spring as an opportunity to give your establishment the once-over, and even consider a deep clean. Even if that means closing your doors for a day, deep cleaning is a necessary process that ensures the long-term success of equipment and furnishings. Try to make an event of it. Order pizza, give out free beers -- make it fun (or at least, as fun as it can be). You can also take this opportunity to give your establishment a makeover or some new decor. Although it does cost money, keeping things fresh for your customers is going to go a long, long way.
Last but certainly not least, consider re-evaluating how your team uses technology. From social media to POS and inventory management software. Is everything optimized? Are you getting the most bang for your buck when you turn on the computer? This backend stuff can easily be forgotten by owners and proprietors, but properly using technology can do wonders to smooth out your winter-to-spring transition. With food costs and inventory likely to change (for better or for worse), software can be your guiding light through this would-be tumultuous time of the year.
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