Bleak weather conditions can do quite a number on restaurants, frequently leaving them out in the cold. This is especially true in the winter when customers want to huddle inside and stay warm. But falling sales can mean trouble for every sized restaurant – how can you make sure your tables are still full once the snow flies this year?

The National Restaurant Association says that over 90 percent of restaurant operators point to changes in local weather conditions as reasons for why their sales and customer counts alter. That’s a significant number of the restaurant industry reporting that seasonal factors impact their business. The truth is, when a snow storm hits, patrons aren’t rushing to pull on snow boots and hacking off the ice sealed to their car’s front window to make their dinner reservation at your restaurant.

Here are some tips to help coax your holed up customers out of their winter slump:

Be Where The Party Is At

Join in the holiday fanfare and enhance your customer’s experience at your restaurant by providing them with entertainment and special events. Do this by offering them live entertainment, bringing in Santa for brunch and lunch Sundays or hosting a trivia night. Above all, avoid closing shop early. Make the long trek in the snow and back worth it for them by providing your patrons with a fun place to hang out for several hours, so they can avoid driving in the snow.

Meet the Winter Hibernator More Than Halfway

The one thing you should know about business during its winter slump, it’s not you, it’s them. Know that with winter comes the unforgiving struggles of cold weather, shorter days, and long work weeks. According to the National Restaurant Association, almost 74 percent of millennials say they would order delivery from a table-service restaurant if it the option was available – so why is it so often not?

Offering delivery can only help boost your sales. Your customers are no longer looking to sit outside and soak up the sun like they did six months ago, and vying for parking amid snowdrifts is less than appealing. Now they want comfort and convenience. Meet their needs by offering them carry-out options including curbside takeout, or even food delivery (there are plenty of services you can partner with if you don’t want to hire a driver). Provide your customer with the chance to pay for their orders via an online or mobile food-ordering service, your website or social media page.

Get Down With Mobile Marketing


(image courtesy of Twitter/ @thepalate)

Your online presence is essential when your business is having a winter slump. Instead of closing shop, use snow days and winter storms as an opportunity to reach customers on social media and pull them into your spot. Plenty of your customers will stay up to date with weather conditions by checking out Twitter and Facebook. Reach out to them and let them know the lights are still on and that you’re offering winter and holiday specials – get those cravings going!

If you do decide to close up for the day, make sure you keep your patrons in the loop. These type of campaigns can help restaurants to establish their reputation as a reliable business.

Most importantly, make sure that your site is easily viewed on mobile – it’s more than likely that many customers will duck into your restaurant spontaneously while they’re already out, and looking for a place that’s warm to rest and eat.

Be Good To Your Customer’s Wallets

We all know the holidays are an expensive time. Be aware that most of your patrons will be paying careful attention to the prices on your menu when they do decide to dine out. It’s one of those wonderful times of the year where a sale will actually make sure your business sees a profit.

Take Advantage of the Holiday Rush

Busy holiday shoppers get hungry. Give your customers a reason to pop in at your restaurant by offering holiday specials during peak shopping and rush ours. Providing specials lunch offers and holiday specials will give customers motivation enough to pop in and dine at your place during that shopping break.

Do Your Bar Menu A Festive Favor

Many consumers have food smells surrounding them 24/7 during this time of year, from holiday wreaths with cinnamon sticks in them, to good family cooking, to those wonderful candles that smell like cookies. That means it’s major cravings time. Combine those seasonal desires with fluffy clothing that makes the gym an afterthought, and you have a serious demand for indulgent foods!

Don’t overlook how far offering up some holiday spirit to your customers can go. Snap up your customers’ attention with peppermint, chestnut and gingerbread specials on your menu. And don’t forget the value of adding alcoholic options to your patrons’ tabs. It’s likely your patrons are eager to watch their spending during the holidays, but know that for many there’s less of a financial focus on alcohol than food, so make sure you go for drink specials and happy hours. It’s a great way to attract new customers and make them repeat consumers.