Seasonal Restaurants - Preparing for the Off Season
Part Two Marketing
In our last Blog: Seasonal Restaurants - Preparing for the Off Season, Part One, we looked at what businesses can do, focusing on their operations, to survive through their off season. Just as seasonal businesses need a long-term plan for their year-round operations, so do they for their marketing. Beyond marketing to the local client base, as we discussed, the off season is valuable time to market to in-season customers as well.
Whether you own a seasonal clam shack on the shores of New England or are the General Manager of a ski resort in Colorado, you have experienced the challenges of a seasonal business. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” is the scourge of your year-round marketing: though you are out of sight you want to stay on their minds.
Here are four things you should be doing to keep your business on people's minds year round:
Grow Customer Database – A robust database of customer contact information is an important tool in marketing. Capture guests’ information in the height of the busy season, when you have the most foot traffic. Getting a strong list of past customers and people who've expressed interest in your business will enable you to maintain contact and stay top-of-mind during the off season, as well as convert new leads into customers during for next season.
Further, Open Table or other cloud-based reservation systems are great tools to grow your database, while driving foot traffic to your restaurant.
Call to Action – Use calls-to-action (CTA’s) on your website and in your social media that reward customers for interacting with you. This serves two purposes: collection of customer data and creation of content. For example, offer a free glass of wine on their next visit to customers who subscribe to an email list or blog, or a free t-shirt to customers who write a review on a linked site. Even when you are closed for the season, new reviews are a way to get your seasonal guests thinking about you and elicit feelings of nostalgia for your restaurant during the off-season. This new content can easily be leveraged in your off-season email marketing, website, and social media updates, making customers eager to return.
Stay Social – As mentioned above, out of sight is out of mind. You want your customers and tourists thinking about your restaurant even after they have left town, or to know about you before they arrive. Consider social media your virtual, year-round storefront. Even if your customers or potential customers aren't in your seaside town or visiting your website, you can reach them through social media. Posting consistently to all of your social media feeds such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, is a great way to offer special discounts, gather and publish reviews and testimonials, share new content, run contests and polls, and generate hype for the next season.
Generate Hype – Generating excitement for your business throughout the year is a great way to stay top-of-mind for your guests. If you are a seaside restaurant, why not engage in the dead of winter when it is 5°F outside? Content showing a beautiful beach and ocean, with an offer for holiday gift certificates, is a great way to have your customers daydreaming about the excellent times they had in your restaurant. If your content plays upon the nostalgia of good times and the excitement of things to come, you'll have an audience engaged in planning for when they can enjoy your restaurant again.
Maintaining a seasonal business has unique challenges beyond those faced by other restaurants and food service operations. By properly planning a year-round marketing calendar, you will be well positioned for the next busy season, with customers anticipating their return to their favorite restaurant.
Don’t know where to begin? 4Q Consulting can develop customized operational and marketing guidelines to help you grow your business. Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com.
All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.
Noelle E. Ifshin, President, 4Q Consulting, LLC
244 5th Avenue, Suite 1430, NY, NY 10001