Heating Up The Winter Doldrums
Restaurants around the country offer tips to help drive in traffic during slow winter months
As a restaurant owner, you’re all too aware of the highs you can feel during the holidays as people fill your establishment from Thanksgiving through the New Year. Then all of a sudden, it can sometimes feel like a ghost town.
Sure, not every restaurant experiences slower traffic in January and February, but many restaurants do. It’s likely no reflection of your food or your service; it’s fairly normal for people to take a break from dining out during those colder, slower months. We asked restaurants around the country for some traffic-driving tips to help you keep your seats full and your restaurant hopping all throughout the winter.
“’No Peeking’ is a marketing initiative where the restaurant hands out surprise gift envelopes to guests in the month of December and guests are not allowed to open them until they return in January or February. Inside the envelope is one of four giveaways: a complimentary appetizer, complimentary dessert, $25 gift card or $50 gift card. This is only redeemable if opened in the presence of a server.”
– Angela Zoiss, Vice President of Marketing for Bottleneck Management, which owns The Boundary in Chicago and Old Town Pour House in Chicago and Gaithersburg, Md. In 2015, Bottleneck handed out 2,000 envelopes between the four restaurant locations, resulting in almost $16,000 in additional sales in January and February of 2016.
“We use the time to partner with liquor companies to create a new type of pairing dinner and experience. For example, we hosted a networking and health-focused dinner where we paired spirits and wines with gluten-free, pescatarian and vegan courses that brought in a new crowd.”
– Rick Moonen, chef-owner of Rick Moonen’s rm seafood and RX Boiler Room in Las Vegas.
“We extend our most popular meal period, brunch, for the week following Christmas in order to give our guests more time to enjoy our food with family and friends.”
– John Kunkel, CEO & Founder of 50 Eggs, Inc., which owns Yardbird Southern Table & Bars in Miami and Las Vegas.
“The Signature Room hosts a special paired dinner event every other month (beer dinner, champagne brunch, etc.). During the winter months, we’ll focus on heavier spirits such as bourbon to highlight throughout the dinner. They are a great way to bring in new guests, and it provides us with a way give repeat customers a new experience at the restaurant.”
– Lauren Cullnan, Marketing Manager of the Signature Room at the 95th atop Chicago’s John Hancock Center.
“We do a variety of promotions to drive traffic during the winter. Our “Salon Series” is a great example: It gives our guests the opportunity to enjoy a show after dinner and helps us fill the dining room early. We like to bring in a bit of “spring” with our cocktail program utilizing shrubs made from summer fruit. We also have tried offering guests who walk a complimentary hot toddy to enjoy before or after dinner — and to warm them up.”
– Amy Morton, owner of Found Kitchen in Evanston, Ill.
“We’ve come up with ways to make OddFellows relevant in the winter like a re-brand of our East Village location to The OddFellows Sandwich Shop serving OddPockets (ice cream topped with gooey and crunchy toppings stuffed between a warm brioche bun) last year and the launch of our Passport Program this year, which takes customers on a world tour and features flavors from different countries from October to February. Guests fill their passport with stamps to redeem prizes that range from a free scoop and OddFellows T-Shirt
to an all-you-can-eat BYOB Ice cream party for 25 friends.”
– Mohan Kumar, OddFellows Ice Cream Co. co-owner, on his locations in New York City. When OddFellows re-branded their East Village (New York) location as The Sandwich Shop in 2015, they saw an increase in sales that was +50 percent from the previous fall.