What is Seasonality in The Restaurant Industry?

Seasonality in the restaurant means the best or worst time of the year is coming. The restaurant business is very much a feast or famine business. It doesn’t matter if it is a national chain or the hottest table in town! There are a myriad of reasons as to why business changes with the change of a season, a book can be written on why it changes. The book on seasonality could be written on the city level and in big cities by neighborhood even.

Seasonality in the Restaurant

A few reasons for the change in business are:

  • Weather
  • Taste preferences
  • Having a patio or lack there of
  • Being in or near a summer resort (lakes, oceans, theme parks etc)

It happens everywhere, including New York City and Las Vegas. That is not what we wanted to talk about today. Today we want to talk about what to do during the summer season or off season wherever you live and work, there is always one. Yes, even Disney World has a slow season, its called the summer! Ever been to Florida in the summer? It is like being in a sauna! There is a reason hotel rooms are cheaper during the summer there!

These same rules of dealing with any slow period over a week can apply to weeks following the Big 3 Days in the restaurant business or for the days after the Super Bowl and even the month of September!

Why does change happen?

Change happens for most of the previously mentioned reasons and more. Remember: summer is different than winter and winter is different than spring, which is yet still different than fall. As seasons change so do guests needs and tastes. There is no way of changing the season…yet…science might one day figure it out. Humans are fickle creatures and regardless of what they say change is inevitable. How often do you see a group in Chicago at Navy Pier wearing shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt during a Lake Effect blizzard wanting to sit on the patio? Not too many sober people are willing to do that on regular, but there are brave souls out there. Although I have never been in Chicago during a blizzard, it is safe to say there are not too many people fitting that description out there. This is the same reason why the only people at the world famous Jersey Shore during January/February are wearing wetsuits and carrying surfboards; cold water, rough surf and a high of 40 degrees is not appealing to the average beachgoer there in July!

An Example of Seasonality in the Restaurant

For those along the coasts (within 15 miles of the oceans or Gulf) Summer is prime time. There are some restaurants in these areas that do over $10mm in sales between the middle of May and Labor day weekend in September. It sounds crazy, but it is the truth, a chain restaurant on the popular Broadway At The Beach in Myrtle Beach, SC will go from having sales of maybe $30k a week or so during the off season (Labor Day-Easter) to sales of about $30k a day or more during the summer season! That is a pretty serious swing in sales. Instances such as this happen all up and down the coasts. Many restaurants are only open during the peak summer season or open weekends during April, May and post Labor Day September, then lock the door until the first nice weekend of the following April. That is a long period of slow and little opportunity to make $$$.

The months are different everywhere, even on the equator! Many resorts/hotels shut down from August-Thanksgiving in Costa Rica when it is the peak of the “Green Season” where it Thunderstorms nearly everyday. In Las Vegas and New York City, it is summer when there is less convention business and more tourists wearing fanny packs!  Believe it or not, “tourists” spend much less than a “convention tourist”.  This is usually cause a tourist is spending their money while a convention attendee is usually spending someone elses (even if it is their own business).

The most important part of dealing with the slow times is being aware when they are! Learn what the slow time for business is where you work and the discussion will continue!

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