by Amy Galvin
Between school supply shopping to scheduling after school activities to wrapping up your summer vacations, back to school can be stressful and when you add running your restaurant to your plate, that plate is very full! With many people getting vaccinated, dining at a restaurant has gotten back to a place where you see full restaurants and long waitlists but with the summer coming to an end and outdoor seating slowly being packed up for the season, are you ready for what comes next?
Dining habits change between the summer and fall every year but the effects of COVID-19 changed dining habits long before the summer. Many restaurants reported much lower indoor dining numbers compared to previous years due to social distancing requirements and public fear of being in close proximity to strangers indoors. Overall, diners felt more comfortable eating outside and many restaurants got creative by creating outdoor seating where they didn’t have it before to accommodate their guests. With fall temperatures creeping in and the school year underway, restaurants will see a slip in diners but that may not last long and there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t see a prolonged dip in dining.
Fall brings crisp air and colorful leaves but it also brings a sense of comfort and reprieve from the hot summer temperatures. A few ways to make sure you maintain a steady flow of guests is to offer fall inspired menus, send emails to guests and extend discounts. Offering a fall twist on menu staples mixed with weekly specials will be sure to excite guests. Another great feature is emailing your guests the specials and seasonal menu so they can see it and will be more inclined to dine in when they see a good dish. Whether it’s a contest on your social media for a free dinner, a pop-up on your website with a discount code to use dining in or for online ordering, or a free bottle of wine with the purchase of a gift card, guests will be sure to take advantage of your discount.
Giving your guests a reason to dine in will increase your bookings and will ensure repeat customers. While the fall can be tough on restaurants, if you keep your guests’ needs top-of-mind and understand back to school is longer than the first week of school, you can rest assured that you will see reservations booking up fast and wait times getting longer.
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