Here Comes The Sun
Many years ago whilst working in the brewing industry, myself and a colleague were discussing the merits of one of our brands latest advertising campaigns. We were trying to determine what impact it might have on the performance of the brand in the coming months. As I offered up various alternative ways to estimate possible uplift in sales my colleague pointed out a flaw in my approach. “That all sounds well and good, but you are forgetting one important thing”. I looked quizzically at him. “The great marketing god in the sky, the sun”.
And of course he was right. As much as we like to big up the importance of what we do there are often factors outside of our control which can have a massive impact on how successful any given activity might actually be. However that’s not to say that we should just cross our fingers and hope for the best.
Of course you will only really benefit from these types of tailwinds if you have put all the right things in place to begin with. So how should operators make sure they are ready for the summer?
Right people, right place…
As with Christmas, it is more than likely that you will need a boost in the number of staff you need over the summer compared to the rest of the year. One trap that some operators fall into with this is they leave things too late. This can mean that they are often rushing to fill vacancies and can end up hiring individuals who just aren’t up to scratch.
Even if you are hiring staff you have used before, don’t underestimate the time you might need to train them. Since the last time they worked for you there may have been lots of things which have changed. For example health & safety standards, new information about allergens or new technology you may have introduced, not to mention a very different menu that they will need to become familiar with.
A strong social media presence is important all year round however it often comes in to its own during the summer months. Posting pictures of your new summer dishes and drinks on Facebook, Instagram etc. is a great way to generate a real buzz about what your venue has to offer. Remember it should all be about fun, colour and excitement. As well as sharing your pictures on social media try and encourage your guests to do the same. Research conducted by the Italian restaurant chain Zizzi suggested that 18-35-year-olds spend the equivalent of five days a year looking at pictures of food on Instagram!
And of course don’t forget to refresh and update your website to reflect the changes you are making for summer. It’s a recognised fact that websites that are updated more regularly get more traffic and longer viewing times.
While I know it’s not for everyone adding a blog page to your website, even if just for the summer maybe worth considering. You will be amazed how far a little can go when it comes to blogging, and it’s also another great way to get pictures of your food and drink out there. Having a regular blog can add real interest to your website as well as a cool way of showcasing futures events and activities.
Freshen things up…
No one is suggesting you need to re-decorate your venue just because its summer, however there are simple things you can do which can have a major impact on how your outlet looks and feels. For example introducing new colourful table clothes and napkins won’t cost very much but can significantly change the way your venue looks. Adding new plants, flowers etc. is also a great way to change the overall ambience of an outlet.
Although this isn’t possible for every operator to do, one thing which I have also seen done which can be quite impactful is changing the actual layout of a restaurant when it comes to the summer months. Can your tables can be turned round or placed in slightly different parts of the restaurant? In the summer do you need as many two-person tables or would it be better to have more four or even six? Changes like this may seem minor but you will be surprised how different your venue feels. Just think how different things can feel when you move furniture round your own home.
A change in season is also a great ‘excuse’ to freshen up your back bar displays and general merchandising. It always surprises me how many pubs, bars and restaurants fail to do this. Sometimes it might just mean increasing the number of facings and prominence of your Prosecco and Cider brands. Other times it may also mean your drinks menu changes, especially the specials, to reflect the fact that its summer.
Finally if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor eating and drinking area then colourful umbrellas and maybe some new signage is also worth thinking about. As with indoors, moving where tables and chairs are can also make a big difference to how your customers see and indeed interact with your outdoor space.
When the weathers fine…
A great thing about the summer is the variety of different types of events you can run. The only constraining factor should be your imagination (and possibly your customer base). Although some of these events could happen all year round they often seem more memorable when done in the summer. In part this could be because there is often an outdoor element which can’t be replicated in the depths of winter.
The types of event you chose to run should match the customers you hope to reach and with the odd exception be in keeping with your overall offer. So while a BBQ or Caribbean evening maybe a disaster for a fine dining restaurant, there will be pubs and more casual dining concepts up and down the country that run these types of events with great success year in year out. Conversely an Italian or Seafood evening with matching wines maybe a winner for some operators, it won’t be for everyone.
Finally don’t forget there might be an opportunity to link a promotion to a sporting event. Over the years more and more operators are tapping into this, from Ladies Day at Ascot through to key international cricket, football and rugby matches.