The weather in London has been beautiful recently, which is so very rare, that sometimes we forget to take advantage of the sun, break out those outside tables and embrace al fresco dining. We never know how long it’s going to last – or when it’s going to show up, for that matter – so here are a few simple ways on how your Restaurant can capitalise on the Summer Season.
Spruce up your space
If you’ve got an outdoor space – whether it’s tables and chairs, a garden terrace, or just a corner of pavement – make it look inviting. Dust off those cobwebs (we all know it’s been a looooong winter in London), put a fresh coat of paint where needed and liven up the décor. The more inviting it is, the more people will want to come and spend an hour or two in the sun, eating and drinking.
If you’re looking for a cheap and easy table decoration, try potted herb plants. Sometimes they come in stylish planters, but if not, you can wrap the plastic bases with some old newspaper for a more rustic look. These are what my mum calls ‘plonkers’ – you plonk them down on the table and leave them alone, needing minimal care. Pictures of these plants with captions like, ‘We’re ready for the sun this weekend… are you?’ make great tweets!
‘Tis the season
As the seasons change, so should your menu. This means shuffling up your food and drink specials to reflect ingredients that are seasonal and more fitting for the warm temperatures. So, less stews and more salads. Less hot toddies, more Pimm’s. You get the drift.
If you are already changing your marketing materials on a seasonal basis, think of using bright colours on menus, specials boards or table talkers to let your customers know you are ready for the sun (if and when it appears!).
Leverage your suppliers
Let’s face it: people love freebies. Competitions or giveaways are a great way to draw people in and get them talking about your business. Talk to your suppliers about getting some free product in return for advertising their brand. Post this on Facebook, “Come enjoy the sun at The Queen’s Head this weekend with some complimentary nibbles when you buy a Meantime Lager!” and see the customers come a’running. By putting the name and logo of a brand on your marketing materials, the supplier might be willing to give you some free (or discounted) stock from their ‘marketing pot.’
Make nice with the neighbours
If you’re located in a busy area, have your smiliest staff member take an hour to walk around the neighbourhood. Small flyers or takeaway menus are great to leave at the counter of your nearby shops. Invite the manager for a drink on the house; this not only establishes a sense of community and good will, but also puts you top of mind when a customer asks him/her to recommend an outdoor space nearby.
Finally, and most importantly…
Get the word out
Let your customers know that your bar or restaurant is the perfect summer spot. Your website and newsletter are great ways to let people know what summer fun you’ve got planned, and social media is the fastest (and cheapest!) way to tell the most people (including journalists and bloggers) what you’re up to.
If you and your employees send emails on a regular basis, think about adding a tagline to your email signatures. Keep it short and sweet, like, ‘Our terrace is now open for the summer!’ in a bright colour so it stands out at the bottom.
And don’t forget to have a backup plan… this is London weather we’re talking about after all!