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11 Tips to Increase Sales and Survive the Off-Season Restaurant Lull

January 3, 2020

Take a deep breath, you made it: your restaurant survived the Holidays. Getting through the busiest and most stressful time of year unscathed is no easy feat, but you and your team pulled it off. Congratulations! Now get back to work–that place isn’t gonna run itself.

While restaurants never really “stop” they do slow down, and the month of January–statistically the slowest restaurant month of the year–is an excellent time to catch up on backroom tasks that, by necessity, fell by the wayside during November and December.

Follow these tips, and download our free tidying guide to stay on top of your post-holiday recovery.

A coffee shop with a lot of books on the wall.

No one likes doing inventory, but it is a necessity, especially after the holidays when so much extra has been ordered and surprise shortages may have come up. Don’t be a pack rat! Find out what you don’t need anymore and get rid of it. Create specials to use up excess food and make some hard choices about what holiday decorations are worth keeping.

How Solink Helps 1
Solink clients use the app to audit and evaluate safety concerns, like stock left on the floor or missing winter mats. Because our app has cloud video surveillance and POS integration, you can view any of your locations from anywhere in the world, you can check in on every site in just a few minutes.

2. Improve your displays

This is a good time to dispose of battered or beat up signage, menus, and other materials. Take the time to print new menus, clean menu covers, and update or deep clean your exterior signage, including sandwich boards.

3. Keep food fresh

Recommit to the “first in/first out” rule with regards to perishables, especially in fridges where items tend to be forgotten in the back. Make sure that proper temperature monitoring is best practice–don’t just jam everything together in one big pile and hope for the best. Checking temperature is something that should be done multiple times per shift, so the post-holiday reset is a good time to make this a habit if it isn’t already.

See all the ways Solink helps with your business operations.

4. Cleaning improves your safety

Next up on “things no one likes to do” is cleaning. Deep cleaning of the battered and bruised elements of the kitchen may be unpleasant, but there’s no better time to clear out the grease trap or clean the hoods than after the holidays. Hiring a professional service for these more arduous tasks is expensive but will ensure things are done right. Cleaning grease may be best left to a professional anyway, as improper cleaning can lead to build-up, which is a fire hazard. Be sure to clean over, under, and behind things. It’s easy to miss small scraps of food and collected grease in out-of-sight and hard-to-reach places. Tackling grease build-up should be done at least on a monthly basis–there’s no better time to get into a monthly habit than the first month of the year!

Declutter Download Mockup
Get your free ‘restaurant declutter checklist’ + inventory tracker AND a bonus poster for your back room to prevent food waste! Download now!

5. Fire check-up

Speaking of fire hazards, this is a good time to check all fire and emergency equipment. Make sure alarms are calling out to fire services, that extinguishers are charged, and that suppression systems are working as intended. Be sure to take note of the level of supplies in First Aid Kits.

6. Check for nose-blindness

Finally, everyone on staff has just spent a lot of time inside the restaurant, so find someone you trust who doesn’t work there to do you a weird favour: come in and smell the place. An outsider will notice smells that the staff has grown accustomed to. If they can smell it, so can your customers!

7. Make some renovations

Consider using some of the extra cash that rolled in during the holidays for more significant improvements to your location. With the slower month of January, it may be worthwhile closing for a few days to make renovations. Don’t overlook tasks like refinishing tables or reupholstering seating to keep things looking nice and up-to-date. Floors and doors may have taken a beating as well. Take special note of any wear and tear suffered by kitchen and bathroom appliances.

How Solink Helps 1
Solink’s video surveillance system includes a heatmapping tool that allows you to view the ‘hot spots’ in your restaurant or store. High traffic areas are a good place to put any merchandise you want to get moving, or may be a spot where tables should be moved further apart to allow for better flow of traffic.

8. Don’t neglect your customers!

Many places close outright during slow months in an effort to mitigate losses and focus on more lucrative times. Slow doesn’t mean “dead.” There are many steps that can be taken to make staying open worth your while.

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Mandi Lunan points out that her clients that cater to specific dietary needs often see a boom after New Year’s. Consider adjusting the menu to appeal to those who may be trying new things with their eating habits.

10. Remember the other holidays

January is a good time to test out new promotions to try and keep traffic up. Reach out to other local businesses to see if they’re interested in cross-promoting. It’s never too early to prep for the next busy day in the restaurant calendar: Valentine’s Day, aka “Love Fest”. After that, why not get ready for the Super Bowl, aka “Sports Fest”? If you serve alcohol, get ready for St. Patrick’s Day, aka “Beer Fest”.

11. Tend to staff

Having now survived the charge through the breach of 25-person family brunches and wall-to-wall office parties, your staff will be feeling a greater sense of kinship than ever before. It’s a great time to find out what they really think about working for you!

Tend to employee evaluations early in the year, especially in regard to seasonal hires who may have done so well they deserve to be brought on full-time. Asking other, permanent employees which of the temps did well is a good way to get unvarnished opinions. This period is also handy for new training and habit forming, such as setting new cleaning schedules.

Take advantage of the time!

The holidays are an exciting time and it can be easy to slip into the January Doldrums during the slowest restaurant month of the year. Don’t let any time go to waste: seize downtime as an opportunity to improve and give your business an advantage going into the new year.

Declutter Download Mockup
Get your free ‘restaurant declutter checklist’ + inventory tracker AND a bonus poster for your back room to prevent food waste! Download now!