A restaurant during slow season

Restaurant Strategies for the Slowest Time of the Year

Restaurant & Culinary Management instructors advise on post-holiday promotions, pivots and partnerships.

Restaurant numbers can halt after the holidays. Experienced restaurant managers that teach at our Los Angeles campus offer their advice on how to increase revenue during the historically slow winter season in the restaurant business.

Here are three perspectives on restaurant management strategies to employ.

Go with Guilt-Free Seasonality

Los Angeles campus Director of Restaurant & Hospitality Management Mishel LeDoux suggests identifying why business is slow. “People are trying to be healthy and don’t want to eat as much,” she says. “To boost sales in January, look at your menu. Everyone is dieting post-holiday, so make sure your offerings are items guests are going to want when they are thinking about eating healthfully. Have more desserts that are health-forward and low calorie, offer soups which are light and savory and that don’t make your guests feel guilty.”

Ultimately, feed the guests’ cravings any time of year. In L.A., January and February can stay fairly busy: In Beverly Hills and Hollywood, it is prime award season with the Golden Globes, Oscars, Grammys, and SAG, PGA and DGA awards shows. One strategy for succeeding during this time is to host an award show viewing party with themed cocktails and items.

Partner with Like-Minded Locals

“Slow times are for grassroots marketing,” suggests Restaurant & Culinary Management Instructor Joy Meyer. “Go local with something around the perimeter of the restaurant that you can make happen with other neighboring businesses. In the past, restaurants I worked for connected with Equinox to offer gift certificates to new members who were joining the gym in the new year, with offers like a spa lunch. The clientele at Equinox matched our target guest, so think about what’s around you that’s a fit.”

This is also a great time to train staff, take inventory or run promotions. “Hone in and hunker down on all of the stuff you haven’t been able to do before,” Joy adds. “When I worked at Patina Group, we would create a prix fixe menu, which was even cheaper than restaurant week. Instead of just focusing on Valentine’s Day, run a promotion for the month of February offering a discount on all bottles.” Bottles of wine are marked up so much that 10% off is not going to have a big impact and may bring in some additional sales.

Take a Holiday Then Prepare for a Holiday

Restaurant & Culinary Management Instructor Andrey Godzhik recommends granting staff vacations after the holiday workload, which will trim labor cost. “The good news in our industry is that there is always something in the works,” he says. “In Los Angeles, Dine LA starts mid-January and runs until the end of the month. Those restaurants that participate get busy again. After Dine LA, it is time to get ready for one of the biggest nights out of the year: Valentine’s Day. Use the downtime to look ahead at what’s coming and start planning and getting prepared.”

For more business strategies from experienced instructors, explore ICE’s Restaurant & Culinary Management program.

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