Oh winter, the season of staying indoors, watching movies at night, and leaving the house as little as possible. Maybe it's because our days seem shorter in the dark winter months, or maybe it's because we just don't feel finding a parking spot amongst snow banks and extra cars. Either way, we don't like to dine out in the dead of winter as much as we do in every other season of the year.
There are, however, a few select reasons why people do dine out in the winter: soup is cheaper bought than made, holidays, and the need to escape cabin fever.
Unfortunately, there are at least twenty reasons why people don't dine out in the winter:
- It's cold, wet and uncomfortable outside.
- Locally-grown fruits and veggies aren't so locally grown.
- It gets dark too early to go out.
- There are more than enough family get-togethers to eat at.
- January resolutions mean more dieting and saving money.
- You have to put on boots. The real kind, not the cute kind.
- Ice is abound, which makes it hard to walk.
- Black ice makes it hard to drive at night.
- Much harder to find a parking spot.
- Comfort "home cooked" food is just better when it's cold out.
- We hibernate with seasonal affective disorder.
- Fear of the flu.
- The possibility of getting a chilly seat near the door.
- Limited seating with no extra seating on the sidewalk.
- There's plenty left in the fridge and freezer from the holidays.
- We're all busy saving for a Caribbean vacation to get out of the cold.
- Nobody else want to go out either.
- Better TV shows play in the winter than summer.
- No chance of getting a suntan on the patio.
- Because, face it, we're all a little lazier in the winter.
There's no golden ticket for getting more customers in your restaurant during the chilly winter months, but there are certainly ways to accommodate the most popular diner complaints:
Plow your parking lot - Snow in the winter makes small parking lots even smaller. Pay the dough to have someone scrape all the corners and leave enough room for anyone who wants to dine with you.
Offer valet - People don't mind walking six blocks for dinner in the Summer, but that kind of commute in the winter turns many people away. Offer valet in the winter to greet chilly customers at the door.
Keep customers away from the door - A polite hostess asks the customers if they mind sitting near the door on a chilly day, or if they want to wait for a seat further in.
Salt and shovel your walkways - One walkway isn't likely to turn someone away, but may make them re-consider coming back if they're older and more careful of their balance.
Throw events worth attending - Everyone wants and needs to "get out" during the winter, but the holidays re-program us to think it's only necessary when there's an event. Throw a fondue feast like Farmstead, or an aphrodisiac tasting menu like Whisk.
Host TV nights - In your bar, host series premier and finale nights that will bring cabin fever sufferers out into the wild to watch TV in a group.
Host an indoor beach party - Crank up the heat and host a winter beach party, like Gardner Ale House does every year. Host contests for the best summer attire and cue the limbo!
Grow your own veggies - A growing trend among restaurants is growing their own rooftop gardens. In the winter, heated greenhouses can be just as effective.
Put together some "winter cold" specials - You don't need to go as far as creating a flu promotion, but finding good soup in most cities is a lot harder than it should be! Cook up your own version of "medicine soup" and keep it on your take-out menu all winter.
Even as a business owner, you're also a customer, right? Think about all the reasons you make excuses not to dine out in the winter and find ways to solve those dilemmas.