In an ideal world your restaurant sales would be a graph sloping ever upward, every month’s revenue and same-store sales numbers higher than the last. But here in reality, there are cycles of busy months and slow months. According to a report in Businessweek, there’s one month in particular that’s worse than any other for the casual dining industry: this one. September is officially the ugliest month for restaurant sales.
What makes September so bad for casual dining restaurant sales? Simple demographics – casual dining tend to be the most family-friendly dining, and September is when families tend to be getting into the swing of the school routine and are often still reeling from the costs of summer vacations and back-to-school gear. September is when families are busy and low on money to burn, opting to stay in and make a home-cooked simple meal instead.
So what can a restaurant chain do to beat the September slump and stand a better chance of coming out ahead? It all comes down to incentive: on days when consumers would rather stay home, you’ve got to give them a more compelling reason to go out instead.
In that respect, nothing’s better than an irresistible special. Olive Garden’s yearly Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion is one of the best examples of this strategy, but it’s not the only one. While Red Lobster may not be a Darden Restaurants entity, its Endless Shrimp promotion proves that if Darden knows one thing it’s how to weather September. Meanwhile, Applebee’s is also jumping on the bandwagon with its current $12 all-you-can-eat crosscut ribs promotion.
Coupons can also help entice consumers to go out, making the final check more manageable and posing dinner at your brand as a bargain rather than an indulgence. If you’ve developed an app for your restaurant brand, you can even use push notifications to change up your offers and stay fresh in their minds.
Marking down your product can be tough, and some consumers are sure to take advantage by eating their weight in barbecue meats or fettuccine alfredo. But it’s still a sale made – food sold at a discount is a lot better than food not sold at all. Until the sales graph starts to arch upward again, it’s a solid way to stay afloat.