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How to prepare your restaurant for summer: 4 tips

June 3 / Canada

Warmer temperatures and longer evenings are on the horizon, which means diners are ready to hit the town to satisfy their cravings. The summer months are notoriously busy in the food-service and hospitality industries, and pent-up demand for experiences outside of the house could make this trend feel even more pronounced. With the right preparation in place, restaurant operators can use the summer surge to their advantage to attract new customers and drive repeat business to their storefront. 

Here are 4 tips to help you make the most of the months ahead:

1. Spruce up your menu offerings

From juicy bell peppers to succulent berries, the summer months offer enticing seasonal ingredients that can make for a mouthwatering menu. Start by assessing your most popular items and seeing if you can give an old favorite a new twist—like adding local plump tomatoes to your renowned BLT, or grilled corn and crisp radishes to your house salad. Spinning up a limited-edition item is also a great way to build loyalty with your customers over time. There are few greater joys than taking the first bite or sip of a seasonal treat after waiting months for its return.

  • Tip: Use the summer months to tap into the strengths of your community. Is there an ice cream shop that would be willing to add scoops to your dessert menu? Or a farm whose produce you could feature in your dishes? Partnerships can help you extend into new customer bases while supporting local businesses in the process.

Experimenting with your menu can go beyond your on-premises dining experience. If you work with a third-party delivery service like Uber Eats, you can customize an on-the-go menu that lends itself well to a summer spent outdoors. For example, a picnic-friendly section of your lunch menu could include chips and prepackaged sandwiches. Similarly, a happy hour section could offer small bites like hard cheeses, dried fruit, and fresh bread. Whether your customers are using pickup or delivery, it’s important to build your third-party menu with an eye toward items that travel well on hotter days.

  • Tip: When it comes to your online menu, incorporating detailed descriptions and photography is key. In fact, our data shows that menu items with photos are ordered about 15% more frequently than those without photos. Using the Menu Maker tool in Uber Eats, you can easily upload eye-catching pictures and curate an experience that jumps off the page.

2. Create an online presence that stands out

After building a menu that delights, you’ll want to consider how best to get the attention of your customers. Websites and social media are often the first places that people turn when they’re seeking out new spots, especially when visiting from out of town. Your digital presence is one of the most important marketing levers you have at your disposal, so it’s important to make sure that the information reflected is accurate and captures your unique brand identity. Here are a few places to focus your energy:

Online business aggregators

Scan your profiles on places like Google, Yelp, and Tripadvisor to make sure that your location and hours of operation are up to date. Take inventory of reviews to ensure that a fair picture is being painted, and double-check that all embedded links are directing to the right places. These small details can make a big difference—especially if people are enticed by what they see but can’t determine how to reach you or place an order.

Website

Think of your website as your digital storefront. You’ll want your website to catch a customer’s eye in the same way that a flaky, sugar-dusted pastry in a window display might. Similar to your online menu, use pictures and descriptions to give people a taste of what they might experience when dining with you. Telling your origin story or sharing the inspiration behind menu items will help customers connect with and invest in you. A strong web presence is capable of driving more traffic to your storefront, and even more immediate orders if you have an online ordering solution built in.

Social media

Get creative with your social media channels and give your customers a chance to engage with you directly. Host a merch giveaway where submission requires people to post a comment with their favorite menu item and tag a friend who has never visited the restaurant before. Share pictures of your employees and include their favorite summer song in the caption, then at the end of the summer, offer a link to the playlist to keep the memories of warmer months alive. Social media is not only a powerful tool to get in front of new customers, but it’s also a great way to foster a deeper sense of community.

Third-party delivery platforms 

If you’re working with a third-party delivery platform like Uber Eats, you can tap into powerful tools that can help you meet a wide range of marketing goals. Whether you’d like to get in front of potential customers with a targeted ad campaign or reward your current customers with loyalty programs, Uber Eats has flexible, easy-to-use options to help you grow your business on your terms.

3. Streamline your operations

During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants found creative ways to keep their tables turning while balancing a boom in off-premises orders. Although storefront foot traffic will likely increase in the summer months, delivery and pickup orders will not disappear altogether. These are both important revenue streams for restaurants, so it will be critical to prepare your operations for the two realities.

Takeaway areas

Clearly delineate waiting zones and pickup flows for customers and couriers. Whenever possible, create an intuitive system separate from outdoor dining areas to keep operations running smoothly. On days with a particularly high volume of takeaway orders, a central food bag table can help prevent congestion while freeing up more of your staff to manage on-premises needs. If the area is outdoors, make sure it’s placed under an awning or umbrella in the event that summer showers roll in.

Clear signage

An efficient takeaway area benefits from clear messaging. Use bold signage to guide customers and couriers while establishing rules of the road—like where to stand to prevent crowding or door blockage. Arrows, taped-off zones, and other floor markings can help manage the ebb and flow of people and minimize the hands-on role your staff needs to play. 

Contactless ordering

Touch-free ordering and payment solutions can provide your customers with a more immersive dining experience while also creating staffing efficiencies. Using the Uber Eats contactless ordering solution, your customers can browse your menu, order, pay, and tip—all from their mobile device.

POS integration

Managing multiple ordering systems can be time-consuming and, at worst, costly to your business if it results in missed orders. As on- and off-premises traffic increases over the summer, consider a POS integration solution that allows you to manage storefronts, menus, and orders from one central place. If you have an existing POS system and would like to streamline your third-party delivery operations, Uber Eats can work with you to build a solution that integrates with your current technology.

4. Evaluate your insights and analytics  

Before you hit the ground running this summer, it’s important to revisit seasonal data to understand where you can double down on strengths or create efficiencies. Reviewing your performance can remove the guesswork from your summer playbook and guide you toward more-informed decisions around inventory, menu making, staffing, and operations. See if you can identify popular high-margin menu items, or even costly plates that didn’t drum up as much interest from your customers. From a staffing standpoint, pinpoint days of the week or even hours of the day where you might anticipate needing more—or fewer—hands on deck to manage demand. 

Uniting this information with insights from your third-party delivery platform can paint a picture that’s even more robust. With Uber Eats, you can access time-based comparisons on sales, order volume, and ticket size. The dashboard also displays customer reviews and feedback, which is generally more difficult to source from people dining in your restaurant. Perhaps you learn that you can scale back your delivery menu to focus on a few best performers, or you see that certain days of the week might benefit from having dedicated members of your staff focus on off-premises volume only. 

Whatever picture your data paints for you, use it to your advantage to start your summer off on the most strategic foot.

Make this summer sizzle for your business

Whether your goal is to attract new customers, streamline your operations, or encourage repeat business this summer, we’re here to help you grow your way. 

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