Unless you run a restaurant in a tourist trap that’s jam-packed year-round, your establishment will go through a slow period every year. For many restaurants, the winter months are the slowest. 

If you’re looking for winter marketing ideas and tips on how to increase restaurant sales, you’ve come to the right place. Here are nine ways to drive sales during a seasonal slump.

sales slump

1. Plan Ahead

Seasonal slumps are predictable. Unless this is your first year running a restaurant, you already know when to expect business to slow down. Planning ahead for this slow period will make it easier to get over the hump.

Ramp up advertising and promotions ahead of the season. Start looking at your expenses and where you can cut back during this time period. Consider menu changes that will generate new interest in your restaurant while reducing your costs and increasing margins. 

It’s better to be prepared for a sales slump than to be blindsided by it. 

2. Launch a “Limited Time Only” Promotion

A great way to increase restaurant traffic is to launch “limited time only” promotional ideas to increase sales. Launch a new menu item, drink item or special discount offer that’s only available for a short period of time. 

FOMO (fear of missing out) marketing is a great way to get customers to act immediately. Knowing the promotion is only available for a short time will get more people through the door. 

Just make sure that your limited time offer is worthwhile and enticing enough to get people through the door.

seasonal sales

3. Get Your Vendors Involved

Vendors want you to succeed because when you succeed, they succeed. Most vendors are happy to help with special promotions that also promote their brand. 

If you have well-established relationships with your vendors, they will be even more eager and inclined to help.

4. Run Customer and Employee Contests

Everyone loves free things, and everyone loves a good contest. Hosting customer and employee contests can drum up business during a slow period. Customers love getting free food or discounts, and employee contests may motivate staff to get customers through the door.

Here are some contest ideas:

  • Launch a gift card contest on Facebook.
  • Run a month-long employee contest for selling the most desserts or reaching another milestone. 
  • Offer free dinner for a year to one contest winner.
  • Connect with other businesses to offer a “night out” experience.
  • Host a cooking class event and give away tickets.

To succeed with this promotion, you’ll need to make sure that your contest and its prize appeals to your customer base. The prize needs to be enticing enough to get people interested and motivated to act.

restaurant event ideas

5. Host a Pop-Up Event

Pop-up events have become a hot trend, and they’re a great way to meet new customers outside of your restaurant. The great thing about a pop-up event is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to host one. In fact, it’s one of the more affordable restaurant event ideas, and it’s also one of the most effective.

One of the most popular places to host restaurant pop-ups is local farmer’s markets, but you can host your event at any non-competing business. The event can be as big or small as you like:

  • Takeover a local restaurant for a night
  • Open a food tent at a local outdoor market

If you’re looking for unique but effective ways to increase sales in a restaurant, pop-up events are a great strategy. 

6. Participate in Community Events

Virtually every city and town hosts community events that get people together and connect local businesses with residents. These events could be great opportunities to introduce your restaurant to new customers and increase seasonal sales.

Let’s say that your city hosts an annual festival that attracts thousands of people. Setting up a booth at the event will promote your restaurant and increase sales. You can cook and sell items and/or offer free samples of your food. Don’t forget to bring business cards and menus, so new customers know where to find you. 

7. Take Advantage of Social Media for Delivery

Social media marketing should be a part of all restaurant sales building ideas, but during your slow period, you can use social networks to drive delivery sales.

A big part of the reason why winter is so slow for restaurants is because people don’t want to venture out into the cold. Delivery service can help keep up sales during this slow period. 

If you don’t offer in-house delivery, consider teaming up with a third-party delivery service to make take-away quick and easy. 

Use your social media account to advertise this service and how to use it. Customers will love having the option to get their favorite dishes delivered right to their doorstep in the cold winter months. 

increase restaurant traffic

8. Offer a Low-Cost Winter Menu

Low prices and comforting dishes may be enough to entice more customers to your restaurant. Consider offering a low-cost winter menu loaded with foods that have higher mark-ups and appeal to customer appetites.

Consumers are now used to restaurants offering seasonal menus. In fact, many customers prefer it this way. In winter, this may mean offering more rice- or potato-based dishes. 

Lower prices will attract customers, and the higher mark-up will help your restaurant stay profitable during this slump.

9. Test New Specials

Sometimes, all it takes is a new menu item or special to attract new customers. Dinner for two (buy one get one free) specials are very popular and highly effective for driving restaurant sales. This type of special is a great way to get couples through the door, and the lower price may give them incentive to spend more on wine or add-ons.

Every restaurant goes through slow periods. It’s important to plan ahead and adjust your marketing plans to drive more customers through the door. Testing new menu items, hosting pop-ups, using social media and hosting contests can all drive interest in your restaurant and increase sales.