As the winter months quickly approach, restaurants must prepare to continue serving their customers while navigating weather and health and safety challenges. Ongoing inflation, higher interest rates, escalating food prices, and a tight labor market across industries add to the uncertainty.
Fortunately, the restaurant industry has proven for decades that innovation, resiliency, and, most of all, basic preparedness can save the day. From our experience working with small- and medium-sized businesses, preparedness and adaptability have both been key. This was particularly true for restaurants as dining preferences shifted dramatically throughout these last two years. The businesses that thrived planned ahead while also adapting to meet shifting customer demands.
Planning ahead ensures you have the supplies you need throughout the winter so you can better serve and satisfy customers, while also saving time, stress and money. With this in mind, consider the following recommendations to get your restaurant winter-ready.
Get Ready Early
In some parts of the country, you never know how soon icy conditions will arrive. And with a snow day estimated to cost some restaurants as much as 20% of bottom-line monthly profits, preparation is crucial. Get any snow removal equipment you need well in advance so you’re ready to clean up your restaurant's walkways and parking areas. Consider items like heavy-duty floor mats to prevent slips, and thick curtains, the latter of which can be an additional wind barrier between an exterior door and vestibule entry to the lobby or dining room.
Overstock on Cleaning and Sanitation Supplies
While COVID remains an ongoing concern, the cold months are when common colds and the flu also are most likely to spread. Now is the time to order cleaning supplies, etc. Showing employees you’re prioritizing their health and well-being builds loyalty and, of course, helps avoid sickness and resulting staff shortages at a time when labor is extraordinarily difficult to secure. Consider scheduling early or late shifts to sanitize throughout winter.
Expand or Create 'Warm' Outdoor Dining Space
If you have the space to expand upon or create an outdoor winter dining space, don’t hesitate to do so. Year-round outdoor dining increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be a popular way to reduce the spread of viruses and make customers more comfortable with dining out. The additional area allows restaurants to serve more guests, which can be especially helpful around the holidays. Comfortable furniture, heat lamps, tents, umbrellas, easy-to-wash blankets, and hand warmers are a few key items that can help make outdoor dining a success. Buying high-quality, easy-to-clean outdoor furniture will maximize the value of your investment.
Expect an Increase in To-Go Orders
Many restaurants experience a higher demand for to-go orders in the winter. Purchasing the right assortment of handled bags, disposable cutlery, and to-go containers can help meet the increased demand in takeout business. These items also ensure orders taste just as delicious at home as in your restaurant, which can increase customer satisfaction, and hopefully result in repeat orders and word-of-mouth referrals.
Find a Supplier who Understands Your Business
Restaurants have a lot of options when it comes to buying products and supplies, so it’s crucial to find the right e-commerce partner who understands your operations and what it takes to help you succeed. That way, you’ll spend less time shopping and more time focused on your core business. An ideal e-commerce partner offers an endless assortment of products and cultivates relationships with numerous suppliers to ensure customers receive products at the best prices, shipped quickly and with the right financing or return terms for a seamless experience.
While we can’t control the weather (or a strained supply chain), restaurant leaders who plan ahead and work with the right partners can be better ready to weather any storm.