4 Tips for Tackling the Summer Restaurant Season

4 Tips for Tackling the Summer Restaurant Season
As you open your restaurant doors for summer crowds, making strategic changes to your business can help your serve more guests effectively. Learn what owners are doing to prepare.
by Chidinma Nnamani May 28, 2024 — 3 min read
4 Tips for Tackling the Summer Restaurant Season

The temps are higher. The sun stays up longer. Vacation is on the brain. In the summer, customers have even more reason to say yes to another round. From last May to July, restaurant and bar sales surged — up by 11.8% in July and 9.5% in June compared to the year before. Many are predicting an even better season this year.

Recently surveyed restaurant leaders from Charlotte, North Carolina, Sacramento, California, and St. Louis, Missouri revealed they are getting ready for more guests than usual in the coming months. As a result, many are giving their menus, staffing schedules, and supply arrangements a facelift. Owners across other U.S. cities are likely doing the same: the National Restaurant Association predicts that U.S. restaurant sales will pass $1 trillion for the first time this year.

As you prepare for summer service, taking a closer look at your business can help make sure your team is set up for success. Making strategic changes to your menu, floor plan layout, and staffing levels, for instance, are all ways you can handle higher traffic volumes and, as a result, maximize profits.

1. Use data to guide your menu.

The key to a winning summer dining menu is using fresh, seasonal ingredients that cater to your guests’ cravings. Square survey data revealed that 60% of surveyed restaurant owners predict that charcuterie boards and other snacks will be a major attraction, ahead of desserts, entrees, and beverages. That’s your cue to introduce dishes that are lighter and brighter — think appetizers and small bites. When it comes to beverages, 52% of surveyed restaurant owners plan to increase the number of beverage items on their menu, with items like smoothies with antioxidants, functional water, and nitro cold beer appearing on both plan-to-add and plan-to-keep lists. 

Before finalizing any menu changes, remember to tap into your own restaurant data as well. You’ll uncover unique seasonal trends and insights that can help you make data-backed menu decisions that align with your customer preferences. Square Dashboard, for example, gives you detailed insight into your best-selling items for a given period. And if you run multiple locations, you can compare performance, a handy feature that has helped restaurants like L’industrie Pizza set up new operations smoothly. 

“The great part about [having both locations’ data] is, on the Dashboard, you’re able to compare and contrast both side by side. It’s made very, very user friendly,” said Massimo Laveglia, owner of L’industrie Pizza.

2. Rethink your restaurant layout.

Sixty percent of respondents anticipate that more customers will dine in person this season — a perfect reason to revisit your floor plan and seating arrangements. You can create and manage multiple floor plans from your Square Dashboard, giving you complete control over the dining experience. For example, you might use one layout for lunch service and a different one for dinner service, or different floor plans for each location if you manage multiple locations. 

If you have the space, adding outdoor seating is a smart move, as 28% of restaurant leaders predict more outdoor dining. An inviting outdoor space can also help you bring in more money for your business through new ways, like hosting small groups and parties. Nido’s Backyard, for instance, started as an indoor dining restaurant but added an outdoor space during the pandemic. The backyard became even more of a hit with customers than the original concept, which inspired the team to make the backyard available for personal and community events. The space gave the company a whole new identity as a multihyphenate business model, which boosted both revenue and brand awareness.  

3. Adjust staffing and operations.

More customers often means you’ll need extra hands. So think about hiring seasonal staff to manage the influx — 25% of surveyed restaurant owners plan to do the same. For smooth service, deliver comprehensive training for temporary hires so they know the ins and outs of your restaurant’s standards and menu offerings.

Besides staffing, keeping kitchen operations streamlined is crucial to slashing wait times, avoiding errors, and boosting customer satisfaction. Up-leveling your food preparation process might mean rearranging the kitchen layout, upgrading equipment, or introducing technologies like a kitchen display system (KDS) that can help speed up service. How? The Square KDS allows you to stay on top of front- and back-of-house operations and field orders from anywhere — your point-of-sale system, website, or third-party delivery services. Other tools, like QR code menus or handheld POS systems like Square Terminal, can help improve order accuracy and cut wait times. Sixty percent of businesses surveyed said they are investing in technologies like these to serve more people without any setbacks this summer.

4. Spread the word.

As you beef up for the season, remember to share your plans with your guests. Loyal customers crave those updates; 82% of consumers agree that receiving communications from local businesses helps them feel more connected. Use this to your advantage by sending personalized email newsletters or text messages with details about your summer specials, events, and promotions. You can also reach a wide audience by sharing regular updates across your social media channels. These announcements help build buzz and excitement and make your restaurant top of mind for customers stepping into the season.

By adopting a strategic approach to your summer plans, your restaurant can take advantage of the season’s potential to attract new faces and keep your regulars coming back. For more insights into this season’s menu trends and consumer preferences across select U.S. cities, access the Taste of Summer 2024 Menu Trends report.

Chidinma Nnamani
Chidinma Nnamani writes about the food industry, digital marketing, and technology — and explores the fine spaces where they intersect. She works with B2B startups and agencies, helping them deliver clear, actionable, and insightful content for business audiences.


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