How to Survive the Winter Slump: 3 Quick Marketing Tips for Restaurants


Winter is coming my friends. And not the cool, battle ridden winters of Winterfell.

As patio season ends, things get a little tense in the restaurant biz. Bad weather can wreak havoc on foot traffic and have a major impact on sales.  

With fewer patrons braving the cold to dine out, marketers and restaurant owners need to be strategic with their marketing campaigns. Common advice ranges from investing in delivery and crafting seasonal menus, to this gem from the National Restaurant Association:

With heat lamps, cozy blankets and fireplaces or fire pits, restaurants can capitalize on additional seating any time of the year.

Clearly they live somewhere that doesn’t see several feet of snow come January.

If your restaurant is located somewhere with distinct off-seasons, these strategies aren’t always sustainable - or even possible.

Instead of band-aid solutions, prepare for winter by bolstering your loyalty program and growing your customer database before the snow hits.

Grow Your Database While The Weather’s Good

During the warmer months you should be building your customer database. Gather emails. Create customer profiles. Look at dining habits. Do customers come visit you once every few months or once a week?

Establish who your regulars are and flag them as good people to market to during the winter.

A great way to collect this kind of data is to run a game-based promotion. Game-based promotions collect all kinds of data, from basic information like names and emails to individual dining preferences. This information is instrumental for targeting and personalizing your marketing initiatives.

You can also use game-based promotions to grow and improve your loyalty program. Attract new members by offering loyalty points as rewards and educating about program perks within the game. Integrating gamification with your loyalty program will also engage current members, increase purchase frequency, and build brand advocacy.

Appeal to Loyalty Members During Off Season

If you’ve prepared well by running game-based promotions and developing customer profiles, your loyalty program should be full of engaged customers once winter arrives.

During off season, market specifically to your loyalty members. They are more likely to brave the cold and come to your restaurant since they’re already invested emotionally with your brand. Plus they’ll spend more (2).

Offering exclusive discounts is a great way to keep loyalty members engaged over the winter season. But don’t just mail them coupons. People are more apt to use something if they have to earn it first. Gamifying your coupon program, whether on your website or on your mobile app, is an effective way to ensure your coupons get used and to get something extra out of discounting your meals.

When you gamify your coupon program, you can get consumers to complete actions that help you meet other business goals. For example, consumers could share the coupon to earn an extra discount. This way you increase your reach, improve the chances your coupon will be used, and get additional consumer data that you can use to personalize your marketing.  

Marketing to loyalty members doesn’t mean you have to just offer discounts. You could run exclusive loyalty member events like a one-night only winter feast. These kind of special events help to build emotional relationships with customers and drive traffic during slower days. Ask your members what kind of events they would be interested in and plan to run a few over the winter months.


Keep Up Your Marketing Presence

You have to work harder in the winter to get people to come into your restaurant. So don’t ease off your marketing initiatives.

Keep up your social media presence with fun, winter focussed content. Show consumers why they should brave the cold. Do you have a great seasonal menu? A cozy atmosphere? Share pictures of things that appeal to customers during winter: cozy places, warm food, and hot drinks.

If you prepared for winter you should have a decent sized email database. So email that list with special offers. Share links to your gamified coupon program. Update them about new seasonal dishes. And include pictures of your food and restaurant whenever possible.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you’re prepared for winter this year by running a gamified promotion while the weather is still good. Aim to bolster your loyalty program and grow your email list. Then target those people during the winter months with special events and seasonal content.

If you do offer winter discounts, make sure you don’t just give them away. In exchange for coupons ask customers for additional data and encourage them to complete actions that help you meet other marketing goals.

Don’t wait for the snow to fall before you think about winter marketing.

It may only be September, but winter is coming.  

Will you be ready?