M-F 8am-5:00pm ET

Staying Afloat in the Offseason

Posted by Walter Eaves on 30th Jul 2015

Staying Afloat in the Offseason

While in a perfect world, every establishment would be packed year-round, many businesses struggle with seasonality in some way. Whether it is a beach-front bar, a café at the foot of a mountain, or a downtown pub there are strategies and tactics to help make sure your business stays afloat during the lulls.

Planning for the off-season should not start when you are already in the slowest part of the year and realizing you are quickly running out of capital. Having a good off-season starts in the busy times, when you should be getting customers onto your email lists, social media pages, and loyalty programs as well as managing your cash flow to account for the drop off in business.

While there are certain costs that you will accrue year-round such as rent, utilities, and payroll, there are a lot of costs you will want to take a look at. Staffing less people to manage labor costs, taking a look at your hours open, and reducing highly perishable products purchased can all make a huge impact on staying cash-flow positive.

Marketing strategies must also be adjusted. Although promotions can be helpful, “be very careful about spending too much money to bring in too little business,” Zagor, dean of culinary business and industry studies at The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City says. Struggling businesses often throw money at every marketing opportunity rather than focusing on what actually works. Most restaurants draw 80% of their customers from the surrounding neighborhood, so focus on reaching those nearby.

For example, Big Bottom Market, a specialty food story in Guerneville, California survives their slow months of October through April by adapting their marketing efforts to target local residents instead of seasonal tourists. To stay within the average local resident's budget, they revamp their wine inventory by marking down high-priced wines and then restocking with wines around $12-$15 instead of the usual $30-$40 wine sold during their tourist season. They also market directly to the Guerneville residents by creating a new sandwich each month for an outstanding local resident, and holding a Thursday Community Day where everything is 15% off. Focusing on your local community during your off-season is vital; if your locals embrace and support your business, your slow months are sure to be less of a struggle.