It’s that time of the year again – the weather is cooling off, summer is coming to a close, and for some restaurants, business may be slowing down. While back to school season may be a great time for retailers, the restaurant industry tends to experience a drop in profit compared to the busy summer months. However, there are plenty of ways your restaurant can combat the August/September lull by appealing to the demographic who reigns supreme this season – families.
Offer– The easiest and most effective way to draw in families during back to school season is by offering any sort of family or kid friendly discount. Since most moms and dads are caught in the chaos of school supplies and backpacks, they will appreciate any effort to make their lives easier and provide some relief to their wallets.
Kids Eat Free: Set aside a certain time period of the day (i.e. 4-6PM) and offer a free kid’s meal with the purchase of 1-2 regular entrees. If you do not want to go the free route, half off or a certain percentage off are also great alternatives.
Family Deals: If your restaurant is big on take-out or catering, you can create a family meal pack for those too on-the-go to stop by. The exact combinations can vary depending on what price point you are comfortable with, however some ideas can include 1 appetizer + 4 entrees + dessert for a certain set price, etc.
Shopping Rewards: If you would like to draw out the lunch crowd, one idea is to offer a free non-expensive item, such as an appetizer, with proof of purchase for back to school shopping. If a guest brings in a recent receipt – set within the time span of a few hours – showing they were in the midst of back to school shopping, they can redeem their free item.
Specials – If your restaurant does not offer any or only has a few kids’ meal options on hand, back to school season is a perfect time to expand your repertoire.
Mini Entrees: Offer a popular entrée in a smaller portion more appropriate for children. Make sure the ingredients are kid friendly as well, and do not contain anything that is too spicy or unconventional.
Existing Dishes: If you do not want to include new items in your Kids Meal, consider expanding on the ones you already have. A great, non-expensive way to accomplish this is by adding new side options or including a free drink with the purchase of a meal.
Contests – While this is mostly geared towards bigger restaurants, another good way to engage families, and build social media engagement, is through contests.
Social Media: Create a contest relating to back to school season on Facebook – or whichever is your most popular social media platform – and include a fun incentive to encourage people to participate. Ideas for the contests can be posting a picture of their child on their first day back to school on your Facebook page, and incentive ideas include giving away gift cards or a free dessert.
Charity Component: Consider organizing a School Supply Collection whose items can be donated to a local shelter or charity. A lot of parents are eager to get rid of items their children will not be using for this coming school year, and what better way to do this than by donating them to other children who will need it? Bins or boxes can be set up by the host stand, and patrons can have the chance to receive a discount for their participation.
With any of one these ideas, your restaurant has the chance to make back to school season more successful than ever. Remember – while it may be multiple choice, there are no wrong answers!