Surviving Winter: Making the Most of Unpredictable Weather

1/17/17 7:00 AM Natalie Appleton

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Is there any other industry so instantly and dramatically affected by the weather?

In the restaurant world, we bless it, we curse it, and in the end, the best we can do is prepare for it.

Fortunately, despite Mother Nature throwing us one helluva winter, these days it’s much easier to keep your restaurant and staff on track even when the snow is blowing your hair back.

And hey, we might even have a few tricks to turn that blizzard into an upsell opportunity…

1. Get the App for That

Is there an extreme cold front heading your way in an hour? A snowfall warning? Thanks to the ingenuity of weather apps, you don’t have to be surprised by the weather anymore.

One weather app that’s brilliant for keeping you in the loop so you can make quick, smart decisions about staffing is The Weather Network:

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Managers can get alerts for a range of valuable notifications particularly helpful for the winter season, including temperature swings, cold alerts and snow. Plus, you can customize notifications like the cold alerts so the app notifies your phone when it feels below -10 C, -20 C or -30 C for all you special folks in the Prairies.

And, if you’re part of a multi-unit organization, you’ve also got the option to ‘follow’ and set notifications for multiple cities across North America.  

Learn more about the differences between some of the top weather apps in our post 3 Best Weather Apps for the Restaurant Industry.

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2. Get a Communication Plan in Place

So you got four feet of snow overnight and it’s now Sunday morning and the plows are already three days behind…Now what?

How slow is your restaurant going to be for brunch today, and how are you going to adjust the schedule and tell staff about any changes?  

If you’re working with restaurant scheduling software that incorporates an email and text notification system so you can instantly communicate to the right people, move on to #3.  

If not, here are some tips to spread the word on snow days:

  • Make sure your staff contact list is up to date and accessible. Make sure you have a hard copy handy in case there are any power outages, and an electronic copy for easy searching.
  • Consider the ‘telephone tree.’ You call Joe and tell him you don’t need him to come in, or to come in earlier to help with the shovelling! Give him the number for Megan and Jeff, and ask him to call them with the same message.

Before you make those calls, though, hopefully you’ve got month-over-month and even hour-over-hour sales data you can use to inform those calls. Finding out what your meal count was during a snowstorm last February could show you exactly which times of day were surprisingly busy or slow. Ameego, for example, integrates with POS and can drill down to this level to inform scheduling! 

3. Set up Snow Removal 

It’s one of those services restaurant management teams talk about and talk about, and manage to trudge through winter doing it on their own year after year, but we promise, you will never regret outsourcing snow removal—not only because clear access means business, it also relieves you of worries about lawsuits.  

Make sure you know a guy. Make sure the terms are clear.

Here are some questions to have outlined with your contractor:  

  • How soon after a snowfall or snowstorm will they have someone one site?
  • What parts of the property are included? (Ideally it’s the parking lot plus the sidewalk and prep, such as salting and sanding)
  • What are their rates (monthly or per visit)?

If you and another restaurant share a street and/or parking lot, it might be worth walking over to your neighbour and asking if they want to go in on the service to save a bit of cash. Before you hire your snow guy, be sure to get a couple of references from some of their commercial customers.

4. Make it Fun. Make it Social. Make it Sell.

Snow days don’t have to be bad days. Quite the opposite.

Since you’re completely prepared for oncoming storms, you can be not just open for business, but turning that dump or chill into a business opportunity to get more bottoms on those chairs, so to speak.

Tips to make the most of blistery weather:

  • Share pics of you and your team sweeping off the frost and snow to show your followers you are definitely open, and pumped about it!
  • Do a wintry-inspired special. Steak and Guinness pie for the -40 C weekend? Happy hour hot totties? Take a shot, share it, and wait for the orders to roll off the line. 

Use social to challenge customers to spread the warmth on this blistery day with their best/worst ugly sweater, share photos of their table on social, and create a bit of a contest around it.

Now that you’ve got a winter weather plan and you’ve got your people easily at the ready, let it snow!

Wondering what it would be like to instantly communicate with your team on snow days—and every day? Discover the benefits of restaurant scheduling software that incorporates team text and email notifications. Blizzards have nothing on Ameego! Click below to get a demo:

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Topics: Improving Restaurant Profit