The sun is rising on summer, and with it comes longer days and an influx of guests looking for exceptional experiences. Prep your restaurant with seasonal staff, traffic-driving LTOs, and dialed-in catering options. Here are some tips to keep you breezin’ this season.

Serious Seasonal Staff

School’s out! With grads and college students back in town, and the younger of the crew having more flexible schedules, thanks to no homework or afterschool activities, the hiring window is open. Survey your staffing gaps to identify where you need support and make plans for hiring those positions. Talk to existing staff to get an idea of the time off they’re planning and build a schedule around past data, focusing on the busiest times during the summer for your restaurant.

With additional labor available, capitalize on revenue avenues you don’t normally focus on, such as private events, catering, or community outreach opportunities. Summer is the season for students to learn outside of lecture halls and textbooks — look to recruit seasonal employees such as interns or managers in training, where you can train entry-level employees to grow with your business and give them a taste of the hospitality industry. Assign your intern hands-on learning experiences with projects that benefit sales, operations, or marketing — hello, social media gurus and event specialists!

Sizzling Summer Specials

As we move toward summer, it’s a great time to revamp your menu to feature all the wonderful seasonal produce — tomatoes, eggplant, melons, peaches — that are abundant at this time of year. Work with your kitchen staff to identify heavier cold-weather dishes that can transition out and replace them with fresh salads, grilled foods, seafood, and handhelds that entice consumers to eat fresh to beat the heat.

Traffic-driving LTOs bring new and in-demand flavors to your menu and draw excitement from patrons. Try themed happy hours or highlight one day of the week offering exciting specials — such as Summer Sunday Supper, with family-style dishes like St. Louis Style Ribs or buckets of Fried Chicken meant for hungry crowds or for families looking to gather now that the kids are out of school.

Create seasonal happy hour menus that offer photo-ready frozen cocktails and splurgy, on-trend favorites like lobster rolls, shareable dips, and snacks that can satisfy families, date nights, and even the after-work crowd. West Creek®, for example, offers an assortment of snackable premade dips. Save time in the kitchen with easy-to-prep dips that are bold enough to stand up on their own, yet versatile enough to double as recipe ingredients in attention-grabbing appetizer menu options that are perfect for dining in or carrying-out.

Let’s Go Al Fresco

Outdoor dining is a huge draw for folks during the warmer months, so reset your outdoor spaces now. Make them beautiful with flowers and fresh herbs, creating a lush oasis for guests. Practice a few dry runs with staff to streamline outdoor dining, paying close attention to waiting areas (are they shaded and comfortable for guests?). Look for bottlenecks in the flow of service so you can address them and get ahead of the season.

Guests want to be outside! Have fun with it and experiment with a special (or even secret!) menu that’s only available for your outdoor patios. Secret menus are a clever way to engage guests and make them feel like a VIP.

Cool at the Pool

From your tables to theirs — many people spend time at the pool or vacation homes during this time of year. Think about how and where people like to eat during the summer months and plan to cater to them on location. For example, consider creating a ‘Pool Pack’ that includes a selection of shareable, snacky bites, and drinks. Or make it a ‘Picnic Pack,’ loaded with salads, sandwiches, pickles, bread, and other picnic-friendly foods. Make these selections kid-friendly and market to families at community pools or swim meets for parents on the go.

You could also offer family-style entrees that are refrigerated or frozen for easy reheating. Buy-one-get-one free or half-price deals are a clever way to upsell premade, ready-to-eat dishes and can be a lifesaver for people welcoming care-free summer evenings of not cooking/meal planning, or for that first night at their vacation house when there’s nothing stocked in the fridge.

Now’s the time of year when community events ramp up. Reach out to subdivisions in your local area to be scheduled on their rotation for food truck or pop-up service opportunities. Many communities put on holiday events, meet-ups, and events like pool parties or first Fridays, where they host live music, vendors, and catering opportunities. Add your business to the lineup and get your name out there.

Dive in and start planning now to get ready for summer crowds before the official start of summer on June 20th!

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