Our New Year’s resolution is to come out of the gates fast. Here are some tips to put the pedal down and avoid a slow start to service in ’24.

The prevailing thought is that consumers are tired at the start of the year and looking for hibernation. But in reality, many diners want to continue momentum into a fresh calendar, beating the winter cold through exciting culinary experiences and trying new kinds of dishes. For restaurants, the plate is full of opportunities to drive traffic.

Get to Know You Again

It’s a smart idea to take this time and refamiliarize the public with your restaurant. Primarily, that means doing an audit of your homepage and SEO strategies, while refreshing social channels. Update your art, tweak your story, and highlight what might be new about your place to start the year. Consider putting the focus on employees, menu items that align with new year trends such as wellness and international spiciness, or what’s special about your vibe in the neighborhood. Reels and clips that play up the visual side of your story are likely to get the most engagement.

Finding ways to directly interact with consumers is also important: Think about starting the year with an email or text survey to get feedback from your regulars. Participants could receive a free app or drink special. If it makes sense in your market, advertise specials and LTOs to kick off the year — maybe a seafood dish or family-style pasta with root vegetables order could net a complimentary salad. It’s worth exploring cutting-edge tech companies that enhance your connection with potential customers as well. With Performance One Source partners like Square, you can get POS and search engine platform support in addition to help with loyalty and merch programs.

Curb Appeal

One easy way to attract attention is by creating an inviting ambience for foot traffic. That could mean new, creative signage designed by one of your more artistic team members, or something as simple as fun, colorful sidewalk signs and boards. Really play up menu items or combinations that are unique to your place.

Even consider partnering with a local vendor to shuck fresh dollar oysters out front or serve up succulent carnitas street tacos. The extra hustle and bustle (and hopefully a line!) can get pedestrians intrigued enough to linger on their way by and help you convert newbies into regulars. There are other curb tips as well: Let employees select sidewalk music that fits your brand; string funky lights that can be spotted from a distance; or hire a local artist to paint a small mural. The more you engage the senses of people on foot, the better!

Embrace the Chill

In many spots around the country, it’s tempting to think that colder temps will keep diners away. To that, we say let’s chill and lean into the brisk. Start by warming up your beverage service: We’re talking boozy coffees, botanical teas, and tempting toddys. Add some heat to happy hour, too — extend your social time to combat earlier evenings (after all, 6 is the new 8), and serve up spicy starters as part of this menu. For mains, go heavy on warm comfort items like international soups and stews or layer pizzas and pastas with harvest veggies and plenty of cheese varieties.

Remember the outdoor COVID inventory? Repurpose heaters, screens, and fire pits to optimize all of your available spaces. And plan specialty events to draw crowds, such as January Madness basketball nights or cult classic movie parties. Here’s a hot idea — host a Burn the Bill night. The concept is that you hold a check drawing to cover the whole bill for a random table (limit to something like a party of 4). This lottery-like excitement should draw a crowd, and you can mix in trivia for smaller prizes throughout the evening to ratchet up anticipation for the final reveal.

The post-holiday period doesn’t have to mean a slowdown. Without a lot of other activities going on, it’s a real chance to keep the community engaged and become a center of new-year attention.

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