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Top 5 ways to beat the January slump

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Top 5 ways to beat the January slump

After a busy Christmas and New Year, many hospitality businesses experience a slump in footfall when January arrives. With the exception of some delayed Christmas celebrations (in many cases booked by other people in the industry), it’s likely that footfall and therefore revenue will take a dive. The lull is further affected by New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, drink less, and save money, making January one of the hardest times of year for the hospitality industry.

There is no doubting that running a hospitality business is difficult. From mastering your brand to successfully developing an online persona, there are a number of steps that can be taken to help you drive an increase in foodie footfall. It is more important than ever to ensure that your brand experience stands out, with consumers being bombarded with choice.

Once you gain customers, it’s vital that you keep them coming back as it’s much more difficult and costly to attract brand new customers. Providing exceptional service, food, drinks, value and atmosphere are all factors that will keep your existing customers coming back again and again. It’s also important that a good relationship remains between you and your customers after they leave. Responding to customer feedback, acknowledging concerns, and thanking customers for compliments (typically through review sites) will let your customers know you care about their opinion and appreciate their choice to dine with you, which will set you apart from the competition.

Top 5 ways to beat the January slump

Make your business more visible online

One of the best ways to increase the number of bookings you receive is to ensure you make it as easy as possible for your customers to book a table with you. It’s easier for you to manage your business if you have an idea of how many customers you are expecting, as you can ensure you are staffed appropriately and can prepare more thoroughly. Although, it is impossible to control how many walk-ins you get, it’s a good idea to encourage booking in advance. There are a number of methods for this, including advertising a discount for tables that are pre-booked or by making it really easy for customers to book. Online booking has really taken off, and taking bookings through your website, or through a third party site such as OpenTable can add a lot of value to your business. It will ensure you stay organised and introduces you to a varied assortment of clientele that you may not have been able to access otherwise. In addition to this, make sure your website contains the information that your customers are looking for, including keeping your online menus up to date, and displaying your contact information and location clearly.

Top 5 ways to beat the January slump

Up-selling to increase average spend

If your customers order just one extra item from each table it can help you to take your sales to a new level. For example, if every table spends just £2 extra each, and you have 40 tables of people through your restaurant every day, that’s £80 a day, £560 a week, and a massive £29,120 in a year. This means you could turnover an extra £30,000 by just adding one side, starter or dessert to half of your tables. With this in mind, it’s important to train your staff to read customer buying signals, and how they can up-sell and cross-sell your products. Something as simple as recommending a wine that would compliment their meal, or offering a starter or side can be all a customer needs to make the decision to spend more with you. Perhaps have each team member pick a personal favourite from your menu, which they can recommend convincingly to customers. You can also involve your staff in your mission to beat the January slump by running incentives. Examples of this include encouraging your staff to up-sell certain products and rewarding them with prizes, or points. You could also set your staff a target of collecting email addresses from customers, so these can be added to your marketing database. This will create a little bit of healthy competition and will benefit your business, as well as your staff.

Offer a new and easy way to order/pay

You can access a whole new customer base by using apps such as Boppl, and Zapper to make your customer’s experience with you easier than ever. Boppl is an app that allows your customers to place orders on their iOS or Android phone, and when integrated with EPOS the order appears on your system alerting you to prepare the order. Your customers can pay directly through Boppl, which means you can bring in extra revenue without needing extra staff to take orders or payment. An alternative is Zapper, which makes it easy for your customers to pay for their meal at the end of their visit. All they have to do is scan the QR code on their bill with their Zapper app on the phone, and they can split the pill, add tips, and even leave their feedback on their experience with you, without requiring a staff member to take payment. Find out more here.

Top 5 ways to beat the January slump

Increase efficiency of table turn/flow-through

An important way of increasing revenue, is by making your table turn, and flow-through extremely efficient. You want your customers to enjoy their experience so much that they come back again and again, as well as telling their friends about you. By no means do you want to rush your customers out of the door, but it’s important you have enough staff front of house, and back of house in the kitchen to deal with the amount of customers you have. It also helps to have systems that allow you to keep track of what stage your tables are at. For example, Epos Now’s software can tell you what stage your customers are at so you can see at a glance when your tables are ready for their next course, or may need to be cleared. Something as simple as leaving finished plates on your customer’s table for 5 or 10 minutes can really slow down your whole day of service. You also need to make sure tables are cleared and re-set as soon as your customers leave, so new customers can be seated immediately.

Do you have enough POS systems for your restaurant? It can slow up your service considerably when all of your staff are trying to input orders into one machine. It may be worth considering ordering tablets, which allow you to take orders directly from the table. This means that your kitchen or bar staff can begin to prepare your customer’s order before you have even left the table.

Top 5 ways to beat the January slump

Tailor marketing and promotions to your audience

What kinds of deals drive your customers? What are your objectives? Do you want to encourage existing customers or new customers?

Running time or day specific offers during your quietest periods will allow you to maintain your profit margins during your popular times, but give you a boost in footfall during the times when you most need it. Something as simple as a happy hour within your business will encourage customers to visit you out of usual peak times if they know they’re getting a bargain. This could be on drinks or a free starter with every main for example. Make sure you shout about your offers on your website, and social media.

Ensure your brand is active within the social media channels your customers, their followers, and their influencers can be found. Social media is moving quickly towards photo sharing rather than words, and this offers you a great opportunity to share enticing food imagery with your customers and potential customers. If the majority of your customers are between 18-25, consider Instagram to reach them, or alternatively use Facebook and Twitter to shout about your business, your offers, and share relevant articles, and images.

Top 5 ways to beat the January slump


Erin Heenan

Erin joined Epos Now in 2016 as an in-house content writer for the marketing department, making use of 10 years experience working in busy restaurants. An avid fan of shopping and eating out, she is committed to helping retail and hospitality SMEs get the most out of their businesses.

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