The Weather Factor for Food Industry: Is There a Chance to Control?
By Mila Petruk ~ Exclusive Column
Tuesday, 26th March 2013
Exclusive Feature: Either we like it or not, there are factors in this world which cannot be eliminated with our brightest knowledge and ideas.

Even technology is hopeless facing them. Risk mitigation does not help solve the problems of sunshine and rain. And while scientists are counting the volume of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of our planet, restaurant owners seek for the best ways of improving their bottom line when the weather factor hits the stage.

Undoubtedly, people are going out when the weather is permitting. No one is going to enjoy sitting in Starbucks lounge during the snow storm. Restaurant owners are always looking at weather forecasts with their business in mind. And when they see something bad is about to come out, they have a choice of actions to perform.

These actions usually vary from country to country and from culture to culture, but the general viewpoint is that these actions are aimed at customer satisfaction and cost control.

With these principles in mind, here is our advice on what to do when the weather is far from fair:

1. Focus on full service experience of a guest.

Bad weather makes people vulnerable and accessible for strangers. Guests are more likely to share their life experience while sitting in the restaurant during a thunderstorm. At the same time, they are quite easy to access with upselling. These are the best times to help increase the average cost of meal cover. In order to obtain customer loyalty, simple actions will be required: help getting a transportation, assist with whatever plans the guest might have (which have been obviously affected by the weather change), and give an umbrella if that applies to situation. Be nice and understanding. Bad weather is your best friend to show your warmth and hospitality to the guests.

2. Name your weak links for cost control.

The weather is likely to change the amount of people in your establishment. You know it even before it starts to happen. So how can the higher costs be avoided? Dealing with the remaining customers with care does not always help, and the quantity of these customers is getting smaller and smaller. If the weather forecasts are not positive for a couple of days, you might end up empty for the whole week. Review what you are about to pay for every empty hour and address those areas which are not necessary to be present during this period. This also means shortage of staff (these people would also be not happy for working in such weather conditions and getting home later than usual). But define the weak links wisely: long term effects should be the main priority, not the short term gains. Most restaurants just close during bad weather, while there are still people who might be caught by bad weather and need some rest… and food.

3. Create your own guest meteo-station.

Bad weather does not usually last long. Instead of watching the news over and over again, focus on predicting guest arrivals in the nearest future. What restaurant experience tells us in this case is that weather forecasts do not coincide with the guest arrivals times. This means that while the storm is still in place, people may start going out just to meet others with the same problems and to socialize. Or on the contrary, when the weather is better each day, you might still be empty. Each restaurant knows its guests and their preferences. By thinking their way you are likely to be in the right place at the right time. So despite the weather forecasts better make your own one.

4. Look like a castle.

Train your waiters to not just serve the people who made it through the weather but to be act like they are protecting the guests. Make your restaurant look as cozy and lively as it can. Turn on nice music. If it is Christmas time and there is heavy snow outside, make sure you light up the candles and set the fireplace. Put some arm chairs to make sure the guests stay longer than usual. After all, food industry is part of hospitality.

5. Do something about it.

In all cases, remaining focused on your guest satisfaction and cost control is better than just shutting down your business and getting no revenue for days. Finally, in the world of tight competition it is the way we act which differentiates us from the rest. If you start doing something about it, customer loyalty will pay off. Customers who barely saw your restaurant few days ago will recognize it and become your new loyal guests. Take the stage first: it's not snow time, it's show time!

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Mila Petruk is a hospitality consultant and a founder of Milina Outsourcing Management (MOM) which provides consulting to hotels and restaurants including mystery guest audit, temporary staffing and training support. Being a hospitality industry enthusiast, Mila has a global insight into the developing trends of hotel and restaurant business all over the world.

Having a rich international hotel work experience and an MBA from one of the reputed Swiss hotel schools, she has applied it in almost every hotel department she had worked. Contact Mila at mila.petruk@gmail.com.

Mila writes a regular column for 4Hoteliers.com.

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