Woodward Foodservice senior marketing manager Phil Marshall offers the following advice for creating profit during the summer.
British summer weather can be difficult to predict. But that doesn't mean that caterers can't cash in on increased trade from regulars and tourists to make the most of seasonal, summer opportunities.
It's a typical British tradition to wheel out a barbecue at the first glimpse of summer to enjoy dining ‘al fresco'.
But rushing out to buy associated paraphernalia to host a barbecue at home requires a good deal of organisation. Caterers can take advantage of this and take the hassle-factor out of eating out for potential customers.
Consider offering a weekly barbecue and market it well before the summer starts to ensure that you're on the top of everyone's list when the sunshine arrives.
A contingency plan - such as barbecuing under a small gazebo means customers will be tempted by wonderful smells whatever the weather. If your barbecue is a permanent, outdoor fixture offer diners the opportunity to have grilled dishes from the regular menu, cooked on the barbecue for a tasty outdoor flavour.
Consider a fixed-price per head - it's increasingly popular with diners and - when worked out carefully- can help to boost profit margins.
Be creative about barbecue food - staples such as sausages and chicken will suit certain customers, but try to expand what's on offer to make sure there's something for everyone.
With simple preparation techniques - such as skewering on a kebab - prawns, swordfish and tuna take on a great flavour when cooked on the BBQ. Remember to provide a vegetarian option and plenty of accompaniments such as rolls, salads, dips and condiments.
Key summer dates Take advantage of key dates during the summer and create some 'theatre'. Capitalise on sporting events such as Wimbledon - strawberries and cream 'specials' desserts are always a winner whether you are screening any of the play or not.
Football matches such as the Charity Shield in August are a great way to maximise customer spend when they have come to watch the fixture.
Consider offering a range of hand-held snacks for peckish viewers or even offer a complimentary light buffet to increase the duration of their stay and encourage repeat visits when matches are being screened in the future.
Use the summer season as a test-bed to try out new ideas.
Offer taster menus for the new season's menu to give diners a sneak preview of what's in store - it gives them a great excuse for a repeat visit later in the year!
Offer children the opportunity to create their own sundae with a choice of ice-cream and a range of toppings for a fixed price. It can create a great focal point and, with children well occupied 'creating' a pudding, parents can relax to enjoy desserts and coffee too.
Alternatively, create a mouth-watering 'Sundae of the Week' or offer a comprehensive range of ice-creams and lollies - they're perfect for young visitors and help to increase spend.
Give the summer months some extra sizzle by creating a range of long-drinks and cocktails - with or without alcohol. Offer pitchers to share and change the flavours on a weekly basis to constantly refresh the offering for regular customers.
Give parents a helping hand during the summer holidays and host a fun day for children with a range of games and activities to keep them occupied while parents have a chance to refuel in the beer garden.
And for adults take advantage of long summer evenings to add a little glamour - why not host a summer ball or Champagne and canapé evening?
Get customers into a holiday-mood with international food days - offer a menu of the most popular dishes from holiday destinations such as Greece, Italy, France and Spain for a Mediterranean theme.
These can be trialled relatively easily by putting up bunting of the country's flag throughout the pub and creating a simple but effective menu to tempt customers.
Take advantage of tourist visitors and to set up reciprocal deals. Speak to local hotels and key tourist attractions to set up mutually beneficial exclusive deals such as a 10 per cent discount off a particular part of a meal or a buy one get one free offer.
Think about terms and conditions carefully to make the offer work for your business - drive customer spend at particular times of the day when business is quieter.