5 Restaurant Summer Ideas to Prep for a Successful Season

By Emma LiburdiJun 3rd, 2024

Two diners in summer eating restaurant takeout outside on a bench

With longer days and warmer nights, diners are more ready than ever to enjoy outdoor dining and festive gatherings. In fact, restaurants and bars saw a summer spending surge from May to July 2023—sales jumped 11.8% in July, and 9.5% in June compared to 2022. This growth trend indicates that summer is the perfect time for restaurants to refresh operations, attract new patrons, and maximize profits. Get your restaurant ready with these expert restaurant summer ideas.

1. Refresh Your Menu

Summer is all about light, fresh, and flavorful foods. Diners are looking for meals that match the vibrant season, so now’s the perfect time to shake things up.

  • Seasonal Ingredients: Incorporate fresh, local produce like tomatoes, corn, and berries into your dishes. Think about featuring a rotating “farmers’ market” special to highlight the best produce of the week.
  • Summer Cocktails: Craft new, creative cocktails using summer staples like watermelon and mint. For example, a refreshing sangria or a gin and tonic with a twist can be a hit.
  • Grab-and-Go Options: With people constantly on the move during summer, easy-to-eat options like wraps, sandwiches, and picnic-friendly items can boost your lunchtime sales.

2. Take Advantage of Summer Holidays

Summer is packed with holidays and local events that can draw crowds to your restaurant. Make sure you’re ready to capitalize on these opportunities.

  • Special Menus:Create themed menus for holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Consider offering traditional barbecue options, patriotic desserts, or festive cocktails.
  • Event Promotions:Host special events like live music nights, holiday brunches, or outdoor movie screenings. These can attract families, groups of friends, and tourists looking for a fun way to spend their summer evenings.
  • Community Engagement:Participate in local festivals, farmers’ markets, or sponsor community events. This not only promotes your restaurant but also shows your support for the local community.

3. Optimize Your Outdoor Dining

When the weather is nice, people flock to patios, rooftops, and sidewalk seating. Keep these elements in mind to create an inviting and functional outdoor dining area:

  • Lighting: Invest in good lighting to create a welcoming atmosphere in the evening. For example, string lights, lanterns, and candles can make your outdoor space feel warm and inviting.
  • Accessibility:Ensure that your outdoor area is easily accessible for all guests, and in line with local requirements. This may include wheelchair-accessible tables and clear routes for ease of movement into the dining space and restrooms.
  • Prep for the Elements:Be prepared for summer showers with umbrellas or a retractable awning. Consider adding misters or fans to keep guests cool during the hottest days, and heaters for chilly evenings.

4. Offer Takeout Specials and Cater to Large Orders

Summer is the season for graduations, parties, and barbecues. Make your restaurant the go-to place for all these celebrations.

  • Takeout Specials: Create special takeout packages that are perfect for picnics or beach days. Offer deals on family-sized portions or bundles that include a main dish, sides, and drinks.
  • Catering Options: Advertise your catering services for larger events. Develop a catering menu that’s easy to customize and appeals to a variety of tastes.
  • Party Platters: Offer party platters that are easy to transport and serve, making them ideal for summer gatherings. Think along the lines of charcuterie boards, fruit platters, and sandwich trays.

5. Promote Your Restaurant on Social Media

Use social media to spread the word about your new summer menu and specials, and engage with diners.

  • Engaging & Consistent Content: Share photos of your new dishes, behind-the-scenes videos of your team, and stories about your ingredients and their origins. Check out this mouth-watering summer cocktail special that our partner, Empanada Mama, shared on their Instagram page. Make sure you post regularly to keep your restaurant top of mind.
  • Special Offers: Announce limited-time offers, happy hours, and special events on your social media channels. Use eye-catching graphics and clear calls-to-action.
  • Interactive Posts: Ask diners to share their favorite summer dishes, vote on new menu items, or participate in photo contests. The more interactive your content, the more it will be shared.

Looking for more social media guidance? Check out our guide to creating content that will catch diners’ attention.

Find Summer Success

With these tips in mind, your restaurant will be set up for a successful summer season. Plus, our experts at ChowNow can help you easily make menu updates, offer even more marketing guidance, and streamline your takeout to serve more hungry diners.

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