One of the challenges of operating a waterfront seafood restaurant is figuring out what to do during the off-season. Once temperatures fall, far fewer people walk the beach, which tends to cut down on your client base. If you're in a tourist-friendly area, tourism also slows down in the off-season, which is another issue. It is, however, possible to stay open and profitable during the off-season — if you make some changes. Here are a few changes to consider making.
Add some more hearty, warming dishes to the menu.
Most waterfront seafood restaurants have a lot of fresh, beachy dishes on the menu. Ceviche, shrimp cocktail, and clams all have their place. But during the off-season, fewer customers are going to want these cool, refreshing dishes. They'll instead crave warm, comforting food. This does not mean you have to pivot away from seafood. There are lots of warm, comforting seafood dishes you can experiment with, such as:
- Shrimp Gumbo
- Seafood Stew
- Clam Chowder
- Baked Fish and Vegetables
Make sure you advertise your "cool weather menu" on your social media accounts so visitors know you have what they're craving this season.
Offer early bird specials.
Many of your customers during the off-season will be permanent residents of the area and not tourists. In most beach towns, a good number of the residents are older adults, who tend to go to bed earlier and therefore want to eat dinner earlier. The sun sets sooner in the off-season, too, which makes people want to eat earlier. Offering early bird specials will draw a lot of these customers in. For example, you could offer half-off shrimp dishes one night and a two-for-one fish special the other night.
Focus on offering local seafood.
During the busy season, you may not be able to keep up with demand if you only sell local seafood. But when things slow down, see if you can manage to buy fish and seafood from local vendors, only. If you're able to do this, it is something you can advertise to your customers. Knowing that they will be eating only locally sourced seafood, customers who are in the area will be happy to visit your restaurant.
Operating a waterfront seafood restaurant during the off-season requires you to be creative and willing to pivot a little. If you focus on offering local seafood, put some warming dishes on the menu, and offer early bird specials, you'll be in good shape.
For more information, visit a local waterfront seafood restaurant.