As we approach the summer months, most of South Florida’s hoteliers, retailers and restaurateurs can expect a dip in sales. Although summer is no longer as sleepy as it once was, June, July and August lack the high traffic seen during peak season in winter and spring.
Unfortunately, the decrease in revenue in the summer months also leads to a decrease in performance for too many businesses. Some managers choose to run a lean staff until the summer is over, and often, businesses hold off on facilities improvements until just before winter guests arrive.
These common decisions are usually mistakes. Today’s customers expect a great experience regardless of the season, so managers and business owners must seize the summer months as an opportunity of investment.
Here are a few things you may want to think about:
• Drive sales by appealing to locals and stay-cationers. Some of the wisest operators look to tourists within their own backyards to drive business during summer months. Promotional pricing in the summer is a great way to attract new clientele. Thanks to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, summer is less slow in South Florida. Promotions such as Savor Fort Lauderdale, Miami Spice and Miami Spa Month help companies attract new business from local clientele. The participation fees for these programs are nominal, given the payoff most companies reap.
• Invest in your staff. Good service goes a long way and drives repeat business. Despite the high number of high-end restaurants and properties in the area, very few have earned five stars from Forbes Travel Guide. Not surprisingly, Forbes indicates that service and staff engagement account for 75 percent of its ratings. A slower period gives you a chance to recruit the right staff and also provide additional training to the staff that you do have. The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and VISIT FLORIDA all have great resources to help you in this area. Remember, your employees have bills to pay just like you do. Investing in them is showing that you care.
• Personally inspect your physical property. If you were busy in the winter, your hotel, restaurant or store is probably a little worn from the heavy traffic you received. Take some time to repaint or replace furnishings that look tired. You should also inventory your supplies and see what you may need to order. Doing this early in the summer will give you time to shop around and develop an appropriate schedule for these investments. Remaining competitive and maintaining a profitable business during the slower summer months is not easy. As revenue decreases, costs must also decrease, and therein lies the challenge.
Your loyal, regular customers will continue to expect a certain level of service no matter what time of the year it is. A smart businessperson must know how to drive business, continue to invest in their employees while at the same time invest in their business to keep it well maintained for the busy season to come.
Alan Seidman, D.B.A., is a professor and college chairman of the School of Hospitality at Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami Campus. Seidman has held management positions with Houlihan’s Restaurants, Pizza Hut Corp. and the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach, California.