Cashing in on spring fever

As winter fades and the weather begins to heat up, it’s time once again to roll out spring-related promotions. Warmer temperatures mean that customers will be more willing to go out for pizza after work, maybe have a drink or two with friends and enjoy, whenever possible, the pleasant environment of an outdoor patio. If your pizzeria offers outdoor dining, here are some ways to spruce it up and create a sense of spring fever among your guests.

To get started, you’ll need the following:

• New items to update and decorate your patio, such as umbrellas, table settings, tiki torches, outdoor plants and bulb lights for nighttime

• New menu items that introduce the flavors of spring, including blended fruit smoothies, spring salads and healthier selections

• A fun list of games, activities and fundraisers to get the community involved

• Misters around the perimeter of the patio to cool down the area on really hot days

• Updated menus, tablecloths and staff uniforms that reflect the new season and brighten up your restaurant

Your patio has been idle during the winter months, but now it’s time to make use of the space, tables and chairs. Breathing new life into your patio will give your restaurant a brighter and more inviting feel that will help draw people to your restaurant. You’ll want to dust off the tables and chairs, replace worn-out cushions and perhaps put a new stain on your wooden tables. Bring in some outdoor plants suited for the weather in your area; smaller potted plants or flowers on the table will also create a festive atmosphere.

For nighttime hours, lighting the patio with tiki torches or small outdoor lights creates a romantic ambience and draws customers outside for dinner.

Even if you don’t have a patio, you can still create a buzz in the community by hosting springtime events and promotions. Here are some ideas:

• Organize and host a communitywide event with games and activities. Schedule it during a happy hour so adults and kids alike can get involved. Come up with games that relate to the spring months and pass out prizes—such as complimentary meal cards—to the winners.

• Create an outdoor fundraiser for a local charity and host it in your parking lot if space allows. Offer face painting and chalk drawing for kids and raffle prizes for adults.

• Support an outdoor run or walk for a good cause and arrange for the event to start and end at your pizzeria.

• Set up a booth at an outdoor event or festival in your area, sell your food and donate part of the sales to a local charity.

• Spice up your menu and offer springtime specials. 
Refreshing blended concoctions that use warm-weather fruits—such as berries, melon, mango, pineapple and coconut—will be a guaranteed hit. Make both alcoholic and nonalcoholic versions and serve them in tall frosted glasses with paper umbrellas and bright straws. For kids, toss some colored ice cubes into their soda and juice to add to the fun.

• With many customers wanting to lose weight for swimsuit season, it’s a great idea to promote lighter menu items, such as fresh salads, and healthier menu options, such as fish.

• From table settings and menus to staff uniforms, go for a brighter look in your restaurant—you’ll see both your employees and customers react to the cheery atmosphere and, in turn, your sales will perk up, too!

Linda Duke is the CEO of Duke Marketing and author of Recipes for Restaurateurs (marketing-cookbook.com), a “cookbook” of marketing ideas for restaurant owners, as well as The LSM Diet: Improve Your Bottom Line, Not Your Waistline (lsmdiet.com), a self-help guide to local store marketing. She publishes a quarterly industry resource, Restaurant Marketing Magazine, and an educational program, LSM-U, Local Store Marketing University. Find out more at dukemarketing.com.