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Managing a seasonal business

While most businesses are to some extent affected by seasonality, for those in the hospitality industry, constantly dealing with seasonal peaks and troughs can be a major challenge.


Working with the business owners of cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars up and down the country, the Good Till has seen how these inspiring entrepreneurs successfully navigate the seasonal fluctuations and use a range of strategies that maximise their annual profits.


Here’s four tips to becoming ‘season-proof’ that we’ve picked up along the way:


  1. Understand the cycle and plan ahead


Every business is different and, while some may have to implement complete or partial shutdowns in response to changes in customer flow, others will require a less radical approach.


So, before you can decide what’s best for your business, you need to get to the facts.


If you can, base your projections on business insights gained over the last two or three years. Using the accurate sales and inventory data provided by a smart POS system is a great start, helping you to identify the busy and slow stretches as well as the popularity of specific offers during those periods. With the facts to hand, you can then work on your business model to adjust staffing, stock and cash reserves as necessary – even if it’s just for one day as can be the case with bank holiday spikes.


  1. Manage your human resources


There’s no getting around the fact that seasonality has a major impact on recruitment and people management within hospitality businesses. As well as keeping on top of important issues like the legal rights of temporary workers and the minimum/ living wage levels, you must also deal with regularly having to train new staff and preparing rotas that ensure optimum cover.


Once you know your seasonal variations though, you can use this knowledge to manage staff expectations so that they are clear about things like the length of their contract and when they might be able to take holidays. And, with the ease-of-use that comes with a modern POS system, training new staff can be done in a matter of minutes!


  1. Use downtime wisely


While no-one wants too much downtime, a little of it can represent an opportunity for you and your business. You could take advantage of that extra time to carry out some maintenance or refurbishment tasks at your premises; run some new training and development activities for staff; work on next year’s projections; or even carry out some research about your competitors.


Although you might not see so many clients through the doors during the slower periods, they haven’t disappeared completely. So, why not use this time to plan and schedule ways of keeping in touch – e.g. through social media posts, email campaigns or event publicity.


Finally, don’t forget that, with foresight, downtime might also be your best chance to rest and recharge. Book that holiday while you can!


  1. Diversify the offer


While you wouldn’t want to divert too far from the core business you’ve built up, creating an alternative or additional revenue source is another way you can counteract those off-peak moments.


Some food trucks, for instance, can lose up to 50% of their business in winter and so might consider a shift into business catering during that period. A bar with a great outdoor space might have a strategy which expands and reduces cover according to the seasons. A restaurant with a predominantly ice-cream-based menu might use the cold months to trial something a little warmer!


If diversification proves best for your business, by using a POS system like the Good Till, not only can you quickly add new menu items or offers to your system, but you’ll also be able to identify exactly how well they’re performing through real-time sales reporting features.



As just one of the many stress-factors affecting hospitality business, managing the seasonal ups and downs might never be a doddle but, with good business insights and some well-thought through strategies in place, your business can remain strong and resilient throughout.


Find out more about how the Good Till can support your seasonal business today.