The January slump in the restaurant industry and how to avoid it - Updated December 21

How to Market your Restaurant to Avoid the January Slump.

Right now, you’re worked off your feet. Staff are rushing around to meet the demands of hungry customers; your restaurant is full and you’re doing well. You have mastered the Christmas rush and are reaping the rewards of December for the restaurant industry.

But now is not the time to become complacent. One of the most difficult times for restaurants is on the horizon – January.

We know you don’t want to be thinking about the post-Christmas period yet, but this is exactly when you should be planning your January marketing.

January is a notoriously difficult time for restaurants, catering businesses and all commercial kitchens. Everyone has overindulged in December and tend to cut back on going out in January. This is because they want to diet, cut back on alcohol after too much the previous month and save money. The result is a keen lack of restaurant bookings.

January and late winter can provide a challenging time for restaurants, especially those with tight margins. A particularly bad January can lead to many new establishments going bust, an especially common trend since the recession in the UK.
So, how can your business avoid the January slump?

Well, one of the biggest mistakes commercial kitchens make is simply waiting for the January slump to happen. Kitchway has worked with restaurants around the UK and notice these patterns time and again. With so much marketing and advertising focused on the festive season, businesses do not put in time to properly plan their January marketing campaign and they leave it too late to launch them.

January can actually be a profitable time for businesses that take the time to implement smart marketing.
Top Marketing Tips For Avoiding the January Slump
1) Gift Certificates
Gift certificates are an excellent idea for restaurants in particular because you can start this marketing way back in the pre-December period and not have it jar with Christmas themed marketing. Many people don’t know what Christmas gifts to buy their loved ones but redeemable gift certificates and coupons for a dining experience make an ideal gift for ‘foodies’.

This allows for early marketing and many will be thinking about redeeming their gifts in January having received them on Christmas day. Be sure to make the offer really good or part of a special night experience and enable the gift certificate buyer to easily customise.

2) Start January Marketing Early
Don’t wait until January to start promoting your business more aggressively. You may be full for December, but you can encourage people to book for January now. Launch your social media campaigns and start pushing your January promotions now. You can even slip January offers into view when you hand out bills during December dining.

Christmas is an ideal time to market for January. The period between Christmas and New Year is renowned for leaving people feeling lost and wondering what the year ahead will bring.

3) Make January Special With Extra Incentives
The best way to beat the January slump in the restaurant industry is to give people a real reason to book. Don’t rest on your laurels. Get busy planning discounts, offers and best of all, special events like cooking classes, themed evenings and cocktail tasting parties.

4) Appeal to the Back to Work Crowd
While atmosphere is important, don’t be afraid to try something new in January. If you were always an evening establishment but aren’t seeing the bookings you hoped for in January, don’t be scared of breaking your own rules.

The back to work crowd are all about convenience, so don’t focus solely on candle light dining. Consider being open all day, develop a delicious breakfast menu, offer takeaway breakfasts for the on-the-way-to-work brigade.

Why not get free Wi-Fi in your establishment and encourage people to work on their laptops and enjoy lunch at the same time. This is a hit with the growing number of freelancers and digital nomads and could set you apart from more traditionist venues.

5) Use the January Blues to Lure Customers

Everyone is feeling a little down in January. They may well want to focus on healthy living but it’s easy to slip up. Everyone needs a treat to fight away the January blues and you can use this in the language of your marketing to get customers through the door. Don’t neglect those window displays filled with delicious food to break their will power.

6) Utilise the Dating Season in your Marketing
While January can be tough for restaurants, there is still opportunity there for ambitious businesses. Did you know that statistically, January is a major dating season? Online dating is at its peak in this month and restaurants can utilise this theme in their marketing to encourage couples to meet in person and go on a romantic, traditional first date.

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7) Try New Innovations in January
Since January is typically a slower month, this is the perfect time to launch some innovations into your marketing and business operations that you wouldn’t want to risk trialing in a busier period.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a new online booking and ordering system, now could be the time to get it setup, so your staff can adjust to it and iron out any technical issues before your next busy season.

You can also use the extra revenue gained in the busy December period to launch new paid campaigns on social media to get customers through the door.

If you’re thinking of modernising your marketing, January is a great time to experiment. You could devote time to getting your brand on Instagram and showcasing more of your business through visual social mediums.

January is also the perfect time for a review of your current stock. Have you faced many breakages during the Christmas rush that you need to replace? Or perhaps you are launching a completely fresh menu for the New Year and require a wholly new set of tableware to add a new style to your establishment?

January is the perfect time to start sourcing restaurant supplies for the year ahead. Why not take a look at the great deals you could get on high quality commercial kitchenware with Kitchway? We have exquisite tableware, restaurant supplies, barware, food preparation equipment and everything you need to refresh your kitchen supplies.

And lastly, with the current COVID-19 uncertainties it's even more important to be creative and use out of the box thinking to be on the top of your customer's minds.


Maria A.

Maria A.

We use January to review the last few months and see what we can do for the coming year, but this one definitely gave me the idea to look in this direction and look for ways to keep the business going in January.



Thanks, Abraham, these are great tips, we will definitely try to focus to implement them

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