Restaurants off to a great start in 2015

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Despite the major snowstorms that have swept the the east coast this winter, it seems as a whole, restaurants kicked off 2015 with a bang. According to the Nation's Restaurant News, a retail report released by the federal government showed that restaurant sales increased by more than 13 percent since the same time last year. When compared to other industries, restaurants had the biggest leap in sales.

What one good month means
In addition to this report, each year the National Restaurant Association gathers information to come up with a Restaurant Performance Index, which measures the outlook of the U.S. restaurant industry. 

The report has been around since 2002, and it comes out on the last business day of each month. The January RPI aligned with the federal government data, further supporting other evidence that the industry had a great start to 2015. Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association, explained to what extent the RPI is important and how it translates in each establishment. 

"A solid majority of restaurant operators reported higher same-store sales and customer traffic in January, which helped keep the RPI well into positive territory," said Riehle. "In addition, nearly six in 10 operators expect their business to improve in the next six months, with plans for capital expenditures also continuing at a high level."

Why was January exceptional?
Such exciting numbers beg the question – what was so special about January? After all, many regions were hit with a series of massive snowstorms, leading some places in the country to break seasonal records. Perhaps all of the stir-crazy people were driven out of their Boston brownstone apartments and into restaurants for solace and warmth? 

"The good month might have to do with the fact that gas prices were down, suggested the Nation's Restaurant News."

The good month might have to do with the fact that gas prices were down, suggested the Nation's Restaurant News. If people aren't shelling out a pretty penny to fill their tanks, it could mean they have more spending money. When people have disposable income, they're more likely to indulge in luxuries, such as shopping and going out for a nice meal. Since these record-breaking sales set the bar high, owners and managers must work diligently on maintaining pace. 

How to keep the ball rolling
Restaurateurs will want to continue to hike up sales for the remainder of the year. While gas prices may fluctuate over the coming months, restaurant owners and managers can take steps to ensure their sales don't go down the gutter. 

Making guests happy is a great way to keep sales up.Making guests happy is a great way to keep sales up.

The Huffington Post came up with a list of suggestions. Here are some of the major takeaways:

  • Capitalize on word of mouth or personalized marketing to keep customers coming back.
  • Turn new patrons into lifelong customers. Build relationships with your clientele online and in person.
  • Blog about new creations and offer patrons a free sample once in a while.
  • Offer people something new and different. 
  • Host special events that are relevant to the food you're serving.
  • Be a great story teller. Coming up with an interesting blurb about your establishment is a great way to get people to remember you.

Personal relationships with guests are key
Just think about some of the memorable places you've frequented. What influenced your decision to return? Was it the cup of coffee or was it the cheerful staff that sang Florence and The Machine while they made your drink? 

Continue to provide consistent service and never be afraid to go above and beyond for guests. After all, these people are coming out in a blizzard to dine at your establishment. In times like these, a little hospitality can go a long way. 

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