How Weather Affects Restaurants Sales

Many restaurants can trace a direct throughline between weather and sales. In fact, in a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 90% of restaurant operators reported that changes in weather conditions impacted their sales.

Knowing this, how can you as a restaurant owner or manager leverage consumer weather psychology to your advantage?

This guide will explore the impact of various weather conditions on restaurant sales and provide insights into how restaurants can thrive even on the dreariest of days.

Weather Factors That Impact Restaurants

For decades, research has found clear correlations between consumer behavior and weather patterns—and these correlations particularly affect the restaurant industry. Factors like temperature, humidity, sunshine, and rainfall all subtly influence the likelihood of a person eating out, their mood while dining, and consequently, how much they’ll spend and how long they’ll dine at an establishment.

According to one study, “on days with relatively less rain, higher temperatures and more sunshine, sales increase by an average of 5.2 percent, while relatively worse weather on average leads to a decrease in sales of 2.6 percent.”

While all weather conditions can have some type of effect on sales, certain weather events have a greater impact than others, including:

Heat and Sunshine

Unsurprisingly, fair weather days—particularly relative to recent weather conditions—encourage consumers to go outside and be active. Bluebird skies and warm weather are the only excuses many people need to enjoy their city, socialize, and grab some good food and drinks.

These types of idyllic warm-weather days can also impact the sales of certain types of food and beverage products. For instance, consumers may be more likely to purchase refreshing drinks, cool sweets, or light foods that pair better with warm weather.

That said, there is a temperature threshold. Extreme heat and humidity days can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, consumers may seek refuge from the heat for refreshment; but on the other, extreme temperatures may discourage people from leaving their homes altogether.

Rainy Days

The most obvious issue caused by rainy-day weather is a decrease in foot traffic, as people—especially in states where rain isn’t common—tend to stay indoors to avoid dealing with the wet. This can result in reduced sales, particularly for restaurants that:

  • Rely on walk-in customers
  • Rely on their outdoor seating options to attract customers

Additionally, rain can also negatively impact patrons’ moods and, thus, their purchasing habits. In fact, according to a survey from Ohio State University, customers are statistically more likely to complain if they’re feeling cranky from unpleasant weather, and they’re three times as likely to complain about their meal, the service, or some other issue on a rainy day.

Snow Days

Some snow can positively impact restaurants specializing in cold weather comfort foods and drinks. However, as with heat, there’s a threshold where excessive snow can hurt business.

For example, some areas of California like Lake Tahoe and the Eastern Sierras have experienced historic levels of snowfall this winter. Naturally, for ski towns, the snow is a major draw that brings tourism to the mountains. But, the unprecedented levels of snow have created various other issues that impact both customers and restaurant staff, including:

  • Delaying or halting supply lines for fresh foods and products
  • Forcing businesses to constantly dig out their restaurant front
  • Closing roads entirely
  • Keeping people sheltered inside

Unusual Weather Events

Variance in expected weather may have an even greater impact on sales than the weather event itself. For example, a random warm and sunny day on the east coast in the winter will likely drive sales, whereas an unexpected rainstorm in the summer in Los Angeles will likely harm sales.

And, how consumers react to a given weather event will largely depend on typical weather patterns in the area. As Restaurant Dive notes, you must also “account for important regional, temporal, and buying trends and traits. After all, how a consumer reacts to 68 degrees Fahrenheit is far from uniform, as the answer is different in Las Vegas than in Louisville; different if it is March or July or October; and different across various products.”

Aside from unpredictable and variable weather behavior, severe storms and major weather events, such as hurricanes, will create a host of issues for restaurants aside from direct sales, including:

  • Temporary closures
  • Disrupted supply chains
  • Damaged infrastructure

How Restaurants Can Adapt to Weather Conditions

If you want to maximize sales and customer satisfaction, you need to proactively prepare for any potential weather condition that could impact your restaurant. To that end, here are some tips you should consider:

  • Factor in upcoming weather events to prepare inventories – Consider near-term meteorological forecasts to set proper inventory levels. For instance, if you know a certain menu item sells especially well due to a certain type of weather-driven demand, your restaurant can add to its supply to prepare for a potential sales surge. Conversely, unfavorable weather-driven demand projections could enable you to reduce supply, thus minimizing waste costs.
  • Leverage weather and demand analytics – A weather-adjusted perspective helps you properly plan and avoid being caught off guard, especially if your restaurant operates in various and unique geolocations. Equipped with historical weather and consumer data, you can factor in upcoming weather impacts to support sales and manage costs, optimize digital marketing spend, and reduce forecast volatility.
  • Implement seasonal menus – If you don’t already change your menu with the seasons, you should strongly consider implementing this strategy. Doing so enhances your menu’s diversity, the freshness and quality of ingredients, and the cost efficiency of menu items. It also allows you to cater to consumers’ weather-related preferences. For instance, lighter, refreshing dishes are popular during the warmer months, while heartier, comforting dishes are more sought after in colder months.
  • Adjust staffing schedules – Just like how most restaurants increase staffing on weekends and run a tighter crew on weekdays, smart restaurants will flex staffing schedules to accommodate expected changes in weather. For example, if you expect a slow day because of rain or snow, you can reduce the number of on-duty staff to minimize costs.
  • Add seasonal specialty items – The popularity of certain types of beverage items is often inversely related to the temperature of the drink and the temperatures outside. On hot days, people want cool drinks, and on cool days, they want hot drinks. That said, bars and coffee shops can lean even further into these weather-related behavioral patterns by creating specialty drinks, such as peppermint-infused hot beverages in the winter or hard slushies in the summer.
  • Consider weather-related promotions and discounts – Do you expect a week of rain to hit? Is July 4th weekend supposed to be a scorcher? Consider adding a rainy-day discount or a 100-degree+ drink special that incentivizes consumers to patronize your restaurant or bar, in spite of the weather.

Weatherproof Your Restaurant with Liberty Interactive Marketing

Like it or not, restaurant consumer behavior can easily be driven by external factors like weather, which are completely out of an owner’s or manager’s control. Fortunately, by understanding the impact of these weather factors on restaurant sales and consumer behavior, owners and operators can develop strategies to mitigate adverse effects and better adapt to changing weather conditions.

At Liberty Interactive Marketing, our team of digital marketing experts specializes in local intelligence marketing for multi-unit restaurant groups. We can partner with you to create a weatherproofing plan for your restaurant—one that takes advantage of sunny days while proactively responding to inclement storms.

Contact our team today to learn more about our digital marketing strategies for restaurants and how we can help yours thrive.

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