Summertime, and the Livin' is Easy

Well, maybe not easy, but that’s how the lyrics go to George Gershwin’s hit from Porgy and Bess. It’s a classic and so are the changes that happen in our eating during the warmer summer months. Most consumers have access to lots more fresh, local produce and want to spend as much time outside as possible. So, what does that mean to food marketers and how can you capitalize? In a nutshell, it means you have an even shorter time frame to capture their attention and make a sale. On the other hand, if you can provide easy ways to get fresh, healthy meals, it’s a win for everyone.

Before we offer our thoughts for promotions, we want to remind you to always start by answering a few questions:

  • Who is your current customer?

  • Who do you want to be your customer?

  • Who do you want to attract with this promotion?

  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

  • How will you measure your success?

  • How much time and money do you want to spend?

  • What do you need to make this happen?

  • What’s the timing for this and other promotions during the summer?

Having those answers before you start planning a promotion will help make sure it’s a success. We’ve created a planning worksheet you can use to think about what you want to do. Download it here. Share your answers, and your plan with your team so everyone understands ahead of time.

Make sure your team is excited and promotes your program with customers, but also that they don’t force it on them. We were at a restaurant recently which was have a seasonal product promotion. There were table tents and menu inserts we could read, but when the waitstaff person kept asking if we didn’t want one of the menu items things went too far. This establishment placed too much emphasis on the in-house sales competition, instead of on the customer experience.

Now that we’ve set the stage for your promotions, let’s look at some ways to help sales soar during the summer. We hope this list gives you some ideas for how to do more this summer.

Support Local Agriculture

Find a local farmer whose produce you can purchase on a regular basis. Promote that brand as part of your summer menu series. This supports a local farmer and helps keep your produce fresh. It could require some nimble menu development though as product selection will vary by week.

Families are Busier Than Ever

During the summer months, families are juggling schedules in a different way than during the school year. There are often additional camps, sports, and activities that put even more pressure on the calendar. It’s tougher to fit nutritious meals into the schedule, but your promotions can help. Consider:

  • Free dessert with purchase for kids in uniform

  • Sponsor a local sporting or cultural event

  • Coloring contest, or chalk the sidewalk

Tour de France; cycling

Healthy eating is important any time, but you can capitalize in the summer and tie into one of France’s key sporting events.

  • Offer free sports drinks to those who ride their bikes

  • Promote times to watch the races on your televisions

  • Decorate in red, white and blue

  • Promote a healthy French menu

Dining al Fresco

It goes without saying that if you have an outdoor eating area, promote it. Do so regularly with posts on social media channels.

  • Offer drink service in the waiting area if the patio is full

  • If you’re located in an exceptionally warm area and have a cool patio, promote that

What’s Happening Locally

Check the local community calendars, probably through the daily newspaper’s entertainment section or chamber of commerce. Look for smaller events local residents are likely to attend because they’ll keep coming back during the year.

  • Youth sports tournaments

  • Music and theater in the parks

  • Concerts

  • Family movie nights

  • Park cleanups or walks

Take Your Food Where Customers Are

We already know takeout is key for today’s lifestyles but have you considered taking your menu to your customers so they can order where they are and have meals delivered? We’ve seen this at local concerts where restaurant staff bring menus and take orders that are phoned to the store for delivery. You’d need a mobile payment system and some willing staffers, but it’s a great way to make sales too.

Ready-to-Go Meal Bundles

Consider packaging meals that are easy for customers to grab and go at meal times. Restaurant seats may go empty because the sun is shining, but there’s no reason to lose out on the sale, especially from loyal customers.

Back to School

It’s inevitable that, as summer progresses, families and friends begin the planning and balancing act around back to school activities. Consider offerings to bring families in to celebrate going back to school, or friends to gather before heading off to college. Finally, college towns should offer specials for new parents bringing "first years" to college, families saying goodbye for the year, or students getting together to catch up on the summer.

Check the calendar for holidays

June 14 -- Flag Day

June 16 -- Father’s Day

July 4 – Independence Day

July 14 – Bastille Day

July 28 – Parents’ Day

September 2 -- Labor Day

September 8 – Grandparents’ Day

We hope this list offers a lot of inspiration to help you grow your business through the summer months. And, remember...the livin' is (supposed to be) easier.

This post first appeared on

The Barber Group

Gig Harbor, Washington


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