Winter weather got you down? How about your restaurant’s revenue? 

As anyone in the restaurant industry will tell you, changes in the weather can be enough to make or break a business. This is particularly true in cities like New York, where many patrons travel on foot. While unseasonably warm weather may bring in extra revenue from customers looking to get out of their apartments for a while, a winter storm can leave restaurants empty as patrons hunker down at home.

A recent study out of Ohio State University found that weather doesn’t just affect how busy a restaurant is, either — it also impacts customers’ experiences and perceptions. The study is based on the data gathered from customer comment cards at 32 different locations of the same fast-casual chain. 

According to the authors, trends in customer feedback appear to align with different weather factors, particularly rain, temperature, and air pressure. The study found that, when a customer considers the weather to be “bad,” they are more likely to complain about their service. Further, customers are three times as likely to complain about some aspect of their restaurant experience if it is raining.

This, unfortunately, means that customers’ experience, recommendations to friends, and likelihood to return are related to what’s in the sky rather than what’s on their plates. So, what can restaurants do to keep customers happy in spite of bad weather?

If customers are freezing…

Draw them inside to warm up. Cozy, “comfort food” dishes and drinks tend to gain popularity as the temperature drops, and restaurants can capitalize on this trend by offering specials and specialty drinks (think: soups and hot chocolate) based on the weather.

If customers are sweating…

Beat the heat. Whether through the allure of central air conditioning (a true New York luxury) or a fun rendition of a classic summer cocktail, give potential patrons an excuse to stop by your restaurant. Once there, keep the music upbeat and the iced water flowing to prevent any sluggishness/mild heatstroke. If you’re looking to go above and beyond, offer lunch specials for summer Fridays.

If customers are taking shelter from the rain…

Rain tends to cause a decrease in dine-in sales, as customers are likely to avoid driving or walking during a downpour. Because rainy days are often slow, there’s no need to pay servers to stand around waiting for customers. Instead, offer some waitstaff the day off and bring in more delivery staff to handle all the online orders you’re sure to receive.

Unfortunately, while there are plenty of tips and tricks that restaurants can try to minimize the effects day-to-day weather has on customer volume and sales, weathering a major storm is a much greater challenge. For more severe weather situations, restaurants should consider purchasing business income loss insurance, which helps recover income that is lost due to uncontrollable circumstances, like storms.

For businesses in New York City looking to purchase restaurant insurance online, Bikelane is a safe platform offering educational resources, specialized consultants, and a bonus HR toolkit.