Top Ten: Don’t Let the Slow Season Get You Down – 10 Ideas to Keep Profits & Customers Coming

Top Ten Slow Season

Top Ten Slow Season1. Create a Desirable Atmosphere

Seasons, holidays and even the time of day can evoke a different emotion and feeling for consumers, which can affect their buying habits. Decorate your store to match a season or holiday, and add elements such as music, featured products and lighting to complement those emotions and feelings. Adapting your store to these extraneous factors will create an inviting atmosphere where customers will continuously want to return.

2. Reduce the Amount of Products Served

Cutting back the amount of product used based on consumption is a nobrainer, but doing it in a way that looks like you’re offering customers a host of flavors is key. Reduce the batches by switching to wider pans. This will allow your case to look full, but use less flavors and product. You can also feature flavors on certain days so that you still provide all your customers with their favorites but not have to make all of them every day. Offering a “limited availability” can help your store maintain momentum in the slow season.1

3. Offer Customers Products for Special Occasions

Turn your 2-day-old gelato into gelato cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, work and school parties, and package tiramisù for two for an at-home movie night. Offering products in new, exciting ways will not only open the door for new revenues from existing customers, but also create new customers as people will now have access to your product outside of your store. As we all know, good food shared at any engagement will always yield the question, “Who made this?”

4. Wholesale and Gain New Business

Other restaurants and like-businesses are always looking for new ideas to expand their menus without the cost of new machinery or time for training. Network with local chefs and grocers with “to-go meals” concepts, and find out how you can incorporate gelato into their dessert lines. As we all know, gelato is a great complement to any dessert and can easily enhance a local restaurant’s dessert presentations.

5. Catering for Exposure and Profit

Cater for exposure or profit and, either way, yield results. Events are a great way to network, expose your product and bring new customers to your shop. Talk to local event planners, existing caterers, hotels, event venues, etc. and see how you can work together. All that is needed is a portable freezer or small display case (even more cost-effective if purchased used) if you will be presenting your dessert; otherwise, only product will need to be provided. If catering for exposure, pick and choose your events wisely as it could get costly depending on a few factors, including event size.

6. In-Store Event

If catering doesn’t interest you, bring the event to your store. Let your location serve as more than just a retail store. Host a wine and dessert tasting, a chocolate fondue party using your desserts, a concert or even a charity. Pairing other unique products and/or concepts with your own will bring a new clientele.

7. Add to Your Existing Product Line

Contrary to belief, adding a new product to your offerings does not always have to be a substantial investment. Having multiple product lines may allow a growing business to diversify risk and capitalize on its established reputation.2 Simply adding coffee, hot chocolate and breakfast pastries can add a new stream of revenue with little investment. However, be sure to continue to maintain the level of quality when adding new products. Also, look for opportunities to combine existing and new products such as affagatos, espresso and gelato, or a croissant topped with ice cream. Yum!

8. Adapt Hours to Seasons

Reducing the hours in the winter and increasing them in the summer to accommodate the busy season is a smart business decision for a few reasons. The obvious being that it saves labor and energy costs, but also that it allows for creativity to offer specials only at certain times of the day and year. Shorter business hours also give business owners time to prepare and plan for the busy season and test new concepts. Everyone needs a little time to clear his or her head, and think of new directions for the business.

9. Educate and Share Knowledge

Use down time to educate your employees and even your customers. Training is an ongoing initiative for all businesses, so take the time to teach employees a new skill or how to better deal with customers. Or try hosting classes at your location – many customers are intrigued on how their favorite treats are made (think of how popular the show Unwrapped on The Food Network is). Don’t forget, an educated customer will pass along his or her knowledge to another.

10. Ride the Trend Train

The dessert niche restaurant is one that’s gaining steam fast and providing the opportunity for adults to spoil their dinners by skipping right to dessert. The National Restaurant Association reports that 1 of 3 fine-dining operations reported consumers bought more desserts then they had in the last two years – a sure sign that desserts are in!3 Use your product niche to entice people to come in to enjoy a dessert at any hour. Feature upscale desserts that attract a more sophisticated palate. This can include decadent dishes or trendy savory dishes such as pear gorgonzola sorbetto. And if you still want to maintain your casual crowd, choose perhaps one night a weekend to do it.

1 Franz, Catherine. Planning a Slow Season Calendar. eBooks.
2 Gordon, Kim T. “Pros and Cons of Expanding Your Product Line,”, June 7, 2004.
3 Summers, Jeffrey. “Hot Areas of Business,”, August 23, 2007.