If you own a cafe, you probably know all the challenges that winter can bring. For one, there is the cold weather, which can wreak havoc on your sidewalks and pipes. Then, there’s the holidays and the huge influx of customers that comes along with them.
But at the same time, winter can have a lot of benefits. More customers means more sales and more profits. Holidays mean that you can introduce specialty menu items that might be more fun to make. And, of course, you can have a lot of fun with decorating.
The most important thing you need to worry about with your cafe is how to prepare for winter weather, and the winter season in general. So here are some tips and tricks to help you winterize your cafe.
Maintenance and repairs
With the harsh months of winter coming, now is the time to make sure that your building is up to date. Having a problem like a power outage or burst pipe can force you to close and cost you precious business, so you don’t want to get caught off guard. Think about everything that could go wrong in the winter, and plan for it.
The first step in how to prepare for winter weather is to inspect your heating. Don’t be afraid to pay someone to inspect your heating system, and get it repaired if necessary. You don’t want your heat to fail in the middle of the coldest day of the year.
You may also consider stocking up on commercial heating fuel, to ensure that you don’t run out. And consider that, even though it may cost a bit more, you should keep your heat running even when the building is closed. At the very least, never let your cafe drop below freezing. This can be devastating to both your building and your stock.
Another very important thing to check on is your plumbing. In the colder months, old pipes can freeze and burst, causing massive damage. So be sure to get your plumbing inspected, and if it needs something like sewer line repair, get it done before the cold sets in.
Power outages are another thing that can be common in winter. If you don’t want to be caught without power, consider investing in a generator for your cafe.
Also think about your floors. In winter, it often snows, and when people drag that snow inside on their shoes, it melts and turns into water. If you have carpeted floors, this can cause a lot of damage to your carpets. You should get doormats and runners to help protect the floor.
If, more likely, you don’t have carpeted floors, dripping water can mean puddles and dangerous slippery surfaces. Again, doormats and water-absorbing runners can help here. Additionally, you should always have a wet floor sign on-hand and a plan to clean up puddles quickly when they happen, to ensure customer safety.
A lesser aspect of how to prepare for winter weather is animal control. As the weather grows colder, all sorts of critters start looking for a warm place to sleep. And your cafe might be the very place they want. So invest in some good pest control early on to prevent any problems or infestations.
You also want to stock up on winter supplies before it gets cold. This includes shovels, salt, first aid, flashlights, batteries, and anything else you may need in case of blizzards, power outages, or other disasters.
Lastly, you can think about some other parts of your building. Window replacements may be needed to make sure your windows can withstand strong winds and low temperatures. You may also want to make sure your telecom system is up to date so you and your employees can communicate easily in any situation.
Winterizing the building
We’ve talked a lot about how to prepare for winter weather on the inside of your building, so now let’s look at the outside. This part is equally important, as it is the part many customers will see before even entering your building. A very easy consideration in making sure you have storefront awnings in the front of your building, to provide shelter from the weather.
First, think about snow removal and care of your paths. If it snows in your region, this is something you will likely have to deal with multiple times. You need to have a plan to clear your sidewalks, driveway, and parking lot, as well as a plan for if your concrete gets damaged.
Look into plowing services for your parking lot or, if you have the ability, consider doing it yourself. Stock up on salt for your pathways, as well as shovels. Also start finding trustable commercial concrete repair companies, in case your concrete becomes damaged from the harsh weather.
If you’re very lucky, snow removal may be included in your lease. Check with your landlord to see if it is. If not, you’ll have to handle it all yourself. It helps to designate specific workers who will take care of it, and when and how they do it. That way, when the situation arises, you know what to do.
Additionally, you might want to get bright, reflective curb markers. In the snow, visibility is limited, and customers may have trouble seeing the curb. You wouldn’t want them hitting it, causing damage to both their vehicle and your curb, which you then have to fix.
If you have a patio, you have a decision to make: are you going to keep it open? Depending on your answer, there are different answers to how to prepare for winter weather.
If you choose to close your patio, you need to find a space to put all of its contents. Tables, chairs, umbrellas, and other patio items shouldn’t be left to sit all winter, lest they get damaged. If you have space in your building to store them, that’s great, but if not, you need to find space.
However, if you choose to keep your patio open, you have a totally different set of tasks. You need to make sure your patio is still comfortable to use in the colder weather. Think about how you will protect from the elements, both in precipitation and wind. Umbrellas over tables can help, and tarps or sheets surrounding the patio can provide wind protection.
And, of course, you need heat! Nobody wants to sit and eat outside if it’s 20 degrees.
Think about your staff here, and your holiday hours. What days you’ll be closed, if your workers might have to work on holidays, how you will compensate them, and the hours are all important things to know before things start getting busy.
Your winter menu
Here’s where you can start having some fun! Your menu will likely shift throughout the winter, to add in seasonal favorites and remove summer items. Comfort foods, like soup, are a great item for winter, as they are warm and inviting, and many customers will want them after they come in from the cold. Here are some more tips for how to prepare for winter weather with your menu.
Of course, you can include whatever items you want. Pumpkin-spiced everything for autumn, snickerdoodles, and gingerbread for December, and butterscotch are all common favorites, but it’s up to you. If you make the best maple cinnamon sugar cookies and think they make a great holiday item, add them to the menu!
And, most importantly, your drinks. Many people come to a cafe for one thing: coffee. So adding some seasonal coffee items will certainly up your game. Again, pumpkin spice will be a favorite anywhere, as will butterscotch and cinnamon closer to the new year. Don’t forget the hot chocolate, either. It’s a perfect warming-up drink, especially for younger kids or those who don’t drink coffee. Snickerdoodle hot chocolate is a great menu item to try out.
Now, think beyond your menu, and how you will get your goods to people. Adding good delivery options will boost your business exponentially, and is a big part of how to prepare for winter weather. On average, people spend almost 87% of their time indoors, so if you can deliver your goods to them during this time, you’ll get more sales. This is even more prevalent in winter, when people don’t want to leave their homes because of the cold weather.
You could also consider expanding to offer catering services. There are lots of parties and events in the holiday season, so if you have the capability, catering for these events can increase your business. Plus, you get to share your goods with more people and grow your outreach.
Also think about other things you can sell. Gift cards are a great option around holidays, as they allow your patrons to gift your goods to other people. You can also add gift baskets or other bundles for people to pick up and share. These are all great options for how to prepare for winter weather.
Lastly, make sure you are fully stocked. Anticipate the rushes you will have around the holidays, and plan accordingly. The last thing you want is for it to be three days till Christmas and you’ve run out of hot chocolate.
This will probably be the most fun part. Who doesn’t love decorating? You can put up anything you want, from lights and ornaments to window clings and decorative fencing. What holidays or seasonal themes you incorporate are up to you, and you can do as much or as little as you want.
Decorating also helps draw in more patrons. People love to see spaces that look warm, inviting, and fun. Definitely consider your lighting here. In the winter, days are shorter, which means you will likely have more darkness hours. How will you light both the inside and outside of your cafe? Bright white lights can be uncomfortable for guests and uninviting. Consider soft yellow lights or, better yet, decorative string lights.
Another tip for how to prepare for winter weather with your decorating is to incorporate your brand into your decor. Maybe put your logo on some ornaments, or include the same color scheme you use for your business. You could even create a holiday-themed mascot for your cafe! Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to step out on a limb with your decor.
Get in touch with the community
Many people associate the winter season with a time of giving and getting in touch with the community. A great way for how to prepare for winter weather is to do this. This will not only help boost your outreach and engagement, but you can give back to the community and do something nice for the holidays. Along with digital marketing, interacting with the local community will work harder to get your name out there and show the humanity behind your business.
One way to do this is to organize an event with your local church. It could be a bake sale, a caroling group, or any other number of holiday events.
Also consider using what you have to help others: food. You could organize a food drive, to donate food to people in need. Or host a soup kitchen one or more times. When doing this, it’s a great idea to talk to both homeless shelters and churches, as these usually have groups of people that could benefit from your help.
These are just a few ideas. You could also host storytimes for children, donate to charities, or any number of all things. They’re all great ways to give back to your community, and spread some cheer during the dark months of winter.
Bringing it together
Owning a cafe is a lot of work, and the question of how to prepare for winter weather and the holiday rush is a tough one. But, with the right amount of planning and thought, you can make sure that your cafe is ready to run through the harshest of winters, and keep it fun and inviting for your patrons.
And, of course, have fun and be kind! Winter is full of opportunities to help others and spread cheer, so don’t be afraid to do so. It will not only make you feel good, but help others who are in need and make these cold months a little bit brighter.