Restaurants evolve during slow summer months - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Restaurants evolve during slow summer months

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Travis Roemhild is a reporter at the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach him at (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 1:55 pm, Sat Oct 12, 2013.

Having worked in the restaurant industry for going on six years, I know the summer season is the time of wait-less Friday and Saturday nights, slow weekdays and empty tables.

From the service standpoint, you just have to put your head down, pick up as many shifts as you can to make your bills on time, and power through until the fall and winter busy season.

It can get dull at times for us servers and bartenders, but I can't imagine what it is like for the managers and owners who open their doors each day knowing their restaurant is not going to fill up.

"(Business) has been like how it is for everybody - slow," Brazilian Bull Steakhouse owner David Pinhas said when asked how the summer season was treating his establishment.

But people in business are creative and they know how to market. New specials are introduced to induce people to go out to eat in the hot summer months.

Looking at the significant drop in sales that usually takes place from the time between Mother's Day and early September, one must wonder: What is the reason behind it?

Can we conclude that people just don't like to eat out as much in the summer? Possibly, but there is more to it than that.

"You're not getting that summer travel," Macayo's general manager Bryan Williams said. "Arizona in the summer compared to other times of the year probably is not a spot that businesses choose to hold conferences."

Other possibilities include Arizona State University students returning to wherever they are from for the summer; winter visitors flying back to the Midwest or East Coast; families taking vacations; no sports outside of the Diamondbacks; and, yes, maybe the heat has something to do with it.

"It's probably a mix of things," Williams said. "Arizona summers aren't just a destination point."

Companies get creative to survive the lull of summer. I know the restaurant where I work part time has changed the menu and specials several times in the past couple of months, with more changes coming.

But I must say that change is good. It shows restaurants are evolving.

In a time when people are more conscious about how they spend their money, a restaurant must serve up a quality product for a minimum price in order to outlast the competition.

The best way to learn what the customers want? Have them tell you themselves. You know the surveys in your check presenter at the end of a meal? That's the restaurant's way of asking you what you liked and didn't like about your experience, and for the most part they take your answers to heart.

"We do a lot of surveys and tell the managers and servers about the results and relay it to owners," Williams said. "Recently, it has been people wanting healthier choices so we came out with a new part of our menu with choices of under 500 calories."

But even with the economy, the slow season hasn't changed in my eyes. It's been that way since the first year I started.

You know summer is slower, but you just don't think about it too much. There is only a few short months until the busy season picks up.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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