Ah, February. At this point the holidays are long gone, and you’ve probably broken your New Year’s resolutions. Baseball Spring Training begins this month with pitchers and catchers reporting in two weeks. Hopefully, you’ve started your pre-season as well. Getting ready for the season can be just as important as the day-to-day grind. If you properly plan ahead, you can avoid many (if not all) of the pitfalls and setbacks that can spoil an otherwise successful season.
If you read Part 1, you are already (should be) inspecting your Equipment and setting your Marketing Calendar. These were the first two action items of our 4 main areas of pre-season planning:
- Marketing Calendar
- Store Appearance/Aesthetics
Without going into too much detail, let’s do a quick review of last month’s categories.
Equipment is the backbone of your store - it affects every aspect of it: product quality; store appearance; operational efficiency; and sales & revenue. Make sure your equipment is a positive contributor to your business. All equipment needs to tested and cleaned. Does anything need to be replaced – machines or parts? Do you have plenty of backup parts for the season – o-rings, gaskets, etc.? Proper care and maintenance of your frozen dessert equipment directly affects your bottom line.
The marketing of your store is up to you - you can do a lot, or just a little. Regardless of which you choose, if you plan ahead, your odds for success greatly increase. You’re greatest tool for planning is your Marketing Calendar. All marketing needs to be planned ahead, scheduled on a timeline, and budgeted for. Your marketing calendar should include: new product rollouts; print ads; social media; community involvement; in-store promotions; fundraising; and coupons. So, whether you’re all in or just want to get your name out there, think it through, plan ahead, and execute.
Okay, enough reminiscing…. It’s time to move onto the fun stuff! Alright, maybe not fun, but definitely essential – Menu and Aesthetics. Going through your menu and updating the look of your store may not be glamorous, but they are both crucial to your business.
So, some aspect of your marketing campaign worked - whether it was by word of mouth, advertisement, Facebook, or a discarded napkin - the customer is standing in your store. Your menu is now what they are looking at while they decide how to spend their money. Reviewing your menu item-by-item is not a chore to be dismissed. You need to look at flavors, prices, and the overall presentation…. In that order.
First up, what flavors and products are you going to offer this season? What worked last year? What didn’t? Are there any specialty items unique to your store? These are all questions that need to be asked. Sure, the core of your menu will remain the same, but the items that change are just as important. You need to decide if there are any new products that you think will bring in customers. Replacing a flavor that you only sold 5 gallons of all last season with the “next big thing” can have a lasting impact on your business – current customers returning more often, and brand new customers. So, take your time and make it fun. Have a tasting party with your returning staff and some trusted friends!
Now that you have the product list, time to work on pricing. Regardless of where it was at, pricing needs to increase every season. This is not necessary for every item on the menu, but you need to decide which ones can handle a hike. You have to evaluate your menu for profitability, and make increases where you can. Things that need to be considered include total cost, competition, and why people come to your store. The last thing you want to do is anger your customers, but it is a business.
Now that you have your products and pricing you can work on the physical menus. Check your wall boards, do they need updating? Is your menu too heavy on text? People buy with their eyes, so be sure to include plenty of images. Have you ever thought about using flat screens with streaming content that can easily be changed? New TV’s would easily take care of both the updating of old boards and adding imagery to your menu. If you’ve already thought twice about it while reading this, now’s the time to make the leap! If not, be sure your products & pricing are updated, and add some product images.
One last note about your menu that ties pricing and board layout together, the way you place items on your menu can influence your customers and drive sales. Your menu should be compartmentalized, so people can more readily find what they are looking for. And, people read from left to right, so put more expensive items on the left-hand side. This may sound simplistic because it is, but it is also true.
Now, onto the overall appearance of your store. Clean, bright, and appealing, those are the three words that should pop into mind first. Your first order of business should be to clean. Even if you did a good end-of-season cleaning last year, there’s plenty of dust and clutter that has settled over the months. Once that is accomplished, step back and try to look at your store as a customer. Maybe even invite your taste-testing party over for input. If there are any changes that you want to make, now is the time to do it.
It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint does for a place. Whether you decide to change the color scheme, or stick with the tried and true, painting does wonders for an establishment – inside and out! It is important to keep your look bright and fresh each year. Paint, new fixtures, pictures (product and other), and other small changes can make a big difference. If you decided to upgrade to streaming TV’s, make sure they are properly mounted and easily visible from everywhere in your store. If your sticking with your current setup, be sure it’s updated, visible, and matches any other changes you may have made.
From the outside signage to the napkins, your business should be inviting, recognizable, and MATCH! Same fonts and colors should be used throughout – this is branding. Oops, I snuck some marketing in there!! Well, while we’re at it, be sure that you have at least 5 points of branding in your establishment – 5 spots that have your logo or say your name. This can include the menu boards, special signage, etc…. just make it a cool 5. There are statistics that I can bore you with as to why 5, but just take my word for it this time.
At this point, we’ve gone through all 4 of the pre-planning categories: Equipment; Marketing Calendar; Menu; and Aesthetics. There’s been some overlapping, but that’s what a successful business is, many parts working together as one cohesive unit. Speaking of many parts, if you have an opening date, be sure to start planning for it at least three to four weeks prior to it. This will allow you enough time for orders, tune ups, last minute glitches, and staffing. All staff should be properly trained prior to the opening, including a “refresher course” for any returning employees, especially if you’ve made any changes (i.e. equipment, prices, procedures, etc.). Heck, give them a paint brush and let them help you get ready. It can only help instill the team effort mentality.
Well, there you have it. Follow these steps, cross your t’s and dot your i’s, and you should be ready for Opening Day! Remember, if you start now, you should be able to avoid many of those last minute pitfalls that always seem to occur just as the season starts. If you need any advice or ideas, remember you can always contact your Sentry Equipment representative to discuss what might work best for your store. If you missed it or need a refresher on Equipment and Marketing Calandar, check Pre-Season Planning, Part 1.