Winter is indeed coming. For vendors operating in cooler temperature states or even Canada this inevitably means lower monthly revenue figures for the rest of the year as we move deeper into the fall and winter months.
Most food vendors anticipate this lower demand due to seasonality. In places like New York, Boston and the entire country of Canada you’ll need to be prepared for substantial revenue impacts. If you’re located in Southern California or Florida, the winter-time revenue impacts will be less pronounced.
When you’re starting your business or still in the business plan development stage, it’s important to understand and be prepared for these changes. If not, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.
How Will Seasonality Impact Your Revenue?
As mentioned above, seasonality could impact you a little or a lot depending on where you operate. The best way to identify how much of a revenue hit you could expect to take is to ask other street vendors in your area how much business slows down for them. If you talk to four or five veteran vendors, you should be able to get a good ballpark estimate.
If possible, try to find someone with a similar style menu to you for estimates. A shaved ice trailer is going to have a much tougher time generating sales in December compared to a coffee truck so keep menu in mind. If you have limited information, a 30% decrease in sales is a good rule of thumb.
To determine the revenue percentage decrease compare your previous months revenue you can use some mathematical formulas to determine how much you can expect to make during the slow months. Alternatively, you can use a straight forward online calculator like this one to determine what your % decrease would be.
Ways to Combat Seasonality Impact
Although changing seasons is outside your control there are some things within your control to bring in revenue during the winter season. Here are a few different ways many existing concession businesses we work with approach this time period.
Head South: One of the most attractive elements of operating a concession trailer is that if business isn’t good somewhere, you can simply hitch up the trailer and travel somewhere more profitable. Of course, it’s not quite that easy to differing health codes and vending regulations. But you can make it happen with a bit of strategic planning.
Some of our previous customers operate this way by design. During the summer months, they head north to take advantage of festivals and events. When fall comes they pack up and head south to vend for the winter where it’s warm. This can be a great lifestyle if you have a desire to move around a bit.
Change Menu: If you’re selling ice cream to Eskimos in January, it’s probably not going to work out well for you. Even if you are a terrific sales person! One option you have is to adapt your menu to serving foods that customers are more accustomed to consuming during the winter.
Adding hot coffee, hot chocolate or warm soups could be ways to adapt a menu for winter. In fact, these seasonal menu changes could be a great way to keep things exciting for your customers as well. Even chain restaurants like Soup Plantation will mix up their menu to match the season.
Focus on Catering and Big Events: While it may be cold outside that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of catering opportunities to be had this time of year. As holidays like Christmas and New Year’s approach, businesses often reward their employees with corporate lunches or parties that are catered. These events can be quite lucrative as well!
In addition to indoor catering, most cities will have winter festivals that are held outside even during those cold winter months. Be on the look out with your cities website to keep in tune with local upcoming events. Well attended events like winter carnivals can be a great opportunity to generate a big day of sales in an otherwise down month.
Finally, we’ve worked with a lot of concession vendors that simply decide to take some time off during the winter and relax. Focusing on high-revenue months from June – August and putting lifestyle first could be the best option for you too. Many vendors work really long and hard hours during the summer then take the winters off.
Remember, you have no control over weather conditions in your area and for most vendors the winter months will be lower revenue months. You do have a lot of different options over what you can do to combat these slower months, however.