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We are all painfully aware of the challenges posed by seasonality in Hospitality. It’s a blessing and a burden. Those most blessed are in a cracker tourist location like Waiheke, Whanganui or Wanaka. The kinds of places that swell to at least four times their local population when the sun is shining.

To a greater, or lesser, extent most Hospitality enterprises are impacted by some form of seasonality. We are often asked for strategies to thrive in a location thwarted by a sharp contrasting seasonal turn-over. There are layers of approaches, but let me illustrate one of the most obvious and least practiced.

On Waiheke this weekend, sunny still in May, we popped into an Oneroa Bar & Restaurant and it was packed – it’s always packed when the weather is good according to relatives who are Waiheke locals. Ignored when we arrived, we grabbed one of the last available tables anyway. Speeding, unsmiling and harassed wait-staff whizzed around remarkably unrelaxed in comparison to the almost pulse-less sun-bathers on Little Oneroa.

A pretty brunette eventually gave us a menu and water glasses (but no water). With no offer of a drink, we flagged yet another flying figure – almost had to ‘catch’ her – and ordered a couple of drinks. Eventually we did get drinks, still no water, and our cutlery flew in from an odd angle. The cutlery was well and good, but we were starving – and the drinks had been uncouthly sculled. An entirely different flying figure in black actually ‘snuck’ my glass away as she passed to somewhere more urgent than me; I’m still thirsty.

We did get our lunch; it wasn’t good. The cutlery didn’t match the dish, so my right arm had a work out using a butter knife to cut through well toasted chicken in a well toasted ciabatta. Someone remembered to put the music on half-way through lunch. I did get another drink, but I was encroaching on their ‘whirling’ – I was certainly never going to be asked. Who was meant to be looking after us amongst the busy swarm? We had no idea.

We gave up on better, so we went to pay and tried to engage yet another pretty brunette at the POS station. It turns out the owner (who owns another well-known eatery on the Island) was the Chef – which we learnt the moment we watched (bemused) seven shots of tequila disappear into the kitchen; well he’d need it wouldn’t he – he may be packed, but his average sale per-customer is a disaster.

The experience above is at the core of the most obvious seasonal affliction … do the locals go? Of course not. Not according to our multitude of relatives on the Island – too inconsistent, and no attempt to build relationships with locals or anyone; they are stuck in the disengaged seasonal, ‘we’re busy and we are never going to see you again, so why bother’ syndrome.

There was nothing wrong with the wait-staff at this establishment – it was packed with gorgeous well-dressed tanned wait-staff with intelligent eyes … they were just ‘lost’ at sea, on erratic waves, with no sales or hospitality system to surf. I needed a shot of tequila just watching the poor girls. Great girls; poor leadership.

Spoilt by a great location, at a great time, our Chef is committing the almost stereo-typical mistake of the high-seasonal business that forgets to focus on average sale and building relationships. He isn’t alone.

Over on the breath-taking Onetangi, another establishment has a location beyond location … it’s so good it’s turned him into Basil Fawlty. He’s well-known for forgetting orders, but on this particular occasion he chased my Aunt (a local) for $4 because he’d charged her earlier for toast instead of the children’s scrambled eggs. Which was silly enough, but when she nearly forgot about it and had to walk back in and give him $5 – he gave her $6 in return; hilarious considering the couple of bottles of wine she had to convince him that they had actually ordered on a previous occasion (and drunk) despite his lack of record for the sale. He’s probably doing reasonably well; he is right on the beach and surrounded by million dollar holiday homes, but he isn’t making the most of his amazing location and I can tell he is working hard for his money.


Here are FIVE quick tips to ameliorate seasonal down-turns:

  1. Don’t be a sunshine sucker … always act like you are serving a local with influence – you’ll need them in the winter.
  2. Design systems that encourage employees to engage and sell – even when they’re busy. Think systems that create a high average sale per customer.
  3. In a restaurant, teach frantic employees to slow down; they aren’t creating the right atmosphere racing around looking like they are stretched.
  4. Be a disciplined leader – lead by providing your employees with direction.
  5. Don’t drink tequila at lunch time, and forget about being the technician in your own business. Use your time to create some winter goals for your top and bottom line, and do a systems audit so you can achieve them.


10/05/2016 Mrs Hospitality