Watch The Weather! Your Sales And Profits Could Depend On It

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 9/11/2018

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Paul Schlossberg
Right now you're wondering "Why should we be concerned about weather forecasts? We can't control the weather." As you'll see, by planning ahead based on weather forecasts, you'll be able to have the right products and adequate inventory in your stores.

About 15 years ago, if my recall is on target, a conversation with a restaurant chain executive alerted me to new thinking about the weather. They were talking with the Met Office, the UK weather service. The objective was to apply weather forecasting insights to daily restaurant operations.

Would traffic, in the store and at the drive-thru, be likely to increase or decrease depending on the weather? If they could dig deeper, maybe they could forecast demand fluctuations for specific dayparts, menu categories and even get down to individual menu items.

Most restaurants have limited storage capacity, especially fast food operations. If the weather forecast suggested better or worse weather next week, the inventory pipeline could be adjusted. This would mean that the right SKU's would be available as needed. Restaurant managers would be able to plan for staffing based on the expected sales patterns when weather conditions changed.

As our industry heads into the fall months, think about how we make seasonal operational adjustments. During the summer, our sales are probably lower due to people being on vacation. And, people at our locations are more likely to go out for lunch because the weather is favorable.

When the weather changes, your daily sales probably rise or fall accordingly. We all know that rainy days, extremely cold days and snow tend to be good for our sales. Do you pay attention out-of-stocks? Do you notice that out-of-stocks are probably higher than usual on the days after the weather was "bad?" Pay attention to which SKUs are out-of-stock more frequently after the weather changed. You can watch the weather forecasts and adjust inventory before the out-of-stocks occur again.

There are two 'watch-outs' to for you to consider. First, be very careful in bumping up food inventory, especially on short-code-life items. The weather forecasts are not 100% accurate. In those situations, make your adjustments as late as possible. Second, coordinate closely with your client contacts. Be certain that you are in the loop when they decide to close for bad weather.   

By the way, we did a search about weather and restaurant sales. We found an article in the Journal of Foodservice Business Research. In August 2016, they published "The effect of weather factors on restaurant sales." The abstract noted that "… (They) tested the effect of weather factors on the demand for different menu item categories …"

We also learned that McDonald's advertising in the UK capitalized on the highly changeable spring weather there. Adweek.com reported "McDonald's Turned 8 Popular Menu Items Into Weather Icons for These Real-Time Billboards." The weather forecast was shown on the billboard screens using McDonald's brand icons. People were alerted to the weather and "… (were reminded) that they might be a little hungry and want some McDonald's." They used a Big Mac icon for a sunny day. A rain forecast would show an upside down sleeve of French fries.

Do you just react to the weather, especially bad weather? Or do you plan to be ready to maximize sales and profits in any weather conditions?  

Watch the weather! It can help you be better organized to sell more stuff.




» Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached at Paul@DFWConsulting.net or (972) 877-2972 or www.DFWConsulting.net.