Inclement Weather Effect on Restaurants

inclement weather impact on restuarantsFrom a cycle of snow storms across the country, even affecting the Deep South, to the “polar vortex” temperatures in January, inclement weather has a negative effect on restaurants.

In fact, it’s so negative that some restaurant, bakery, and coffee shop owners have reported sales cut in half, according to the Associated Press article, “Biting cold puts a freeze on restaurant business.” Cited in that article, a Toledo family restaurant is suffering the effects of the harsh winter. The restaurant owner notes that he hasn’t seem some of his regular customers for two weeks, and the wait staff has been cut accordingly with waitresses working two fewer days each week, and those that are on duty are seeing their tips cut in half.

Restaurants and pubs that typically cater to governmental workers are also seeing a decline with shutdowns, forced by weather, keeping workers at home.

Types of Restaurants Fare Differently Based on Weather

Where you’re located may soften the blow of decreased traffic during bad weather. According to Hudson Riehle, National Restaurant Association’s vice president, Research and Knowledge Center (quoted in KNG’s “Weather Impacts Restaurant Sales and Traffic”), “The effects of the weather on restaurant operations vary, depending on the type of restaurant that is being operated. Destination restaurants located in areas with bad weather conditions will definitely suffer in terms of sales volume and customer traffic; while restaurants that are situated in shopping centers might prove to benefit from bad weather – consumers flock to the malls during these times and spend time shopping and dining.”

Even the prediction of bad weather can alter plans to dine out. Large percentages of all types of restaurants report that bad weather forecasts create reduced traffic.

In a study conducted by, 75 percent of restaurants reported that sales dropped at least 10 percent, attributed to changes in the weather.

Combatting Weather-Related Decline in Sales

QSR Magazine shared one restaurant’s solution in “Battling Back Against Winter.” SPIN! Neopolitan Pizza with locations in Kansas City (along with Orange County, CA) began offering “crummy-weather vouchers” when they were forced to close early due to weather conditions. Co-owner Gail Lozoff is quoted in the article: “We were afraid that there wouldn’t be anybody coming in because the weather was so bad, and then the minute we did it, people started coming in. We realized it was an effective way to drive traffic.” She also reported that it not only drove traffic but actually made money and continued to drive traffic after the weather improved.

Another approach is to honor storm-related coupons for a day or two after conditions improve and folks venture out again. Your offer may not be enough to generate sales during a storm, but an increase in traffic afterward, including new patrons, may offset the inclement weather effect on your restaurant while the snow is falling.