January 6, 2014 |

Do you have a winter weather contingency plan?

By Mandy Wolf Detwiler

Think About Pizza in snowHey, Mother Nature — time to give it a rest.

Winter storms can be a nightmare. From hazardous road conditions to impassable parking lots and power loss, they can wreak havoc on business owners. Winter Storm Hercules, which passed through last week, and Ion, which is hitting much of the East Coast this week, are no exceptions. Here in Louisville, Kentucky, where the Pizza Today office is located, we’re getting the coldest weather in 20 years and while our forecasted snow totals diminished, wind chills are expected to fall between -20 F and -30 F. That’s just … miserable.

The National Restaurant Association reports that 90 percent of restaurant operators say weather affects their sales. (The other 10 percent must live in Hawaii?) Back in December, we offered some tips for increasing your business during inclement weather when Winter Storm Cleon hit. Also consider:

  • A back-up staffing plan. Are you comfortable pitching in when a staff member can’t make it in? Do you have a pinch-hitter who doesn’t mind taking on an extra shift? Do you discuss these circumstances with employees during interviews?
  • Are your staff members cross-trained in the event of an emergency? It’s great to have employees who are really great at one task, but are they able to take on a different job for a few hours when the need arises?
  • Do you offer take-and-bake? Advertise it BEFORE the storm hits so folks can pick one up and store it in the fridge to bake later. (That’s a Papa Murphy’s pizza in the picture above. I picked it up on my way home before a single flake had fallen, and we had enough pizza leftover for lunch the next day.)
  • Are you prepared if you vendors can’t get to you for a few days? I hit Trader Joe’s last night, and it looked like a war zone. Moms in yoga pants don’t play. Every single bag of salad was gone (salad is NOT my priority in a snow storm, but whatever), most the eggs were depleted and only $40 organic beef remained in the meat case. The employees were restocking shelves as fast as they could, but many items were just out of stock until their next truck could make it in.
  • Do you have a stockpile of salt and a snow shovel? How about a plow driver on retainer? If I can’t easily get into your parking lot, I’m going to look for the next best place. If you don’t own your own building, this could fall into your landlord’s domain. Has it been discussed?
  • Do you have a way to alert your customers if you are unable to open? Be able to change your message on your phone system, use social media and even post on local bulletin boards and news sites to give your customers the heads-up. Check out the status update Minnesota-based Broadway Pizza posted on their Facebook page. It’s a pretty powerful statement, and the comments from followers were overwhelmingly positive. Check out all those likes! Great top-of-mind awareness! Broadway Pizza Facebook post

We want to know your best tips for dealing with the snow. Do you remain open, even in the worst weather, or do you close? What’s your best tip for handling business in bad weather?