Nacogdoches restaurants coping with the lack of SFA students

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Restaurants are hitting a summer time lull. Especially hard hit are college towns as students make their mass exodus.

Restaurant managers must work extra hard to attract customers through their doors. The effort can benefit year-round residents.

At Posados Cafe in Nacogdoches fewer tortillas are needed this time of year. Business drops off 30 percent when Stephen F. Austin State University students leave for the summer.

"We do have some softer guest counts that come in during that time, but we're more than accommodating with the folks that live here," said Sheila Rodrigues, the general manager of Pasados.

Rodrigues knows to pull out tricks of the trade to attract those year round residents.

"Put a lot of coupons out. A lot of word of mouth," Rodrigues said. "Using our reader boards. Running daily specials. We have in-house specials."

These days, consumer are penny pinching right along with college students. "People are seeing that they do want to hold onto their money a little bit longer, and we certainly appreciate them choosing to come out to eat at the restaurants in general," Rodrigues said.

East Texas News found one restaurant that's using the summer time lull to its advantage. Rusty taco decided to open its doors on one of the slowest weeks of the year, right between graduation and summer semester.

"We didn't get run over during the opening," said Mike Todd, the general manager of Rusty Taco. "I know openings around this area do. New restaurants, people really love to have them."

The slower pace gives Todd time to train a core staff. Another summer survival trick is to keep overhead down.

"You have to cut your labor back," Todd said. "You have to, you know, run less people per shift."

More employees will be hired in the fall. In the meantime, successful general managers count on the locals.

"We do take that opportunity to get back with our loyal customers," Rodrigues said.

"I want to take just as good as care of the locals as I do the college kids," Todd said. "Both are important for success. You can't have success without both."

Restaurant consultants advise owners to use slow times to their advantage. They're told to beef up advertising when it's needed most. Many customers are also finding great promotional offers via social media, plus it's free for everyone to use.

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