Ah, restaurant week. Around the country it’s that magical time of year when everyone’s eyes and tastebuds are focused on your restaurant. According to Choose Chicago’s results from last year, Chicago area restaurants made $26.9 million during restaurant week, and served over 513,000 diners. Last year was the biggest year yet, and this year should be even better. But will it be a good year for your restaurant? Restaurants that make the most of restaurant week bring in some huge benefits, such as community inclusion, in-person and online buzz, and increased regular customers–but some restaurants still aren’t experiencing all the benefits that restaurant week offers. Make sure that you’re making the most of your week in the spotlight with these four helpful tips.
Get your menu out early. Last year, there were 286 restaurants competing for customers during Chicago restaurant week which begins at the end of January, and fanatic foodies started looking up menus and making their dinner reservations in December. If your menu wasn’t posted by the holidays, you lost a lot of customers. If you still haven’t posted your menu (yes, I’m talking to you), your restaurant week income is falling with every second you waste. Make sure your menu is online today and then watch your restaurant fill up every night of restaurant week.
Make that menu shine. Potential customers are likely to be looking at a lot of menus at once while making their decisions and you don’t want them to confuse your menu with your competition’s. Consider the layout: cursive can be hard to read on a tiny smartphone screen, print is usually a better option. Also, consider adding color or tasteful graphics to your restaurant week menu so that your customers can easily identify your menu again when they’re looking back through their dining options.
Suggest beverage pairings. Restaurant week can get tricky for pricing so this week more than ever you need to upsell your beverages. Try suggesting wine, beer and spirits pairings on your menu. If you have a mixologist, have him or her invent a restaurant week drinks menu of his own that reflects the season and the theme of the “tastiest week”. Using electronic wine and beverage menus can further help you highlight and upsell drinks and make the most of your beverage program quickly and without needing to print special menus.
Offer a big choice. We know that your pricing options are limited and we understand that you want to keep it easy for your staff. (We also understand that your kitchen and servers are probably grumbling a lot about restaurant week already.) A larger restaurant week menu helps you reduce the grumblings because it slows down your customer ordering speed and encourages diners to sample each other’s meals. Slowing down your diners’ speed will help your pacing, take some of the pressure off of your staff, and increase your customer satisfaction. Also, if you have a larger menu on restaurant week, potential guests will view that as a sign of higher value to them and are more likely to try out your restaurant. Even better? Your menu will stand out more because it looks unique.
Offer menu upgrades. If you’ve already done all your restaurant week planning and budgeting, and you’ve just realized that your prix fixe menu isn’t that distinctive or large, try offering your signature dishes in a separate column to the right of your prix fixe items. This will encourage your guests to add on interesting and delicious menu items a la carte to their order, and will help your profits while adding more value for your guests.
Restaurant week is an amazing opportunity for you and your restaurant, but if you aren’t making the most of it, you’re wasting your time. Your potential customers make carefully considered choices that make restaurant week a great deal for them, so why shouldn’t you consider your choices just as carefully to make it an incredible deal for you?
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