Restaurant Week can be tricky for restaurateurs. On the one hand, your tables fill up with a lot of new diners during an otherwise slow time of year. On the other hand, will those tables only be full of deal seekers you’ll never see again? It’s up to you which it’ll be. One thing is for sure—if your city is organizing a Restaurant Week, it’s worth participating in. Think of this promotion as part of your restaurant’s marketing budget but be sure to keep these dos and don’ts in mind as you plan ahead.
Do Over Deliver.
A lot of diners use Restaurant Week as an excuse to try out new restaurants. Don’t be surprised if your tables are full of a lot of new faces, and far fewer of your regulars. This means that in a short period of time, you’ll be making a lot of first impressions, so make sure first time diners get the impression you want them to have. Don’t let things slide just because it’s Restaurant Week. Over deliver on service, and make sure everything that comes out of the kitchen is up to the standards you set for any other week of the year.
Do Make it Easy for Diners.
This is the time to think about what you can do to improve the likelihood that diners not only know about your participation in restaurant week but also that they will find you. This means making it easy for them to make a reservation not only through the restaurant week website (where applicable) but, more importantly, through your website. An additional bonus? If you sign up (or are already signed up) with Yelp Reservations, diners will have another place to find your restaurant and book their table via Yelp, where 78% of Yelp’s 89 million unique monthly users are searching for restaurants.
Do Gather Information.
Use this promotion to gather as much information from your diners as you can, and use it to get them back into your restaurant when there isn’t a promotion going on. Gather email addresses and add them to your mailing list. From there, send a follow up email thanking them for dining, invite them to join your loyalty program, or just make sure they know how they can follow you on social media.
Do Special Training.
With a dining room full of potentially new diners, you may have more people than usual who don’t know anything about your concept or menu. Train your servers meticulously on the special menu and the dishes being featured. Be sure each server is ready with drink recommendations that pair well with each dish, and can answer any questions about preparation or the restaurant itself. Lots of diners will lead to lots of online reviews, so be sure you are delivering rock star service. .
Don’t Skimp on Portions.
Don’t try to make up for the smaller profit margins by skimping on portions. This will give a bad first impression to first time diners, and it will be annoying to your loyal regulars. With so many people Instagramming their meals, guests already have an idea of what to expect, and regardless of a promotion, they’re expecting that experience. Portions should be the same as they are year round.
Don’t Focus on Profit.
You will make yourself crazy if you focus only on profit margins during this promotion. Instead, think of this as part of your marketing budget. One of the benefits to Restaurant Week is being part of a bigger social promotion with organizers promoting you as a participant. Hopefully the city-wide buzz that goes along with the week will also be beneficial in helping your restaurant reach a whole new audience. Focusing only on profit margins will lead to cutting corners, and will impact the impression you’re making on new diners.
Don’t Be Boring.
Restaurant Week doesn’t have to be a frenzy of mass production in the kitchen, where it’s all about churning out dishes with mass appeal. It can also be a week where you test out some new dishes and showcasing your most popular items. If you don’t usually offer a prix-fixe menu, it’s also an opportunity to get creative designing a meal that’s more of a whole experience. Get creative and have fun with this event.
Restaurant Week can be a lot of fun, and for restaurants that do it well, it can prove to be both lucrative and productive in the long run. Remember, if you don’t have the resources or enthusiasm to do it well, skip it. Better to not participate at all than to do it poorly and have it be a negative experience for your customers.