Andy Ganick: “We have been out of our comfort zone for six months now.”
Restaurant Week puts a lot of stress on the entire staff. It takes us out of our comfort zone— which can be great for growth and improvement when stability and consistency come before and after—but we have been out of our comfort zone for six months now.
It forces us to menu engineer in a way that works for our profit margins and works for a service to (mostly) couples. And in the interest of luring new diners, we want to impress and give a great deal, so our profit margins tend to be lower than normal. This is not ideal ever, but [it’s] even more so these days. In both my restaurants over the years, we have always felt the need to serve a special menu along with our regular menu due to the fact that we have many regulars at both stores. [They] depend on us to always be there to serve them their favorite burger and beer, or whatever their “usual” is. So now we are serving not just one menu, but two. There is back-office work to set up the buttons in the POS for all of these new/special/different items. We don’t tend to get all of the modifiers right on the first try. This particular brand of coursed meal service is a different kind of timing that the kitchen needs to adjust for. (Again, all of this is specific to my place[s].)
Last year, for the first time, we didn’t participate and saw our sales increase significantly anyway.
When I first opened The Berkshire (2007), I remember Restaurant Week being a special week during which a select number of restaurants participated, and it was very successful. We definitely saw a significant boost in our sales during those first few years. [But] it seems that the number of participants has grown so much over the years, [it’s] thinning the guest pool that we are all competing for. This is also probably because of the three price options. [I’m] not saying that that is a bad idea at all, but in the past five years or so, there really hasn’t been any boost in our sales associated with it. Last year, for the first time, we didn’t participate and saw our sales increase significantly anyway. [I’m] not saying that it had anything to do with not participating, but it was a relief to know the decision didn’t hurt us.
A few ideas to increase business during these challenging times:
- Restaurant Week for take-out/delivery only. Maybe some of the third-party delivery companies would drop fees for a couple days to potentially expand their clientele.
- How about a few Restaurant Weeks over the course of the year separated into the different price categories: the $25 participants are a week in January, the $35 a week in February, and the $45 a week in November? This would limit the number of restaurants participating during every week [and] driving the people to just them. They would still get that one busy week, but the customer share would be less thinned out.
- How about only offering it Sunday night through Thursday night? I have been very fortunate in that both of my restaurants have always tended to be pretty full on Friday and Saturday nights, so we can’t really increase the revenue on those nights anyway. This is especially true these days when we only have half our tables.
- Another suggestion might be to ask our mayor or governor to promote a city-wide program in which every citizen get a $10 voucher to be redeemed at the restaurant of their choice during a specific week. The restaurant would then turn in all of their vouchers at the end of the week and collect the money from the city or state, both of which would be benefiting from the increased sales tax revenue. They don’t even have to send us a check. Reimburse us through the sales tax collection at the end of month, which could be reduced by the amount of coupons collected. Spread it over a few months if necessary.
What’s your take on DRW? Email email@example.com with your experiences and thoughts about the intense influx of customers?