You can’t help it, as you’re watching your bartender polish the same glass for the umpteenth time, you start adding up the labor costs associated with another slow Tuesday.
The kitchen staff is doing a valiant job of looking occupied while the front of house staff is making another pot of coffee to keep from nodding off. The rush, both tables, is over before you know it and you start playing staffing roulette, who can you send home and still function if there is an actual influx of diners.
This story, or something much like it, plays out in many a restaurant mid-week. Sure, a nearby convention or popular concert hall might give you that boost on what would otherwise be a quiet night, but for every busy Tuesday you may end up with a raft of slow ones. What you really need is some sort of hook, an incentive to get more people in your door and cash in your till. The trick is finding the right incentive that doesn’t cheapen your brand.
The Date Night Special
Some specials evoke all sorts of negative connotations like the geriatric stereotype of the early bird diner. Others, such as coupon books, are expensive, fraught with sketchy promoters, and while they might get a few diners in the door, don’t necessarily create new regulars for you. What you need is something that appeals to your target audience and creates the right mood for the meal you’re trying to sell.
Perhaps…. a date night.
The concept is pretty simple, an appetizer to share, two entrées, a shared dessert and a bottle of wine all for a flat price, say around $50. The question for you, how do you make that work with your menu. There are two ways to go, either allow people to choose directly off your menu or use your current offerings as inspiration to create a special, limited menu. Unless all your dishes are within a couple of dollars of each other, a special, limited menu for your date night might be the way to go.
Price it Right
If your normal price points are too high to comfortably fit into a $50 or $60 dinner for two, you might also consider an entree that could be shared, say a whole roasted chicken with a couple of your more popular sides to round out the platter. For something a little more impressive, you could even roast up a whole fish, big enough for two with great eye appeal and Instagram potential.
Conversely, you might want to try to hit a lower price point, say $40 per couple. In that case, consider serving the meal family style. A large shared salad and a pasta dish with an appropriate protein for the couple to share, for example. Salads and pastas are also easily scalable if you want to make it into a family night to include the kids. For a small upcharge, throw in a bottle of wine for the parents to share.
Offer WineThe wine, of course, is the other piece of the puzzle. You don’t want to calculate your food costs for such a meal and then have the bottle of wine cause you to lose money on the deal. Check with your wine reps. Chances are they have something that will fit into your price point that isn’t totally undrinkable. A selection is good to have, a red, a white and perhaps a nice dry rose to choose from. It’s also not a bad way to get rid of random bottles that you have left over and are no longer on your wine list.
It’s a busy world we live in. Couples and families don’t always have time to cook big meals during the week. Eating out is much more common during the week than it used to be, but many of those meals tend to be fast food or ready-made food from grocery stores. If you can hit the right price point you might capture some of those weekday diners - some of whom may come back for a longer, more leisurely meal with a higher check average on another night - and keep your bartender from spending another Tuesday polishing the same glass over and over.