No matter how many people you serve every day, chances are your restaurant has a few lulls to contend with. But you don’t have to settle for staring at empty seats during those slow hours! Below, we detail ideas for bringing in extra business during your off-peak times — and offering your guests a whole new experience at your restaurant.
1. Make those hours happier.
Of all after-lunch, pre-dinner possibilities, Happy Hour is a tried-and-true classic for bringing in more business. And organizing one can be as easy as identifying which areas of your food and drink menus can survive a price cut.
Even if you live in one of the many states that prohibit limited-time alcohol deals, you can still offer your guests a menu of shareable snacks that might just entice them to stay through dinner — and a menu of special (non-alcoholic) concoctions to help them unwind after work! Those who came for cocktails can still indulge, while guests who prefer to abstain will have a unique and sophisticated option outside of the traditional soda and lemonade category.
2. Make it a special event.
Do your guests love wine? Are foodies flocking to your restaurant every night? Pay special attention to your customers’ interests, then organize a special event featuring those items.
If your guests have a special interest in wine or beer, try teaming up with a local brewery, vineyard, or distributor to hold a tasting — with your own house curated pairings, of course! Or, if they’re true gastronauts, you can offer an exclusive tasting menu developed by your chef during those slower after-work hours — or team up with a local butcher or farmer to develop a menu that is truly unique (and totally on-trend). Not only can you easily increase your marketing base by including other local businesses, you’ll also identify your restaurant as a warm and welcoming place where the community comes together. And other businesses will be much more inclined to send their customers your way in the future.
3. Make a game of it.
Think trivia is just for late nights? Think again! Setting up a special competition during those slow after-work hours is a great way to attract guests — and give them a fun way to unwind.
Although many restaurants use an outside vendor, setting up your own trivia can be as simple as getting a cheap public address system. Break out your old Trivial Pursuit game (as long as you give credit where it’s due, of course) or researching a few fun facts online! You can even engage your staff by having them brainstorm trivia topics or questions based on their own interests. Offering a small prize, such as a free round of drinks or a coupon for a future trivia night, helps encourage even hardcore trivia competitors to join in on the fun — and entices them to return to cash in on their winnings!
4. Make it a limited time offer.
Very few things are as motivating as a limited-time offer — and making it available for only a few hours makes it all the more special! Try developing a brand new entrée or appetizer and offering it only during slower hours to entice those curious customers to try something no one else has before.
Not only does a special new dish entice guests to come during off-peak hours, it also provides your chefs the opportunity to be creative. And it’s a low-risk way to test out possible new menu items. Capitalize on both the after-work and dinner crowds by offering two options: one shareable appetizer, and one full-on entrée. Then, no matter how hungry the crowd, you have something guaranteed to satisfy them — and two chances to test potential additions to your everyday menu.
Want even more marketing ideas to entice guests to your restaurant? Check out our free eBook on how to make summer work harder for your restaurant!