You now know about the unique needs of the business diner, but how can you make your restaurant the perfect choice for their meetings? According to restaurant experts speaking at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, all it takes is a few tips — and a lot of relationship building.
1. Concentrate on creating quiet, private areas that are conducive to conversation.
Although a suite of private party rooms catering to groups of six is the ideal situation for these diners, these business-friendly areas can include anything from a group of large, round tables to a few small, easily-moveable tables set in a quiet corner where businesspeople and their colleagues may feel more comfortable having a conversation.
Want to work with your current public dining space? Constructing a modular layout that can easily be reconfigured helps ensure you’ll always be able to create an appropriately sized table for even the largest parties.
You can even create the illusion of more privacy by using comfortable, tall-backed chairs; organizing a few tables into tiny nooks that may not be living up to their full potential; or even using décor, such as by strategically placing decorative screens between tables or different seating areas.
2. Develop a special menu specifically for these types of groups — or use your current offerings, but with some special accommodations.
One particular need of the business diner is satisfying the requirements and expectations of different cultures within one meal and one interaction. At any given time, an American businessperson may be entertaining colleagues from anywhere in the world. It’s important that no matter what culture these guests come from, they feel comfortable with the experience — but there may be some potential pitfalls lurking in your menu that you hadn’t even considered.
Take, for example, an appetizer. You may serve five individual pieces in a single order, and for the casual diner, this is typically sufficient. But what about the business diner who is entertaining six or seven colleagues, some of whom may come from a culture that considers sharing pieces of food or from the same plate improper — or who may think sharing is just inappropriate for such a formal occasion?
Sure, but they could just order two, you may be thinking. And for a typical diner, that solution would be just fine. For the businessperson, however, this presents a bigger problem: they now have to ask the server how many pieces come in a single order, consider whether ordering too much food will be equally offensive — or start eating into their strict budget; and make the snap decision. Although it may not seem like much, for a businessperson, this is just added stress.
Rather than creating a potentially perilous situation, show your business diners that you have their needs in mind by preemptively offering the appetizer at a size that will satisfy the number of guests in their party — for a slightly different price.
Or, if you have enough time ahead of their scheduled meeting, you can also create a shorter, but still equally impressive, prix fixe menu specifically for that diner and his or her colleagues. This will not only ensure that each item is tailored specifically to each individual’s cultural and business needs, but also allow the host to know exactly how much they’re spending from the get-go — without having to take the step of asking how much each item is, or adding it up as he or she goes.
3. Develop a reservation and seating system that caters to businesspeople.
Reading through the last tip, you may have thought to yourself, “But how will I know which diners are which when they call?” That brings us to the next tip: create a reservation and seating system that makes catering to business diners a breeze.
Train your front of house staff to spot certain clues that the person on the phone may be a business diner — or, more likely, an executive assistant — looking to make a reservation for a meeting.
Some tip-offs include when someone is making a reservation for a large party under another individual’s name, often with a short lead-time. Or when someone calls from another area of the country, or requests details about your location relevant to the business district or nearby hotels.
When your FOH staff hears these tip-offs — or any time they think a special occasion may be associated with the reservation — they can inquire about whether a certain event is being celebrated and special needs of the party, including dietary restrictions or other requests.
Ti Martin, a successful restaurateur with locations in New Orleans and Houston, suggests writing down as much of this type of information about each business diner as possible, and using it at every opportunity.
Tell your front of house staff who is coming and how to identify him or her, then have them welcome that person by name. Document special needs of that particular diner, and when they return, make sure you have those needs taken care of in advance. Remember which businesses he or she associates with, and take the time to brush up on their dealings so you can congratulate them on another aspect of their operations when you pass by the table.
If you notice an increase in business diners coming to your location, Martin also suggests that you take care to save a few tables rather than filling to capacity. That way, you’ll never have to refuse a large group that may come in to celebrate after a deal has been closed.
4. Create relationships, and maintain them.
Once you’ve established yourself as the go-to restaurant for the business diner, it’s important to maintain that relationship. Always creating an extra-special experience for him or her is one way to do it, but that’s only part of the equation.
Take time to contact that businessperson or his or her executive assistant to thank them for dining with you, and always extend the invitation to return. If you hear that local businesses are vamping up operations or looking for new partners, send a quick note to their offices to say that you’d love to create a menu for one of their meetings.
Remember to document the names and needs dictated by executive assistants when they call. These are often the true decision-makers when it comes to choosing the restaurant — and they’re typically just as busy as their boss! If they know that one location not only satisfies their needs, but also surpasses their expectations — and can always offer a reservation — they’ll come back time and time again. And they just might tell a few other folks in the business about their great find!
Want to attract business diners, but don’t have the means to do it? Learn more about how our Merchant Cash Advance solutions can help you get the capital you need to redesign your dining space or update your reservation system.