Could the recession put a stop to the business lunch? As the oil prices rise and food costs skyrocket, power lunches at restaurants are being replaced by brown bag lunches at the office. Restaurant owners are starting to feel the strain of dwindling lunch crowds, offering new incentives for customers to dine during the afternoon hours. Many restaurants are now offering prix fixe lunch menus and fast service to attract the executive set.
Although two and three course specials have long been a staple at many popular chain restaurants, including Chilis, O’Charley’s, and Olive Garden, many local restaurants have been hesitant to follow suit until now. In response to the popular D.C. Restaurant week, several Washington, D.C. restaurants are now giving their customers an opportunity to order two and three course meals at a fixed price during lunch hours. The impact to these foodservice establishments’ bottom lines has been astounding. Over a six week period, Assaggi Osteria and Assaggi Mozarella Bar have seen lunchtime sales rise 20%, with 80% of lunch guests ordering the featured two course specials. Georgia Brown’s, another D.C. restaurant, has experienced similar results since implementing prix fixe lunch options 5 years ago, increasing the average lunch bill by 3% to 5%.
Prix fixe lunch menus have several benefits for guests. In addition to saving guests money, providing a substantial discount over ordering menu items a la carte, they also save guests time since many items can be prepped in advance.
When planning a prix fixe lunch menu, it is important to keep several things in mind. First, limit your menu to only two courses. Restaurants such as the Palm are now revising their prix fixe lunch menu to include two courses instead of three, noting that busy executives are shortening their lunch meetings to get in and out more quickly. Second, keep it simple. Time is just as important to busy executives so entrees should be easy and quick to prepare.
Does your restaurant offer a prix fixe lunch menu? What are the most popular items?