Category Archives: Discounts and Promotions

Don’t Give Them What They Want

A blog post from Restaurant Hospitality magazine last Monday explored consumers’ desire to want what they cannot have:  access to exclusive clubs, tables at restaurants with lengthy waiting lists, limited edition products, etc. When supply doesn’t meet demand, those who demand will pay more for access to the supply.

Sold Out sign

Every restaurant wants a menu item to get this kind of attention!

So, create it!

Limited-supply menu items can be “available” at any price point; there’s no need to go way above what your demographic is willing to pay. Get creative and do some market testing within your own restaurant to see what creates buzz. It can be a simple food idea or an entire concept.

  • Small-batch, chef-created ice creams to polish off summertime meals? Invest in a 4-qt Hamilton Beach Ice Cream Maker and invent a new flavor every day — one batch only!
  • Keep some rich Belgian chocolate on hand and dip only the very best fresh fruit from the day’s market, pair it with espresso for dessert and then package the limited-quantity pairing as a special service for the whole table.
  • One day a week, during a short window, offer afternoon tea for moms (or dads) and kids with lovely but durable Tea Rose tea service. Allow only a few sittings. Serve some small eats that are easy to prep (got leftover ingredients?) and suddenly, it’s an exclusive event!

Brainstorming Ways to Bring in Families

Adults and kids share a meal at a local diner.

Parents spend where their kids will eat.

Recent research from the NPD Group reports that families with children younger than 13 seriously cut back their dining out habits when the economy crashed in 2008. Full-service restaurants were the segment that took the biggest hit, and supper was the meal that took the greatest loss.

These families, like most of us, started pinching pennies when finances got shaky, but now that the economy is in recovery, and spending is on its way back up, a quarter of those same families are still holding back. How can FSRs reclaim this valuable demographic?

Children are big decision-makers when it comes to dining. Figure out how to match what they are looking for (Fun? Avoidance of broccoli? More cheesy pizza?) with what the parents are looking for (Value! Nutrition!) and you have a recipe that will keep them coming back for more!

  • Turn slow weeknights into Mother-Son/Daddy-Daughter date nights and offer one free kids’ meal with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Turn Saturday or Sunday evenings into an opportunity for Mom & Dad to celebrate their kids by offering a free double-sized dessert with the purchase of an adult meal and a kids’ meal.
  • Turn Friday nights into date night for grownups and offer free dessert to share while the kids are with a babysitter. Make sure you remind them about your great kids’ menu so they will come back with the kids on a weeknight!
  • Create a tween menu (11 to 13 year olds) with food that’s cooler than the kiddie menu, but in portions that are a bit smaller than the adult menu.

Keep brainstorming with food ideas, service concepts, special offers, or entertainment ideas and spend the summer experimenting with ways to bring families out to dine with you!

The Disloyalty Card Concept

3D Card Loyalty Crossword
The vaunted loyalty card is a tradition at many restaurants, despite the fact it might not be the best thing for them. It seems that a pair of Washington, DC people have come up with the opposite: the disloyalty card.

Eater has reported on a new concept. Encouraging customers to go to different coffee shops and try a variety of drinks from various baristas, customers will be rewarded with a free drink once they’ve gotten their card stamped at Blind Dog, Chinatown Coffee, The Coffee Bar, Filter, La Mano, and Peregrine Espresso. They’ll take the card to (ideally) the place where they had the best-tasting coffee, bestowing that coffee shop with the visceral feel of being best out of six.

I think for baristas, one of the things we want to do well is connect with customers over coffee in a way that makes customers excited, and that makes them feel good about going into coffee shops,” she said. “I hope the card is a fun way for D.C. coffee lovers to sort of explore different shops and engage with the people making coffee.

It’s an interesting proposal, as it effectively encourages restaurants to drive sales elsewhere. At the same time, it works because it’s a major community-builder; no restaurant or coffee shop exists in a vacuum, and while you may be out for yourself, there’s no harm in making friendship and allies with competitors. You never know when your restaurant might need help from a competitor, whether it be buns in a pinch, a stack of cups, or even work together with a competitor to have a live event that no one restaurant can support by themselves.

Now, the disloyalty card has the same problems as the loyalty card. Stores don’t keep a track of what kind of drink they’ve ordered, what they might have eaten with it, and more. It does come with the benefit of being a clear marker of which place might be the favorite.

Is this a concept you could introduce at your restaurant? Naturally, you’d have to work with local businesses, and ideally for competition sake, some of a similar kind. If anything, it’s a way to encourage at least one purchase at each restaurant, and the cost is rather low, as you only would have to invest in the cards and the occasional free drink for someone who chooses yours as the best.

Naturally, the concept does not have to be limited to coffee drinks; it would work the same if you decided to use it for sandwiches, burritos, tacos, and more. Find something that you’re really proud of at your restaurant and that enough local restaurants focus on that it’d be a fun competition between restaurants.

If anything, if you end up giving the most free product away, then you’ve got a nice bit of pride for your restaurant.