From happy hour specials to prix fixe menus, promotions are a great way to reach a new customer or bring people into your restaurant during slow times. Because the Garces Group operates more than a dozen restaurants concepts in Philadelphia and beyond, we asked Vice President of Restaurant Operations Scott Steenrod for his top tips to make new promotions work effectively. Read on!
Restaurant promotions are all about engagement — creating fun, new reasons for customers, media, and your employees to engage with the restaurant throughout the year. Crafting smart promotions can keep your restaurant in the news circuit, which in turn continues to keep it at top of mind with the customer. Promotions also provide a great opportunity to build revenue during softer day parts or otherwise underperforming time periods. These offerings and activities help your restaurant stand out as an exciting and dynamic destination in your city — plus, they give your chefs and staff an outlet where they can express some creative freedom and experiment with new and unique ideas.
Here at Garces Group, we work with our General Managers and Chefs de Cusine on a daily basis to come up with original promotions that speak to each restaurant’s unique customer base, neighborhood, and culinary approach. Here are a few of our tips on how to craft promotions that will work for your restaurant.
Know your audience. Build the promotion with your audience in mind and know how, where, and when to reach them. At Distrito in Philadelphia, the restaurant is located in the heart of University City, which means there are a lot of students who are on a budget. Because of this, we worked with the restaurant to craft special happy hour promotions and weekend specials such as “Kegs & Eggs,” a $10 brunch that includes a beer and one of three brunch entrees — a perfect and affordable hair-of-the-dog option for all of those hungry college students.
Keep it simple. Promotions need to be easily understood and memorable. At Amada in Philadelphia, we offer a “$5 Tapas Menu.” It is self-explanatory, which avoids confusion — and people know exactly what they are getting when they walk in the door. This menu helps us build traffic during a traditionally soft time period and has been particularly effective in keeping a restaurant with nearly 10 years of history relevant in the market.
Have a call to action. What’s in it for the guest and how do they take advantage of it? It’s not enough to just announce the promotion; you have to make taking the next step easy and intuitive. In most cases, this means providing guests the opportunity to make a reservation with the click of a button in the promotional announcement. At Garces Trading Company, we recently offered a special black truffle dinner, where we had these astounding truffles provided by a company that flew them in from Australia. Every guest received up to 25 grams of truffles, and we made this a clear point of distinction when announcing the dinner. We also included a link to book the dinner directly below the announcement. By participating in the dinner, guests knew they were getting something different that they couldn’t normally get at the restaurant — or even purchase at a grocery store! The dinner sold out in less than five hours and was highly praised by all in attendance.
Define success in advance. What are the goals and how do you measure them? One of the more unique challenges that has faced our group over the years is that our restaurants, while loved, were often perceived as special occasion dinner destinations. Our lunch business tended to underperform. To combat this, we implemented a pre-fixe lunch special for $15 across the group (the actual name varies by restaurant). The offering included a full choice of lunch selections, plus beverages that could be delivered efficiently. At the onset, we established a goal to improve lunch traffic by more than 15%, and our in-restaurant teams became laser-focused on communicating the promotion, mobilizing their teams, and tracking progress toward our goal. Since then we have seen lunch traffic improve across the group.
Be creative and have fun. Collaborate with the staff to develop the promotion. One of our dear and beloved restaurants, Chifa, closed in 2013 to make way for Rosa Blanca, our Cuban diner concept. We knew a lot of people were saddened by its closing, including many of our employees from other restaurants throughout the company! The Chef De Cuisine of Chifa was Natalie Maronski, who is now the Chef De Cuisine at Volver in the Kimmel Center. The staff at Volver came up with a really fun idea to have a Chifa pop up in Bar Volver, bringing back a number of the signature dishes from Chifa. The event was a huge success, yielding a sell-out on what otherwise would have been a slower night and generating many positive emotional moments of nostalgia for our guests.
Build in a staff incentive to generate awareness and excitement. What’s in it for the staff? Since we have multiple restaurants across the city, our holiday gift cards are a very popular option for our guests and provide us a great way to build business. For the past two years, we have offered an incentive where our top gift card sales team members earn cash rewards. With up to $1,000 for the first place salesperson, and additional cash prizes for second and third places, this incentive program has proven to be a powerful tool in motivating our teams to get behind the gift card sales while fostering friendly competition. Since introducing the incentive in 2013, our gift card sales have improved by more than 30%… and our staff looks forward to the competition every year.
Now that 2015 is here, resolve to make this the best year yet for your restaurant business. Every day this month we’ll be featuring a new tip from restaurateurs, chefs, and other industry leaders to shape up your marketing, operations, hospitality, and more. Check back daily for expert advice and successful strategies to start your year off right, and see them all here.