Lent: Time to Promote Spring
Today is the beginning of Lent. Steakhouses across the country have been innovatively thinking how to deal with the fact that each year, for forty days, Christians observe Lent as a time to contemplate, reflect, and, in many cases, to eat less meat.
But if you think you´re safe because your menu leans towards pasta and salads think again. Last night over 40,000,000 people watched American Idol and for the next twelve weeks, the show´s ratings will rob restaurants of customers on Tuesday and Wednesday nights as we all anticipate who will be the next whomever. Your competition comes from the TV as well as from other restaurants, but you can fight it with the same means that American Idol uses to draw its crowds: marketing. Take this Lenten season as an opportunity to make — and market — changes to your menu that will reinvigorate your business and give people a reason to leave the TV.
This time of year signals a turn toward spring, and for restaurants it´s a good opportunity to start promoting the new menu items that you´ll introduce at winter´s end. Even if you haven´t already had to make changes to accommodate people´s new eating patterns, Lent is a good time for you to start experimenting with new menu items. And as you decide what changes you will make to your menu, you must also prepare to market your new spring menu.
It´s time to get creative with your menu and the marketing behind it. I used the spring sampling menu ploy each Lenten season. With the availability of seasonal produce virtually throughout the year, cooking for spring is easy and exciting. Although many of us are snowbound, the Internet brings spring to our door. In order to stimulate the senses review the selection of fresh vegetables and produce from Greenleaf Produce, one of the premier vendors in Northern California. Their online catalog is a virtual guide to any menu planning. And, although they don’t deliver across state lines, the site will certainly help spur creativity.
And, that is a key ingredient in any successful restaurant.
The spring sampling menu should be a yearly event. I would ask my chefs to create a menu that they might use beginning in April. They developed it as though the sun was shining and the temperatures were hovering in the mid 60-degree range. They would prepare each dish, cost the items, and we would sample the menu together. Once each item – appetizers, entrees and desserts – were approved, I would have the menu printed, setting aside two weeks in the middle of Lent to promote the spring sampling event. Nightly I would feature an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert from the menu at a reduced price. Customers would receive a description of the meal along with the recipe and a preview of other dishes to appear on the nights ahead. Frequently, we paired the menu items with a wine or possibly a flight.
After analyzing sales for the two weeks, we essentially had developed our spring menu.
Nothing promotes drudgery more than the continuation of winter weather. We are all affected by it and look forward to spring as though we were kids at Christmas. This year, Daylight Savings Time takes place on March 11. That would be the perfect time to begin your spring sampling menu: A simple promotion attracts customers, entices people to venture out and try new items. Plus, it will add a touch of spring to everyone´s step.