Surcharges on linen. Price increases on bread, dairy and vegetables. A tomato Salmonella scare and suddenly Andrew Zimmern’s career of eating rat eyes and lizards gizzards in far away, roach infested countries doesn’t look that unappetizing.
Remember, Zimmern is the International spokesperson for Pepto Bismol, so don’t hesitate to run out and buy a case because the price increases, the slow nights and the empty tables are going to continue to upset your stomach for a while, it seems.
Another alternative is to take the cost cutting measures the current situation calls for. That’s what smart operators and chefs will do in order to get through the economic downturn that everyone knows is a recession.
Here are ten tips on how to get through the rough patch we are all facing:
1). Be sure to check on neighboring restaurants. If they are slow then the trend is the neighborhood and the demographic audience you are appealing to. If they are busy and you are slow another problem exists.
2). Now is the time to really become the coach and trainer for your staff. Make sure to keep their spirits up. They are the front line to the customers and if they are depressed or upset because of a lack of tip revenue it will show. Remember, restaurants are theater. The show must go on.
3). Redesign some menu items making sure that prices are more reasonable. Specials need to range from the lowest price on the menu too the highest. If you once made all of you specials higher priced, learn to make a special that will attract customers.
4). Now, more than ever, customer service comes into play. You must give the perception that it pays to dine out. Make sure that your staff is pleasant, friendly and accommodating.
5). Shop the area grocery stores to find out their price points. Often grocery store prices signify a better value at restaurants. Currently the grocery market is all over the board. Standard staples are skyrocketing in price. If you can highlight some of these items in your nightly specials it will give the perception of a better value.
6). Use local products and let your customers know. Last evening I had the pleasure of dining at Sea Thai Bistro in
7). Remember we’re all in this together. Nobody has it easier than the next guy. We are all squeaking by with gas prices out of control. If you are a little nicer to your customers than the next guy, they will think of you when they want to eat out again.
8). Watch neighborhood trends. Is there a special neighborhood garage sale or an event you can donate to. The best publicity in the world is taste of mouth that converts to word of mouth. Be involved with the community.
9). Sidewalk sales are big in malls and neighborhoods across the country during the summer. Make sure to get involved in those. Sample an inexpensive dish that your customers will remember.
10). Watch your payroll and your food cost. When was the last time you worked the line? Remember how to do that. Maybe you should get a refresher course from your chef for those slow nights. And finally, remember, only five months until the election…