As there are plenty of other restaurants competing for customers, you need to make sure that your offer stands out. While you do not want to pay out more in free offers and discounts that you end up making, you will need to give a certain amount of loss leaders, especially in the early days when you are building your restaurant business.
Customers are now quite savvy about finding the best deals on pretty much everything – the internet means that we can shop around for holidays, cars and computers – and restaurants are no exception.
There are a number of internet sites like Last Minute and Top Table that restaurant customers regularly use to get the best deals on dining out – usually there are a number of offers including free drinks, money of a total spend or good value set menu.
The most popular types of special offer help to bring in customers that may otherwise have spent their money elsewhere. They are a great way to introduce your products and services to potential new customers, so rather than think of the money you are loosing, think of the potential business you will gain!
Two for One
Two for one offers, or ‘toofers’ as they are known in the marketing industry, are very common place nowadays. Many people do their supermarket shopping by buying as many two for one offers or money off discounts as they can.
You could think about doing two for one offers on main meals in the early evening, perhaps, or on traditionally quiet nights like Tuesdays and Sundays. This will help your restaurant be busier in the otherwise quiet down time and appeal to a different audience.
Kids Eat Free
If you are happy to appeal to families with children, ‘Kids Eat Free’ offers are good for lunch times and weekends. You do not need to serve only ‘things with chips’ – the current awareness of obesity in children means that this is very out of fashion. Just do smaller portions of your adult’s meals – perhaps you need only offer two or three options to help make it easier for the kitchen.
Snacks with an Aperitif
It is common across Europe to be brought a little dish or plate of something strong flavoured to be enjoyed while you drink an aperitif and peruse the menu. The simplest option is good bread and olives, although little canapés, spiced nuts or cheeses are also popular. You could train your waiting staff to be able to make them, or prepare as much in advance.
Don’t even think about charging for them – it will make you look very cheap. Simply bring them out as the menus are given and make a note on the menu that they are ‘with your compliments’. It is not fair to stress your customers by making them think they will be charged for something they haven’t ordered!
This can become a little signature freebie which your customers are sure to appreciate. Similarly, you can offer a small basket of decent bread – ideally homemade, if possible – with good quality butter. Don’t have a cover charge for it – it costs pennies and really adds to the quality dining experience.