Special offers used to be seen as a bit of a desperate way to appeal to customers, new and old. But thanks to the current economic downturn, there is really no reason not to. In fact, very few restaurants can afford not to try new ideas to bring in customers, especially on the not-so-prime sessions such as Tuesday lunchtime.
Over the past few months lots of fancy places that would never have needed to, let alone wanted to, have started special offers for their customers. Now, even a cursory Google will bring up a whole host of value for money deals, including ‘two main meals for £10’, two course lunches at Michelin starred restaurants for under £20, ‘two for one’ deals and all manner of free bottles of wine.
The bottom line is that the restaurant industry has had a good few years. Customers had high levels of disposable income thanks to a booming economy and a buoyant housing market. Now neither of those is so rosy, very few people can afford to spend their money on a meal out without good reason. There is still a good market for ‘occasion eating’, such as birthday and anniversary meals, but it is the day to day, can’t-be-bothered-to-cook meals out that are bearing the brunt and costing restaurants dear.
Staying in is Not the Same as Going Out!All this adds up to restaurateurs needing to be savvy to get customers to come to their restaurant instead of someone else’s. We’ve all seen the advertising campaigns suggesting that ‘staying in is the new going out’ – there are loads of good deals on for three course meals, including a bottle of wine, from pretty much all the leading supermarkets. This all means that restaurants have to try even harder to get customers to part with their cash, especially as it is starting to seem a little crass to be going out and spending money.
It is no longer seen as desperate to have special offers, in fact, quite the opposite. There are so many websites dedicated to getting a good deal on anything and everything that you will actually be loosing business if you do not offer something to your customers and potential customers.
Types of Special OfferSpecial offers can be used to boost your business in all kinds of ways, if you are smart. Obviously, you don’t want to be throwing away money, so you need to focus on times and days that need a little help. The majority of special offers are voucher-based and only valid on weekdays. That said, you can do really well if you have a weekend special, although it is probably not necessary to do so on key dates like Mothers Day and New Years Eve.
There is a current trend for restaurants giving a money off or special offer voucher to weekend diners when they are given their bill, to tempt them to come back at another quieter time.
Loss leaders are also a popular way to bring new customers through the doors. This is where the deal actually ends up costing you money, but it is a wise marketing strategy if you gain long-term customers. An example of this is offering a ‘two for one’ on main meals on a Tuesday lunchtime, but the customers see how great your restaurant is and end up coming back on a Saturday with a group of friends.
An important point to bear in mind when it comes to boosting your business is to be careful over portion control and gross profit. Don’t go offering Lobster Thermidor on your ‘two for one’ lunch menu, because although you will be popular with customers, your bank manager won’t thank you!