Local Restaurant Weeks: Worth it or not?
For diners across the country, Restaurant Week provides an opportunity to sample local cuisines at a set price. For restaurateurs, the event can be a business boon that leads to short term profits and long term ROI. But does it always work? The answer depends on a restaurant’s preparedness and approach.
The Pros and Cons
Since New York unveiled the very first restaurant week in 1992, countless cities have replicated the formula. Once or sometimes twice a year, local dining establishments will spend one week offering bargain priced, three-course lunches and dinners. The aim is to lure new customers in and turn them into regulars. The reality depends both on the quality of the menu and other key aspects that make up a positive dining experience.
Whatever the results, a typical restaurant participates in the event for two reasons:
- It can infuse some much-needed cash into an otherwise slow month.
- It can increase a restaurant’s pool of customers for the long-term.
While it can bring increased exposure, Restaurant Week doesn’t always go as planned. For one thing, it can cost money to participate. To play along with local Restaurant Weeks, a restaurant must typically pay fees to local tourism bureaus. In places like Ocean County, Atlantic City and Denver, that fee can amount to between $350 and $500, plus an additional $500 to $600 if they want their restaurants featured in advertising.
Another potential drawback centers on the effect all the increased foot traffic could have on existing loyal customers, who might be turned off by the extra noise and congestion. Still others worry about the uncertainty of demand, which can cause them to either run out of food or make too much. Then, there’s the extra cost of labor needed to serve all the extra guests.
The Bottom Line
While it does have potential drawbacks, Restaurant Week holds powerful potential for forward-thinking restaurateurs. Based on how widespread Restaurant Week participation is throughout America, it’s clear that most restaurant managers and owners consider it a worthy investment. Many choose to view the event as a marketing week, without worrying too much about instantaneous results. Instead of strictly quantifying a big week in dollars and cents, they view the experience as a way of exposing new guests to the restaurant and reminding past guests who haven’t visited recently.
Whatever their attitudes, restaurateurs inevitably enjoy better returns when they make every effort to put their best foot forward by showcasing, not just their food, but their customer service and any other unique attractions that enhance the guest experience.