With the onset on longer daylight hours during the summer, and the incentive to capture and retain diners during that time period, some restaurants may consider extending their dinner hours before and after the times that they may usually be open.
This is a continuation of an article I wrote for cookwork.com
Recommendations and further ideas for extending your opening hours:
- Go with a soft opening for a few weeks before heavily promoting it, it will help you work out any kinks with staffing in advance, and beta test menu items that may need to be changed or adjusted.
- If you have limited staff to work with, you might want to consider having items that can be made up in advance or easily re-heated, so it doesn’t interfere as much with the regular prep going on in the kitchen. Having chilled roasted or grilled vegetable salads pre-plated, meat or vegetable pies and tarts that just need to be popped in the oven, or pre-portioned ingredients for specialty salads that wait staff or bar staff can make up, can be an option. If you do decide to go this route, you do need to have management quality control food, and make sure someone is tasked to keep an eye on it before it makes its way to the dining room. This option can work well if managed correctly, but problems can arise if ingredients are not fresh and items FIFO’ed properly.
- Cooks may be willing to work any extra day if they can have two split shifts. Wait persons as well. Extra hours may warrant having to extend your staffing and perhaps bring on additional staff. Give staff the option first of working more hours for perhaps an additional incentive, instead of bringing on more staff first. If presented that bringing on more staff may result in having to cut hours back, most employees will volunteer to work a bit more to keep the current hours they work instead of losing their normal schedules.
- Ask for input from your staff, they may notice trends in both the kitchen and the dining room that management may not be aware of. Your house margarita may be selling well midweek: If you offer a special “Buy one Margarita get the second half off between the hours of 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM, Tuesdays and Wednesdays only”, you increase the chances of getting earlier diners and perhaps more bar business as well.
- Advertising to and encouraging guests specifically for the extended hours using coupons (print and web), specials and offers on Facebook, a Blog and Twitter, with information promoting the specials during certain hours only. “Our tasting menu for only $17.00, normally $25.00 between the hours of 3:30-5:30.”
- Handing out coupons or other incentives upon guests leaving, and/or including them when the check is dropped, Coupon for 1/2 price appetizer between the hours of 4:00-7:00 PM.
- Take into consideration who some of your target market is as well, if you have baby boomers or retirees as frequent customers, they still read newspapers and other printed material, consider putting ads in the local dollar saver or other local circular, don’t rely on solely on internet advertising.