Just another quiet Monday
Over the last few years as well as my usual consulting work I have also been teaching a number of Marketing courses at Nottingham Trent University. On the whole this has worked out quite well as I have been able to structure my workload around my time at the University. It has also helped that the main projects I have been working on haven’t been time sensitive so I have been able to be quite flexible as to when I do things.
Speaking to a colleague at the University who was in a similar position I discovered how lucky I had been. Unfortunately for this individual the projects and clients she was working with had quite tight timings and this had meant that she was finding it increasingly difficult to balance that workload with the requirements of the University. This came to a head towards the end of the academic year as a couple of project deadlines clashed with when student assignments and exams needed to be marked. This experience has made her reflect on what commitments she can give to the University going forward so as not to compromise the time she is able to dedicate to her other clients.
Of course peaks and troughs in business are nothing new. And when it comes to the world of hospitality it is one on the great challenges. So how can operators go about filling their venues during less busy times?
What’s the aim of the game…
It may seem obvious but whatever activity you plan to do be very clear what it is you are hoping it will deliver. Without clear objectives it is unlikely that you will know whether you have been successful or not.
At the most basic level you may wish just to get people into your venue during quiet times to help off-set some of your fixed overhead costs. In these cases you can probably price promote a bit deeper as making money is not the primary goal.
Another aim may be to attract new customers to your outlet. In these situations having an understanding of what motivates these diners is vitally important. Although price may play a part in what you do to attract these people, you can probably be more creative than just offering straight discounts. For example offering a fixed price menu which includes one or two extras which customers might not usually buy is worth thinking about.
Many pubs, restaurants etc. simply wish to encourage existing customers to either visit more frequently or spend more when they are in outlet. If this is a key objective then creating special or themed events is one way to achieve this. However as we have already discussed be clear on what your customers like or don’t like so that your events attract customers and don’t put them off. For example if your customer base is quite spontaneous and you have a lot of ‘walk-in’ customers, an event where they need to pre-book tickets may not generate the right response.
Finally you may wish to run an event to help generate good PR for your outlet. The noise created in both local press and social media may arguably have a bigger longer impact on your business than revenue based promotions. If this is your objective then be very clear on how you are going to measure what success looks like. Also remember it is likely to be more complicated to measure than simply knowing what went through the till on a given sitting.
Our quite time is…
In my experience when people talk about how to fill the quiet times in their pub or restaurants they do so in one of two specific ways. They are either concerned that too much of their trade is focussed around the back end of the week, particularly the weekend or that they have particularly quite times during certain parts of the year.
If the problem is lack of trade during the week then price promotions are often a simple way of addressing this. Another approach although not necessarily ideal is to either not open on those quieter days or possible operating reduced opening times. Which tactic you adopt will often be dictated by the nature of your business and your outlets location. For example if you do quite well most lunch times but Monday and Tuesday evenings are always quiet then maybe only opening during the day would make sense. Conversely only opening during the evening may be another way to reduce your running costs and also provide time for business planning or training. Whatever you do the most important thing is to make sure your customer base is properly communicated to about it. Both in outlet and online.
If the issue you face is more around being quiet during certain times of the year then creating additional one-off events or regular features maybe one way to address this. Regular features may also be used on a more frequent basis such as monthly or even weekly, however make sure you monitor how customers respond to them and remove or replace them if they lose their appeal.
Food and drink for thought…
Inventing an event from scratch can often be quite difficult to do and may also lack credibility. One way to overcome this is to piggy-back on something which is already taking place either nationally or even better locally. This could be anything from a sporting event through to concerts or festivals. Depending on your location there may even be opportunities around University events such as Fresher’s Week or Graduation (celebrating families often trade up!).
Linking to the local community or charities is also a great way to generate additional interest in your outlet. This doesn’t have to be about raising money, it could equally involve providing free space for an event as well as discounted offers. Something like this may provide a great opportunity to bring in new customers and if done right, generate positive publicity for your business.
In the absence of any of these types of opportunity you can have a go at creating your own themed events. For example different types of food and drink matching events are always popular as are cooking classes and wine (beer) tasting sessions.
Whatever event you look to run it is important you are a) clear about the reasons you are doing it, b) have worked out what success looks like (financial or otherwise) and c) you communicate/promote it appropriately to those customers it is aimed at.