Smart operators overcome challenges of fewer customers, revenue swings
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Petersiel’s other restaurant, Red Rock Bistro in the Boston North Shore suburb of Swampscott, is open year round but also has its seasonal swings. “The challenge is to put enough nuts away for the winter,” he quips.
Controlling costs is crucial to both restaurants’ success. A leading money-saver is running his own trucks to such suppliers as the Boston wholesale fish houses and produce market. Buying direct removes some of the markup.
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year with the founding family still operating the resort and several restaurants, is open only from May through October. “You have to be full when you are open with 90 to 95 percent occupancy to survive,” says spokesman Ken Hayward, or about 900 guests per night.
“It’s not a great model for success, but it’s worth it,” Hayward says. Adding to the expected staffing challenge is the fact that no cars or other vehicles are allowed on the island. All supplies are delivered via ferry and horse-drawn drays.
The company recruits staff from all over the U.S. and from international foreign worker programs. Many workers return year after year, keeping turnover at the fairly low rate of 50 percent, Hayward says.
Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate, guaranteeing business for those dayparts in the main dining room. The dining room and five off-site restaurants are open to nonhotel guests, too.
The recession primarily affected wine sales, with many guests making lower-priced selections than in previous years, Hayward says. “The average ticket went down,” he notes.
With special events and promotions planned to celebrate the anniversary, Hayward expects the 2012 season to go very well, and adds that 2011 was better than the past few years.