“We're able to add a whole level of incremental business and a new layer to really complement our business in our busiest times of the day,” Hilario says. “So it give us a very nice outlet to create incremental business without having to add space to the restaurants.”
Off-premises isn’t the only innovation relieving the dinner daypart. STK and Kona both recently launched new brunch programs that feature craveable items Hilario describes as “Instagrammable,” “newsworthy,” and easy to prepare. This includes Lobster & Eggs Benedict, which comprises lobster, baby spinach, poached eggs, caviar hollandaise, and a toasted English muffin. The food is joined by a “very powerful and appealing” drink program that features bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys and unique cocktails like the “Just Ten More Minutes” that mixes Bacardi Limon, passionfruit syrup, fresh lime, and mint.
Restaurants keep the vibe going with live DJs who engage crowds.
"If you think of us and brunch, it's more than just getting pancakes and eggs,” Hilario says. “It’s really about having a great menu, having a great drink, and then having a greater vibe with the DJs and activity in the restaurants.”
Keeping Dining Rooms Active
October was The ONE Group’s best month in terms of capacity and same-store sales since the pandemic began. During that period, the brand averaged 51 percent indoor capacity, which translated to comps growth of 0.3 percent at STK and 8.6 percent at Kona. Capacity slipped to 44 percent in November and 38 percent in December as major markets like California, Chicago, Colorado, and Baltimore added restrictions due to rising COVID cases.
Despite the downturn, Hilario is confident more capacity is on the horizon. The entire state of Minnesota and select markets in Colorado, including Denver, brought back indoor dining in January.
“We didn't really see any slowdown from an appetite for consumers to go out,” Hilario says. “You have lots of restaurants in states like Florida and in Georgia, where the limitations were much less, and clearly people in Texas, we saw a lot of demand for the products. So where there was capacity and people can go out, we could certainly see that people wanted to go out.”
That demand is exactly why The ONE Group was as active in marketing and promotions in Q4 as it’s ever been—if not more so. Hilario says the company’s approach is COVID will be over at some point, so it’s vital to stay at the top of consumers’ minds. The company also recognizes holidays are an important part of the business model—it’s a period when STK and Kona are able to introduce many to the brand. As an example, STK released a holiday promotion that allowed guests to taste Wagyu from around the world, like Australia and Japan. Restaurants also marketed gift cards to drive in family and friends, emphasized their price-pointed happy hour for value-conscious customers, and launched a Bubbles & Pearls and Dom Pérignon promotion to attract premium guests.
“In situations where you’re limited in capacity, giving great products like that gives consumers an opportunity to voluntarily trade up to some very unique and cool products,” Hilario says. “So that marketing engine of getting the word out there and creating a lot of awareness in social media really paid out dividends in terms of the customers coming in and ordering in the restaurant. That's just a philosophy of ours. If you look at our pillars, marketing, culinary, and operations are the paramounts that make our business work.”