6 Ways to Drive Restaurant Reservations During Slow Times

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Busy restaurant.
Traffic boosters
There are all kinds of external factors that can negatively impact restaurant reservations. But you can generate revenues during slow times by bringing new, fresh, and exciting dining ideas to your establishments. Here are six tactics to do just that:
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pexels/Tirachard Kumtanom
Guest Chef Night
Inviting a guest chef to your restaurant has appeal for regulars and first-timers. Here’s why. Regulars get the chance to experience something new in a familiar place, while first-timers will appreciate your innovative style of “one night only” specialty menu items and could intrigue them to return for more. Additionally, inviting a guest chef could even bring some of their regulars in to discover your restaurant.
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pexels/Mark Angelo
Live Music
Hosting live music later in the evening is a great way to generate excitement and give your guests a real escape. To keep expenses down, contact the local college music school – their students will get the chance to perform in front of a live audience and won’t charge the same as professional musicians. Live music at your restaurant can be just the right ingredient to create a relaxed, social vibe that will keep the night going and the drinks flowing.
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pexels/Pietro Jeng
Theme Night and/or Prix Fixe Menu
People love a good theme night—whether it’s Taco Tuesday, Casino Night or a Hawaiian Luau—themed dinners are a great way to add real spice to the dining experience. With the right menu and decor, everyone will have a wonderful time. You might also consider an elegant prix-fixe which offers guests 3-5 courses (or more depending on your chef’s creativity). Make the menu new, special and delicious and the word-of-mouth will really pay off
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pexels/Helena Lopes
Singles Night
Hosting a special night for singles is always a winner. Especially if you can set aside a part of your restaurant just for this group. Be prepared with name-tags, special cocktails, and door prizes! Singles nights typically attract people who are new to an area. This exposes your restaurant to a demographic who are looking to make new connections and experience the local dining scene.
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pexels/Igor Starkov
Kids Eat Free
For customers who have children, it can be difficult to find time and commit to dining out (not to mention feeling overwhelmed by the expense and/or coordination of a babysitter). But promoting a “kids eat free” night acts as a great incentive for parents to bring the whole family out to eat at your restaurant. This is an especially great idea during slow times. Pro tip: Keep the kid’s menu simple and be prepared with fun kid giveaways (crayons & paper; table toys, etc.).
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pexels/Valeria Boltneva
Happy Hour Bites
Add a “small bites” menu to your existing happy hour. These “small bites” should be easy to prepare and cost-effective. Having this option will appeal to customers who don’t want a full meal but who do want the experience of your restaurant atmosphere.
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Plan ahead and win

While you can’t control external factors that negatively impact reservations, you can come up with an action plan ahead of time using some of these tactics to generate more buzz when slow times do roll around. Added bonus: Switching things up at your restaurant is an opportunity to learn more about your customers and their preferences. When you identify successful promotions that resonate with guests, use them again depending on popularity and demand. 

Mary Fabro is Chief Marketing Officer of Hostme, the online reservation platform with innovative features helping restaurant owners and operators with fast, intuitive, and flexible front-of-the-house systems for restaurants at a sensible price point. She can be reached at: mary.fabro@hostmeapp.com

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