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By the minute: Getting your lunch rush down to a science

Q: In the past I would fill my dining room twice through lunch. Now, I’m lucky to get one full turn per day. What can I do differently to rebuild those lost sales?

A: Unless you’re a destination restaurant, lunch is dependent on speed, “crave”, value and convenience. Focus on speed first, the others we’ll address in a future column.

In analyzing door-to-door lunch sales, those that perform at the highest level are those with swift service in every area. The guest is typically on a schedule during lunch so it is important to keep the guest moving, but not rushed, unless they are coming to the restaurant for a leisurely lunch.
Follow and measure these standards for the guest:

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Build a powerful business with vision ad clear expectations

Q: My restaurant does not produce the type of results I think it should. What needs to be done to change the culture of the business?

A: Lasting change must begin at the top. Generally, the major problem in every company is communication. The leader sets the tone and has the ability to improve communication immediately. With a lack of information, people tend to draw to the negative; making up stories, making up meaning, and forming unfounded conclusions. To get your business to the next level and affect permanent change, use these steps:

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Happy hour isn’t, so, well…happy anymore

Q: I’m unsure of what is happening to my business as overall guest traffic seems normal, while sales are down and product and labor cost it up. Are others having the same issues?

Many restaurateurs are having a difficult time pinpointing post-recession business issues. For example, during pre-recession times, happy hour business accounted for only 12% of evening sales at a large, upscale casual restaurant. During this post-recession period, however, that number has risen to 20%, indicating that more diners are ordering the bargain options instead of those profit-driving items from the dinner menu.

The culprit is a shift in the guest’s choice to dine more at happy hour and less at dinner. Happy hour is impacting many restaurants and turning perfectly good dinner guests into “blue plate special” chasers. Gallup research shows a shift in consumer behavior regarding restaurants. In the casual restaurant sector, 46% of Americans say they’re spending less than they were a year ago, and 35% say their spending less than they were a year ago, and 35% say their spending changes are permanent. In the featured example, happy hour sales shifted pre-recession from 12% to 20% post-recession of overall sales. The guest has been drifting in earlier to take advantage of less expensive pricing resulting in reduced sales margins and guest check average.

The restaurant’s “purpose” for happy hour was really because “everyone else is doing it.” There was no real plan or strategy for happy hour. The menu was simply a discounted version of the existing menu. Happy hour is a part of the business and should be treated more as a marketing opportunity than a sales generator. Most restaurants offer happy hour without consideration for what the program will do to the rest of the business. They build small plates that take as much or more time to prepare than regular plates, and the kitchen is stuck producing more food for less money. Labor skyrockets, forcing pressure on the front of the house to reduce labor where the guest is being served. As a result, the guest experience suffers. Missed opportunities fly right by. Drinks don’t get filled as rapidly, tickets don’t get closed out in a timely manner, the story of the restaurant isn’t told and guest satisfaction suffers. This eventually will destroy a restaurant.

To reverse the trend here are some actions the featured restaurant took:

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