Welcome to Restaurant Week! The opportunity to build interest in small, local restaurants, highlight unique cuisines, and allow local communities to give back with their dollars through intentional dining at participating restaurants.
Dating back to the first restaurant week in New York City, variations of the event have been replicated in cities across the country. And while often promoted locally, you may notice that not all restaurants participate. And not all consumers take advantage of the opportunity either. But Restaurant Week has proven to be a boon for business at local restaurants and a chance for local dining scenes to shine.
The History Of Restaurant Week
The origins of Restaurant Week began in 1992 as a New York City tradition. Initially conceived by Tim Zagat (co-founder of the Zagat print guides of travel and dining) and Joe Baum, a successful local NYC restauranteur, it was created to be just a lunch-only promotional event. The two decided to run the week-long initiative when the city would be filled with out-of-town guests, dignitaries, and others who might be looking for creative dining options in the city. The two never realized that their efforts would turn into a nationwide phenomenon.
Traditionally held in early winter and summer, the increase in country-wide adoption and consumer appreciation has turned it into a phenomenon. When Restaurant Week first began in NYC, it was an annual week-long event featuring participating restaurants offering a pre-determined menu at a matching price-point for each participating location. Fast forward to today, and Restaurant Week can last up to a month and occur multiple times a year in some cities.
How Restaurant Week Works
The structure of Restaurant Week can vary depending on the city. But generally, the idea is that local restaurants come together with a promoter, either a local organization like the Chamber of Commerce or a local/regional restaurant association and promote a week of lunch and dinner specials. The menu offerings by participating restaurants are typically reduced or offered as a prix fixe menu for a set price during Restaurant Week. By providing a lower price point than usual for popular menu items, or a bundle for a set price, restaurants will make up the difference in sales volume. In addition, by participating in Restaurant Week, restaurants may also attract new diners who will hopefully become long-term, repeat customers throughout the year.
Why Restaurants Should Participate in Restaurant Week
Restaurant Week may not be a good fit for every restaurant. However, it is a perfect opportunity to let the community know about smaller, local restaurants that want to attract new customers. Here are the top reasons why every independent restaurant should participate in their local Restaurant Week:
Increase Sales Volume
One of the benefits of participating in Restaurant Week is that with a dedicated menu of lower and fixed prices, more of your regular customers will come and support your restaurant during this time. And they may come more often during this week to take advantage of the savings. The increased frequency and the discounted menu items might also result in a higher average check value (see next).
In addition to your regulars, participating in the program will possibly attract new customers to your restaurant. So the increase in diner numbers will positively affect your sales volume.
Increase Average Check Value
One of the easiest ways to get people to spend more money is to offer them a discount. When people feel they are saving some money, we don’t hesitate to “add on” to our initial order since doing so won’t cause us as much added pain.
By participating in Restaurant Week, your restaurant will not only see more customers, but by offering a discount, the average check value might increase. Since the discount makes people feel like they are getting a deal, the additional purchases will allow diners to try that excellent wine option you have on the menu. Or add in an extra order of fries. The additions and their cost will make up for the initial discounted item and may result in overall higher check values.
Get Free Marketing
To participate in Restaurant Week, your restaurant has to agree to offer a discounted or prix fixe menu. (Some organizers charge a fee to participate. Be sure to review the terms of participation before signing on).
When you agree to participate in Restaurant Week, your restaurant will be featured in promotions, ads, and other promotional channels to give your restaurant free visibility. When diners decide to take advantage of your offer, you begin to see some initial costs (discount offered) to participate. However, as mentioned above, the increased sales volume and check values can easily make up the difference.
Why Diners Should Participate in Restaurant Week
On average, Americans eat out five times per week! That is a lot of eating outside of the home and a lot of money being spent. So it is no wonder that participating in something like Restaurant Week is an excellent opportunity to grab some of that eating-out money from local diners. But with so many options to choose from, why would diners want to participate?
Well, that was probably easy. Of course, diners want to save money on something they do so frequently as eating out. Any opportunity to reduce that expense is welcome by those who regularly eat out.
Offering discounted menu options will attract your regulars and others who are just “trying out” some new options around town. But the primary goal for diners will be saving money. The better the discount and offer, the more likely you will get repeat business from your regulars and new interest from first-time diners.
Support Local Businesses
There is currently a significant focus on supporting local businesses in the United States. You can see the signs telling consumers to “Shop Local” or “Spend Your Money Where it Does the Most Good .” These buy local initiatives are happening across the country, and local consumers are taking notice. They are making a concerted effort to support local businesses and, therefore, local restaurants.
By making an effort to forgo the big chain restaurants, diners gravitate to local restaurants with more local vibes. Consumers who want to make a difference with their dollars will do so when they support the small, local mom-and-pop restaurant that needs all the sales volume they can get. These smaller restaurants need a boost in sales to succeed, especially without the large marketing budgets that the bigger chains have at their disposal.
Tips for Making Restaurant Week a Success for your Restaurant
Go All In
Don’t halfway commit to Restaurant Week. Make it one of your major promotional events of the year, right up there with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Commit early and strategically create your menu. Inform employees, and set up in-store promotions. Do whatever it takes to make sure your restaurant is prepared to take advantage of new business’s onslaught.
Build-in an Upsell Plan
Since targeted menu items will be discounted, make sure you have an upsell plan to increase the overall average check value. You can do this with an upsell plan that includes options that might include the following:
- Pair an item on the Restaurant Week menu with a dedicated wine or dessert option that would go well with it
- Offer discounted Gift Cards to get diners to come back again that week or anytime in the near future
Restaurant Week is the perfect time to crank up a restaurant marketing strategy and plan if you haven’t done so already. Getting new diners to your restaurant and your regulars coming in a little more isn’t enough. You need to create a system that can always ensure your restaurant thrives even after Restaurant Week is over.
Here is how you do that:
Collect Email Addresses and start Restaurant Email Marketing
Ask your diners to complete surveys or fill out a card in-store or on your website to be eligible to receive a discount coupon or gift card. Use the email addresses you collect to create an ongoing series of emails to diners that highlight what’s new at your restaurant. New menu items, specials, coupons, and more. The more you give people a reason to dine at your restaurant rather than someplace else, the better. Use email marketing to make that happen.
Setup Online Ordering and Offer Delivery, Takeout, and Curbside Service
If your restaurant isn’t taking advantage of online ordering systems that can help you manage and execute delivery, takeout, and curbside service, the time to set that up is now. Using a service like ChowNow is perfect for the small, local restaurant looking to crank up demand. Long after Restaurant Week is over, you might have won over some newly regular diners who love your food. Be sure to give them all the opportunities available to get your food to them however they want it.
Restaurant Week: Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Restaurant Week Last?
Restaurant Week’s length of time will vary from city to city. While a week is the norm, festivities can last as long as a month in some instances. And some events happen twice a year, once in the spring and another in the fall. Check with your local Restaurant Week organizers to see how their schedule is set up.
Who participates in Restaurant Week?
Any restaurant of any size can participate in restaurant week. This includes high-end, fine dining establishments to local mom-and-pop establishments.
Do you need a ticket to take part in Restaurant Week?
Tickets are not usually required. However, depending on the participating restaurant, you may want to make reservations as spots for available seats can fill up quickly.
Does the Restaurant Week menu have to be different than the regular menu I offer?
No. Restaurants usually offer their Restaurant Week promotional menu alongside their regular menu. Diners can choose to order off of either option during this time.
Should restaurants offer takeout and to-go options during Restaurant Week?
Yes, having all available options for getting food to participating diners is recommended. Using an online food ordering system like ChowNow is the ideal option, as your restaurant doesn’t have to worry about huge commissions eating into your profits.
What is a prix fixe menu?
Restaurant Week menus are based on what’s called a prix fixe menu. prix fixe menus offer a pre-selected list of dishes at a fixed price. It typically includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert.
Do prices on the Restaurant Week menu include taxes and gratuity?
No. Beverage, tax, and gratuity are not included in special pricing typically offered during Restaurant Week.
Get Started with Restaurant Week in your Community
Restaurant Week is popular all across the country, with cities nationwide participating in their version of the event every year. Check out our list of Restaurant Week opportunities by city and region below and learn more about opportunities to participate for your restaurant: