Many restaurants with a bar or lounge area offer happy hour specials during the week. Happy hours are geared toward working people, to entice them to stop in for a drink after a long day at work. Along with reduced drink specials, many restaurants offer inexpensive or free appetizers such as chicken wings, taco bars, or chips and salsa.
Offering live music on a certain night of the week is a great way to bring in extra business. Music can range from local bands playing in the bar or pub to a live jazz or piano player in the dining room. The music should fit your restaurant theme and cater to your core customer demographic. If you have a quiet, upscale restaurant with a majority of customers in their 40s, 50s or older, a loud rock band is probably not going to go over well. However, if you have a restaurant and pub in a college town, that same band might bring in loads of local students.
Open Mike Night
If you want to offer some sort of entertainment, but don’t want to pay for it, offer a “open Mike” (short for microphone) night. Locals are invited to sing, play musical instruments, tell jokes, or read poetry. You may be surprised at how many people show up for these local nights. Along with aspiring entertainers, many of their friends and family will come out to support them, and have a drink and an appetizer or dinner. Slower mid-week nights, like Tuesday or Wednesday are ideal for an open mike night.
Twofer, as we call it at our restaurant, offers customers two entrees for the price of one. To keep food cost under control, offer a special two-for-one menu, with a limited selection of entrees. Or rotate the menu, offering different dishes each week. Because two-for-one specials are geared toward the budget-minded customer, avoid offer pricey items, such as lobster or large cuts of beef. Simple menu items, such as chicken pie, baked haddock, and stuffed pork chops all have low food cost, and are popular dishes with diners.
Everyone loves a contest and the chance of winning a free gift. Contests are better suited for restaurants with a pub or bar, but there is no rule that you can’t have one in your diner, bistro or café. Contests can range from naming a new dessert dish to winning the weekly football pool. Prizes can be something as simple (and inexpensive) as a gift certificate for a free meal to cold hard cash. Free t-shirts, if you carry them, mugs or other restaurant related retail items also make great promotional gifts.
Sport Night Specials
Running special promotions during various sporting seasons is another way to get customers into your restaurant. Again, this is more ideal for a bar or pub. Monday Night Football, a Superbowl Party, or the World Series all offer untapped sales potential. Offer special drink and dinner discounts for those events.