Diners aren’t eating out for lunch as often as they once did. That’s the blunt truth. Take a recent survey for example. Per the Worcester Business Journal, 51% of diners said that during the workweek they only dined out for lunch once every few months or less.
This figure suggests that attracting a lunch crowd is tougher than ever. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!
Here we’ll give you five simple ways to increase your lunch-rush crowd.
Diners want to be wowed by your lunch menu the same way they would want to be for dinner. So, don’t disappoint.
First, move away from safe salads and traditional sandwiches into fresh territory. Consider offering seasonal specials, rotating menus, and locally-sourced produce in small, quickly-prepared portions. By freshening up your menu, it gives you the opportunity to entire past visitors to return in order to try your new dishes.
You could also give your diners a taste of what your dinner menu looks like by serving smaller portions of your most popular dinner entrees. Or offer a two-course special, with a smaller entrée and an appetizer, or a smaller entrée and a dessert.
2. Create a digital loyalty program.
Loyalty programs incentivize diners in two ways: they make them feel like insiders, and they know their commitment to you saves them money and gives them a little something extra.
But modern diners don’t want to carry around old-fashioned punch cards. Instead, digital loyalty programs let diners keep track of their loyalty points virtually, so the card is never lost or forgotten.
The benefit for you, of course, is that diners will become more engaged than they might have been previously, looking out for your push notifications or searching your restaurant’s app for current news, specials and benefits.
3. Offer diners personalized upgrades.
Once your diners download your app, you can connect with them in many ways. For example, on a slow, rainy day send a push notification to your app users offering a free cup of coffee with a lunch purchase between 11am and 2pm. That upgrade will be the difference between them staying at their desk or heading out for lunch.
Or demonstrate that you’re a part of the local community by offering app users free appetizers to “kick off the weekend” on Fridays or a free pint of beer on national and local voting days.
With the app, your diners can receive automatic notifications about whatever offer you’re promoting. The bottom line with personalized promotions is to make them useful, enticing, and, most importantly, individualized.
4. Hammer in your competitive advantage
Diners aren’t always looking for places to go out to lunch, which is why, to paraphrase The Godfather, you’ve got to make them offers they can’t refuse. One way to do this is by focusing on what makes you the best.
Try one or more of these clever techniques:
o Offer a unique mid-day special. Are you proud of your brunch menu? Get the word out to give it a try by upgrading people who have your app to bottomless mimosas on Saturdays. For one flat price, patrons can have as many drink refills as they like. Would you prefer to make upgrades during the week? Make it bottomless tea or coffee.
o Flaunt your awards. Was your place voted the best sandwich shop in the city? Or maybe your espresso won voter’s choice in a recent magazine article? No matter how big or small the award was, flaunt it! Better yet, challenge customers to come in and give it a try using phrasing like, “Our reuben sandwich is best in the city. We dare you to come in and try it!”
o Point out dietary facts. Whether a customer is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc., when a restaurant makes a point to help them order their food safely, they remember it. Become a go-to place for diners with restrictions simply by marking your menu user-friendly. Then, promote your gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan lunch specials on social media and in push notifications. Since you’ll have fewer competitors your restaurant will become a quick favorite.
5. Simplify your takeout.
Many office workers like to have the option of bringing back lunch for large groups. But what can be more of a hassle than getting multiple people’s orders right?
Simplify large-party ordering, and you’ll have lunchtime diners for life. The easiest way to order takeout is with an app that lets diners choose the menu items they want and specify how each item should be prepared for its recipient. The app should also let them choose the pickup time in advance.
Remember, your lunch crowd doesn’t have to dine in to be a boon to your business.
About the Author
As President of Boelter Southeast Division, Nick has been able to assemble a unique and highly qualified team of skilled estimators, project managers, and installers. His experience in project management, coupled with his expertise in service and installation, provides a huge resource to his team and the customers. Nick provides the rare quality of listening to customers and being able to discern the best solution and approach for each individual project. His previous lengthy history as a Contract Sales Manager has equipped him with the ability to see the whole concept of a project from initiation through completion before it has even begun. His 30-plus years of experience in the industry instills trust in the relationships he maintains with customers, consultants, and manufacturer representatives. Nick continues to be proactive in making sure that he has the right team for each project, and that they have the tools, resources, and support necessary to satisfy the customer and exceed expectations.