Turn Off-Peak Hours into Profitable Hours

off-peak restaurant hours

Posted: May. 31, 2017

Off-peak hours: the dreaded periods when your restaurant is less likely to make a dollar than lose a few. For years, it’s been common practice to close during those times. By barring the doors, costs have been saved across the board, from labor to operations.

What if we told you it’s possible to turn those off-peak hours into profitable hours?

Start Serving Small Plates during Off-Peak Hours

Modern dining behavior is partial to small plates. The recession can be seen as having changed the meal landscape for dining establishments. To save money and be cost-efficient, consumers became less observant of the traditional three meals. Having to be more fiscally conscious has drawn diners to smaller portions and plates, as well as to special pricing. Consumers are less full after a smaller meal, leaving them more likely to snack throughout the day at odd hours.

In 2017, no hour is off-limits when it comes to food consumption. The acceptance of small plates has turned off-peak hours into hopping hours.

The beauty of snacking is that it can take place at any time of the day. As a restaurant, appealing to this side of consumer behavior is only to your benefit. Below we show you how, without interfering with your regular menu.

Late Morning

Late morning—or early afternoon, depending on whom you’re talking to—is a premier hour to serve breakfast-themed meals. Light meal options such as egg sandwiches, fruit bowls, or small chicken-salad sandwiches are ideal at this unusual mealtime. If there are many businesses nearby, think about offering simple small plates that are easy to take to go, such as trail mix or bite-sized offerings.

Mid-Afternoon

Between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. were once the loneliest hours for restaurant staff. But today, they’re popular snacking hours. To stimulate off-peak traffic in the middle of the afternoon, offer discounted prices on select items. One of the advantages of the snacking phenomenon is that diners don’t expect—or want—a full menu. This frees you from feeling compelled to offer a huge selection of dishes. Service will be faster, and your kitchen will be relieved during the relative downtime.

Happy Hour

Happy hours are a great way to reenergize your early evening hours. Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., professionals leave the office and want to unwind somewhere. They’re looking for great prices, small plates, and tasty appetizers.

Because happy hours are more about socializing than meals, orders tend to be placed continuously throughout them. Happy hour menus should feature discounted prices. Consumers will not attend a happy hour on a regular basis if it doesn’t feature low prices.

Additionally, happy hours are a great way to entice guests to stay for dinner. Of all the off-peak hours to resuscitate, this one offers the opportunity to make the most profit.

Late Night

As my sister says, “Nothing good happens after 11 p.m.” Actually, we disagree. Late-night dining is arguably the most satisfying of the day. It’s when diet inhibitions get tossed out and replaced with cravings.

The late-night, post-dinner dining crowd is different from your usual diners. Typically, this group is young (between 18 and 24) and visiting a late-night dining spot to extend the night. To be the most appealing, your menu needs to offer fun and affordable choices. Slim down your regular menu, offering just appetizers, small plates, and easy foods that can be shared in a group. For entertainment, offer board games and play lively music.

If your late-night dining crowd is older, you can use the hour to present paired-back versions of your chef’s plates. Offer options for a well-balanced meal, in addition to small, shareable plates. You won’t need to entertain this crowd with games, but you should consider the overall ambience. Dim the lights and play music. Word will soon get around that your restaurant is now a night-owl destination.

Be Consistent with Your New Programs

Building up your off-peak hours requires time, marketing (think: a website and social media), and consistency. As you get started, you’ll learn which menu options work and which don’t. Adjust accordingly, but don’t make too many changes too often. If you’re inconsistent, you’ll risk turning away potential regular customers.

Service is more important than ever, so don’t view off-peak hours as a relaxed time for your staff. Train your FOH staff to be attentive, courteous, and friendly. Also consider who is best suited to work each time of day. For instance, select energetic staff members to work happy hour and late-night hours.

When you start serving off-peak crowds, focus on their needs for that time of day. If you correctly satisfy their cravings, you’ll have a profitable business strategy in place. Plus, you might convert these diners into regular customers for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Posted: May. 31, 2017 | Written By: Emma Alois

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