Restaurant Trends We’ve Noticed

Posted on Tuesday 13 April 2010

As restaurant owners, chefs, and managers continue to pull themselves out of the recession and find ways to pull customers in, we’ve been seeing a slew of interesting promotional tactics and trends. Examples, you ask for?  Examples you shall have.

Trivia & Karaoke Nights
Bars everywhere are praying on unsuspecting egos by instituting weekly Trivia and Karaoke nights.  Can’t find a job because the market sucks and everyone else is more qualified?  Always thought you were a good singer but you’re too embarrassed to share your talent with the world?  Your local bar is now happy to provide you with intellectual stimulation or a stage. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the brain food and liquid courage.

Gourmet “Street” Food
As a seeming reaction to the economy, a number of new restaurants are moving away from the white tablecloth and towards the plastic tray. Paul Kahan of Chicago’s Blackbird, Avec and Publican has recently opened (with a slew of other local restaurateurs) Big Star, a $2-a-taco joint in Wicker Park. It’s a big jump from the $30 entrees at his other eateries but the restaurant is just as big of a hit. The place is packed with patrons sipping on craft whiskeys and chowing down on tostadas and tacos while tapping their boots to the country music that belts over the crowd. Other examples include Rick Bayless’s Xoco in Chicago, Michael Symon’s Bar Symon in Cleveland, and Scott Carsberg’s Bistao in Seattle.  For more on these restaurants and this topic, check out this article from Restaurant Hospitality.

Extending Hours
Many restaurants are increasing their sales simply by giving people more chances to spend.  Doors are opening early for breakfast and staying open late for midnight snacks.  The profit margin for these foods is huge– eggs, toast, pizza and french fries cost next to nothing to keep in stock or prepare.  Rent is already paid, and the increased labor cost for a couple servers and a line cook could be covered by one $20 tab an hour.  Read more about extended hours here.

So these trends seem to suggest that despite the fact people aren’t going out as often… they’re still going out. Maybe the groups are smaller. Maybe they’re not willing to spend as much. The trick is to make the experience unique, casual and fun when they do so that they choose your restaurant over your more mundane competition.

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