Looking to generate buzz, get new customers, or boost sales during a slow period? Teaming up with other businesses to create and promote a Restaurant Week in your area is the perfect solution.
Have you thought about participating in a local Restaurant Week? While that may seem like a pipe dream at the moment, dining rooms will open back up — and when they do, Restaurant Week is a great way to generate positive buzz, boost sales, and develop a loyal following.
In the meantime, consider trying a “virtual” Restaurant Week with other local businesses or team up with a technology partner to use restaurant delivery as a way to support your community. We’ll cover it all in this post.
What is Restaurant Week?
The first Restaurant Week was in 1992 in New York City, but since then, it’s become popular across the country. Restaurant Week was the brainchild of Tim Zagat (of the Zagat Guide) and Joe Baum, a restaurateur whose projects included the famed Windows of the World and the Rainbow Room.
The first Restaurant Week had a very specific purpose: introducing journalists and out-of-towners to New York City’s restaurant scene during the Democratic National Convention, which the city hosted that year.
With a prix-fixe lunch set to $19.92 for all participating restaurants, the promotion was overwhelmingly popular with residents as well as visitors, since it allowed people to dine at restaurants that they might normally consider prohibitively expensive.
Zagat and Baum didn’t expect Restaurant Week to generate significant revenue for restaurants — in fact, they encouraged restaurants to participate to help create positive buzz about their restaurants and New York’s dining scene at large. They — and restaurant owners across the city — were thrilled to realize that Restaurant Week was a boon for business.
What does Restaurant Week look like today?
Restaurant Weeks happen all over the country, and the details of each vary depending on the city and time of year. In general, local restaurants will come together — sometimes partnering with tourist organizations, chambers of commerce, and other local businesses — to offer a week of lunch and dinner specials. Typically, the menus reflect reduced prices for a prix fixe menu, enabling restaurants to curate a special menu with signature dishes at a price point that is appealing to new customers.
Though the first Restaurant Week happened in the summer in New York, cities often choose to hold Restaurant Week during notoriously slow times of year as a way to boost business in the short and long-term.
Some restaurants are also doing a “virtual” Restaurant Weeks along with their technology partners. In Danbury, Connecticut, local restaurants teamed up with the city to promote ordering food from independent restaurants via delivery or pick-up. Diners could select from specially priced prix fixe menus. In Manhattan, DoorDash put a charitable spin on Restaurant Week; during a week in October, the company donated $1 from every local order to ROAR, a nonprofit that supports the city’s restaurant workers.
Restaurant Week tends to bring in new customers, and while many restaurants may see lower check averages during the week, the sales volume typically more than makes up for that decrease.
How do I create a menu for Restaurant Week?
Crafting a Restaurant Week menu that showcases the best items your restaurant has to offer and still drives profit is important. When building a menu for Restaurant Week, make sure to:
- Highlight a signature dish. Choose one of your restaurant’s best or most popular items, which may not necessarily be the least expensive
- Stay consistent. Your Restaurant Week menu should reflect the taste, quality, and style of your regular menu
- Be inclusive. Make an effort to offer options for diners who are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free
- Price strategically. Use a pricing structure that appeals to new diners and broadens your reach beyond your usual demographic
- Include upsells. Supplemental items or wine pairings are an excellent way to add value for the customer and the restaurant
Restaurant Week can also be a good time to try out a new dish your chef wants to make, though we recommend including some reliable favorites too.
Key tips for making the most of Restaurant Week
1. Make it a team effort.
Make sure you’re working with other restaurants to set and follow pricing and menu guidelines. In general, Restaurant Week pricing should accommodate both high-end and standard prices with a consistent number of courses. This is the time to work together for the greater good—not undersell the competition!
2. Get social.
Be sure to promote Restaurant Week in general as well as your specific menu and offerings on social media and email. Encourage your loyal customers to tag friends and spread the word!
3. Talk to your vendors.
Teaming up with vendors is a great way to promote your valued partners. For example, a local farm may offer bulk produce at a discounted price if your menu promotes their brand.
4. Get your staff involved.
Make sure your staff — front and back of house — know about Restaurant Week before it happens. They will be instrumental in turning new customers into loyal advocates. Consider bringing on some extra help if things get extra busy.
5. Prepare your space.
Restaurant Week tends to see more two-tops than larger parties, so be sure your dining area is set up to accommodate smaller parties.
6. Have fun!
Like any venture, Restaurant Week will come with its own unique success stories and challenges. Enjoy the adventure!
What to Do in the Meantime
A dine-in Restaurant Week in your city might not be feasible at the moment, but there’s plenty you can do in the meantime to increase sales and develop a loyal following. Sign up for DoorDash to drive more takeout and delivery sales.