Add a twist to your menu with specials.
Creating and serving off the menu specials in your restaurant will not only generate interest on the part of your guest, it can also help to motivate your staff and boost margins.
For many chefs and restaurateurs, the process of developing specials can be a chore that is often neglected, resulting in offerings that are usually less than “special”. Developing a formalized plan for creating specials can make the process less taxing and more enjoyable.
Here are six tips to help you create unique off menu offerings
Leaving the creation of daily specials until the last minute usually results in poor selection of ingredients and improper execution. Try to plan a week's worth of specials the week before you need them. This will allow plenty of time to order product if it is not already in house, give your culinary staff time to research and plan, and provide the service staff time to familiarize themselves with the offerings. The week’s specials can also be advertised and promoted via fax and email to regular customers.
Talk to your staff.
Many times your staff will come up with great ideas for specials. The culinary staff will see it as a way to show some creativity and break out of the daily routine and the service staff will see it as an opportunity to interact with the guest by having a story to tell when approaching the table. Encourage your staff to come up with ideas that reflect their heritage. Ask the service staff what dishes customers have been requesting that are not on your menu or better yet ask the customers directly via comment cards.
Work with suppliers.
Your suppliers can be a valuable source of ideas whether it’s through the market research they have done about new products and trends or with inventory that they need to move and are motivated to sell at discount. Many suppliers will have Friday blowouts on fresh product that will not survive the weekend in their coolers. These items are usually of good quality and can be used as Saturday and Sunday specials. Some suppliers who deal with large chains will sometimes have a product that for some reason did not meet the spec of the chain (too large or too small, etc.). These can be leveraged in your operation to provide your customers with a deal and you with better profits. Discontinued items can also be a source of one-time specials. All you need to do is ask your sales rep or supplier for these deals.
Many products, especially produce and seafood, will have large seasonal fluctuations in price. Talk to producers and suppliers to determine when a product will be at its most attractive price and plan a special promotion around that. When asparagus, strawberries, corn, crab, oysters and other products come into season, great bargains can be found – especially from local producers. Buying seasonal fresh products has the added advantage of providing your customers with a deliciously fresh product while you are supporting the local economy.
Interested in learning more about leveraging local resources? Click here.
Operators find that focused specials and festivals tend to attract more attention and are easier to promote. Select 3 or 4 special days and create specials around that theme. Celebrations like Robbie Burns Day or St. Patrick’s Day lend themselves easily to creating special foods and beverages. The specials need not be limited to that day but can run for several days leading up to the day. Promotional materials can be obtained from a variety of sources, such as breweries, liquor distributors and suppliers to help support the event.
Create a festival.
Running a specials promotion for one or two weeks can generate some excitement and interest. Events such as Cajun Week, Lobster Month, Curry Festival, and Mussel Madness are all examples of ideas around which you can build off-menu specials. They can be run during traditionally slower periods and can be promoted and advertised in local newspapers and magazines. Local papers are often looking for a story about businesses that are doing something unique and exciting, so getting free publicity may be easy.
Whatever you do to create specials in your restaurant, don’t look at it as a chore but as a way of creating excitement and an opportunity to increase margins.