January has the well-deserved reputation of being a bit of a bummer. The bright lights of the festive season have faded, bank balances are depleted and much of the population finds itself in the grip of one of various types of semi-puritanism prompted by seasonal over-indulgence. It’s the month of frantic resolutions to be better to your body, to lose weight, to quit drinking alcohol, cut out meat, dairy, save cash and generally say a sort of cosmic sorry for having too much fun in December. So how does an industry which is based on the core idea of having a good time, often with more than a nod to indulgence, deal with this time of year? How do we align with the powerful forces of guests’ best intentions and sternly-worded letters from bank managers? In short, how do you fill your restaurant in January?
We know that people can’t go out several times a week at this time of year, so when they do it’s got to be for a damned good reason. It has to be out of the ordinary, a well-earned treat. Be the perfect place for that treat, generate the reason to be out.
We know that you can’t go on feasting day and night without having some problems down the line so smaller plates, packed with flavour rather than calories can win diners over. Make a point of how much good and healthy stuff you have on the go but also that there are, shall we say, “other options” (massive steak/amazing ice cream/fried things) if needed.
We know that alcohol in excess is A Bad Thing and that there are increasingly diverse and delicious options for those who want to dodge booze but not be left holding a sugary drink best suited to recovery, kids or recovery from kids – so find them and stock/make them. There are also those who want to keep on drinking but know they can’t hit it hard – here is where upselling one superb quality bottle or glass is so much better than flogging a load of house, however good it is.
Pull that all together, what’s the magic recipe for success for restaurants, pubs and bars in January?
1. Be exciting. No-one wants to do something boring in January, it’s all pretty boring already.
2. Be mindful. Mindful of people’s feelings, of their desire to be better versions of themselves (for a short while at least) and don’t scrimp on the tasty for seasoned or new-minted flexitarians/vegans/abstainers.
3. Don’t forget that there are still some people who will carry on as normal and who love to visit you for what they know.
So that’s it. Find the version of this which is true to your place and you’ll be as full and buzzing in January as you were in December. Simple to say of course, putting it into practice and communicating it to the paying public is a little bit harder – if you want a hand with that, get in touch.
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