Silent nights no more

“If you’ve got a restaurant that’s always busy on Friday and Saturday night and you’re knocking back bookings, the perfect solution is to stick the prices up. In other words, you’re pricing to shift people,” says Tony Eldred, of Eldred Hospitality. Pic: Thanthima Limsakul / 123RF

Looking for innovative ways to beat the Monday to Wednesday blues? Here’s how to encourage customers to dine during the quiet times. By Kerryn Ramsey

It’s financially pleasing when a restaurant is booming on the weekend but how can you attract customers on the quiet nights—usually Monday to Wednesday?

While there are various strategies that range from discount deals to sponsored events, it’s all too easy to fall into the common mistake of dropping prices to entice patrons. It can also be tempting to advertise generically to hook more customers—such as a Monday Nosh Pit, Tuesday Pasta Night—but there are other options that can improve the bottom line.

“You’re a fool if you market on cheapness,” says Tony Eldred, owner of Eldred Hospitality. “The business needs a large customer database that can be reached by email, and it has to produce custom marketing every time it has one of these specials,” he says. “It’s possible to run this on a regular basis, such as Chilli Night on the first Monday of the month. This can work but there’s a cost involved, and the cost often exceeds the benefit.”

The allure of mid-week customers

To attract mid-week customers, yield management pricing could improve your profitability. As Eldred explains: “You increase your prices during the busy times, then you have normal or reduced prices in the off-times. If you’ve got a restaurant that’s always busy on a Friday and Saturday night and you’re knocking back bookings, the perfect solution is to stick the prices up. In other words, you’re pricing to shift people.”

Rather than offering regular bargain-priced deals, another solution is creating a weekday menu that can run for an entire season. Matt Moran’s Chophouse Sydney at Barangaroo, for example, offered a ‘Summer of 69’ menu for both lunch and dinner, running Tuesday to Thursday for all of summer. Its real attraction was its $69 price. “We had such a great response the previous year that we decided to bring it back,” says head chef Scott Kim who refreshed the menu by incorporating new seasonal ingredients.

He found that the lunch service was the real winner, despite the fact that many city workers were based at home. “People are slowly starting to return to the CBD and we’re starting to feel some of that energy we’ve all been missing during the past 12 months. The menu is a great way to showcase the best of Chophouse to those who haven’t dined with us before, while also providing a quick and affordable option for our regulars.”

Go experimental

While Chophouse’s deal is aimed at city goers during summer, other restaurants attract diners’ tastes in different ways. For example, Shu in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood has been running a $39 Vegan Experimental Set Menu every Wednesday since 2019. It’s so popular that Shu now offers two sittings at 6pm and 7.30pm.

So why are Melburnians flocking to the Wednesday night special? “The experimental dishes are interesting and unique,” says owner/chef Shu Liu. “We aim to make delicious and fun food—not just cooking for vegetarians or convincing any non-vego customers. The nights are really for anyone and everyone who’s into good food.” 

The concept is so successful, Shu has expanded by offering a 10-course vegan degustation full set menu on the popular nights.

Business at the front …

Another creative concept to attract Monday to Wednesday clientele is to run networking lunches for professionals. “You can turn to LinkedIn to find solicitors, doctors, accountants or other professionals in your area,” explains Eldred. “Once you’ve got a database of contacts, you could even build a relationship with businesses such as drug companies. In fact, you could get them to sponsor the lunch.”

He points out that busy professionals aren’t going to spend their Monday lunch just to eat but they will come to hear a guest speaker or to network with their colleagues. “You’re not selling food and beverage—you’re selling a communication opportunity,” says Eldred. “You might only have to market to 100 people through a small email database if you reach out to the right clientele.” 

Party out the back

Other creative offerings may attract targeted customers. Themes that are fun, challenging and educational can range from wine education sessions to deconstruction of a dessert. To make it financially viable, it requires effective marketing, particularly social media posts and e-newsletters. “You may be able to get a sponsor, such as a wine or cheese company on board,” suggests Eldred. 

Rather than offering mere discount deals on the quiet nights, he suggests it’s better to offer a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal. “You would never advertise 50 per cent off but you might advertise ‘buy one, get one free’. In other words, one saying is negative while the other saying is positive.” 

A similar option is offering a birthday deal—if you bring nine other people, you’ll get yours for free. “There’s a lot of psychology here,” says Eldred.

No doubt, promotions create happiness—customers are attracted by originality, the quantity and quality of the food, and the savings. It also provides happiness for restaurateurs as quiet nights are successfully transformed into busy nights.