Last week Chris Tavano shared his tips for menu planning, and why you should do it sooner than later.
That’s because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (you know, that other holiday next to Thanksgiving and Christmas where your restaurant is booked for round-the-clock reservations).
But it doesn’t end there.
In our area, Denver Restaurant Week is right on the heels of Valentine’s Day. No rest for the wicked, right?
Preparing for Denver Restaurant Week is much more than tweaking your dishes to create a three-course pre-fixe menu. Many restaurateurs view Restaurant Week as a marketing tool and platform—as well they should. I know that I’ve discovered many Denver dining gems (and some not-so-good options) during this time, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
From front-of-house to back, here are 5 easy ways to ensure a successful restaurant week:
1. Treat restaurant week like it’s opening week
I promise I’m not trying to take you back to one of the most stressful time in your life without good reason (and hopefully you’ve worked through those opening quirks already). I want you to remember the importance of a first impression. In the beginning you work hard to build your burgeoning audience—with the main goal to turn first timers into valued, repeat customers.
Same goes for Restaurant Week. Though you’ll have a mix of regulars and first timers, it’s more important than ever to ensure your restaurant moves like clockwork. Make time to meet with every member of your team, from your hosts and hostesses back to your dishwasher. Every member of your team is responsible for making a winning impression.
2. Inventory check
Take stock of your dinnerware, drinkware, flatware and more. If any of your plates have chips in them, toss ‘em. A broken plate makes for a bad impression, signaling to diners that you either don’t care about your food, or don’t care about them (a lose-lose situation really).
Do you have enough dinnerware as well? Prepare for as much as back-to-back reservations for a solid 10 days, and if your dishwashers can’t keep up during service that’ll affect your cook times, getting food to the tables, etc. It’s a downward spiral you don’t want to see. Not only that, your staff will be busting their butts serving that influx of guests, increasing the risk of breakage. Be prepared; stay sane and stock up on a few extra plates and glasses.
3. Fix those wobbly tables
Speaking as a diner, few things are more frustrating than a wobbly table. Save yourself the cost of buying a new table (which may not arrive in time anyways) and add a few wobble wedges to your DIY kit. These inexpensive little guys are perfect for leveling out that tilted table.
4. Update your bathroom
Diners typically don’t see the kitchen, but they do see your bathroom. So it’s no surprise that if your bathroom is unkept, messy or downright dirty, diners will equate that same level of care to the way food is handled in the kitchen. In short, a dirty restroom = a dirty kitchen.
If you neglected to take advantage of the slowness in January to get a start on your cleaning, woe be to you. Now’s the time to get your hands dirty and clean and pick up some cleaning supplies. Plus, it doesn’t take much to give your bathroom a needed facelift. Replacing small items like broken clothes hooks, locks and other restroom hardware can go a long way in making a good impression. Have your staff check on the restrooms more frequently during Restaurant Week to ensure your toilet paper, paper towel and soap dispensers are stocked throughout service. You can even include a note in both restrooms asking guests to notify the host/hostess if anything is amiss.
5. Consider your menu
Denver Restaurant Week publishes the menus of participating restaurants on their website so that diners (like me) can check out the offerings to see it sounds appealing. Choosing a good menu is not only crucial for securing reservations, but also for happy diners leaving your restaurant. When planning your menu, consider the following:
- Get creative and put your best foot forward with a couple shining stars that really ‘wow’ guests
- Don’t get too creative that your staff is unable to execute a complicated dish for such a busy service
- Most restaurants offer 3 options for each stage of the meal (Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert). A good rule of thumb to follow to accommodate most diners is to offer a meat, poultry or fish, and vegetarian option.
- Secure bonus points if your dishes can easily be changed to accommodate dietary restrictions like gluten, dairy, and more.
Our own Chris Tavano has a few tips worth following as well:
- Try dishes that are not typically on your menu (or a spin-off variation you’ve always wanted to do)
- Cook to the weather if you can, just like the seasons. What ingredients have you gotten good feedback on in the fall? You might find that many of those fall/winter flavors still work great with hints of spring vegetables or produce. Of course, this could depend on how much snow is on the ground or what the average daily temperatures are.
- Think of new ways to present special ingredients (think of gelee/coulis/puree) to turn your common vegetable side into a sauce like carrot puree), but within the confines of execution by your staff
- Think of trendy ingredients that are sure to back you out the door: kale, Brussels sprouts, bacon…need I go on?
- Prepare, prepare, prepare; prep, prep, prep; keep it clean, and respect your food—mis en place!
Denver Restaurant Week means long nights for you, but it also means great marketing for your food and restaurant. You won’t regret taking the time now to ensure a smooth service later.
Interested in learning more? Visit http://www.denver.org/denver-restaurant-week/