Restaurant Week has become a beloved tradition in several cities across the nation. Here at Tundra Restaurant Supply, we’re proud partners of the upcoming Denver Restaurant Week, which enters its 13th year. From February 24th to March 5th, diners will have the opportunity to enjoy prix fixe menus at leading restaurants in the Denver Metro area for $25, $35 or $45 per person. Restaurants love participating in Restaurant Week because it’s a great way to make those expensive marketing dollars go farther. Diners love restaurant week because it’s a chance to try new restaurants at a great price.
But make no mistake—restaurant week is a busy time for restaurants and can be extremely trying on your staff. Take some time to do a little planning for these “10 days of Saturdays” and you’ll be surprised how much smoother it’ll be.
Recently, Visit Denver and the Colorado Restaurant Association held a “bootcamp” to prepare restauranteurs for restaurant week. Industry veterans from leading restaurants like Rioja, Bonanno Concepts, Beatrice and Woodsley, River and Woods, Il Posto and more shared their tips for a successful restaurant week.
Let’s get started.
4 Weeks Out: Seating Adjustments and Turn Times
During the 10 days of restaurant week, consider rearranging your dining room. Chances are, you’ll have room to add some additional tables while still optimizing your space to its fullest potential. Reservation platforms like OpenTable enable you to make these seating updates so you can accommodate more guests.
But won’t additional tables put too much strain on the front and back of house? It depends. With the majority (or all) of your customers ordering from a prix fixe menu, chances are you’ll be able to reduce the turn times on your tables between reservations. Emily Schwartz, COO of Bonanno Concepts, discussed how decreased turn times of even 15 minutes in their restaurants can help give staff (both front and back of house) a leg up during service. She also suggests saving a table or two for VIP guests and walk ins.
3 Weeks Out: Plan Your Menu
Because Denver Restaurant Week is all about a multi-course, prix fixe menu, everything really starts there. Good menus stay true to your brand, but consist of a variety of options that are easy to execute, within your food cost ration and appeal to a diverse set of diners. Consider whether you’ll opt for a three or four-course menu, and if you intend to offer wine pairings as well (a great way to increase your price per head). As John Skogstad of Beatrice and Woodsley emphasized, “Be true to your brand on all fronts,” cautioning other restaurateurs and chefs to stay away from “affordable” ingredients just because it’s Denver Restaurant Week. Chef Daniel Asher of River and Woods, lifted a frozen pre-cut local Colorado lamb chop from a food pan and spoke about chefs leveraging their relationships with existing suppliers, “Find out what your vendors are sitting on!” Before you plan your menu talk to your purveyors, because you could luck out on getting some good product at an even better price. Not only that, off cuts like beef cheeks are a great way to get creative! Pair these options with a nice grain and some fresh vegetables and you can have a “pretty reasonable food cost for rockin’ people’s world,” Asher says.
In addition to reining in your food costs while simultaneously blowing people’s minds, there is one more thing to consider: the kitchen. The physical space of your kitchen is crucial to a successful restaurant week. Some restaurants may choose to offer the full regular menu in addition to the prix fixe menu, or you may find that you only have enough storage capacity to offer the prix fixe menu. Create dishes that are easy to execute, which includes cooking, picking up, and navigating to the table. Ultimately if room (and manpower allows) you could decide to offer some simple menu items a-la-carte to show customers what else you do, just be aware of how your menu could be affected by pickup times during a busy service.
Remember! A cleverly crafted (and tasty!) menu will pique diner’s interests, and hopefully make them choose you over a competitor. So put some serious thought into it.
2 Weeks Out: Talk to Tundra
Billed as “10 Saturdays in a row,” it’s no surprise that you’re about to go through a lot of supplies. At Tundra Restaurant Supply, we feature more than 2,500 Quick Ship Plus items stocked in our expansive warehouse and available for next day delivery. Stock up on additional “to go” containers and other disposables, because more customers = more leftovers; and if sustainability is important to your brand, be sure to use 100% certifiably compostable products from Eco-Products to reduce waste!
At Tundra we can also help you make a better impression for guests with the addition of wobble wedges. This small, and yet very useful product can immediately fix an uneven table—and if you don’t think a shaky table is a big deal, you’re just lying to yourself. A poor first impression can set the mood for the entire meal, so start it off on a good (and equal) foot.
And then there’s flatware, “You’re going to run out of flatware. You’ll need some backup,” says Andrea Frizzi of Il Posto. Buy extra flatware (particularly forks), because your dishwashers will have a tough time keeping up cleaning the flatware during service.
We know it’s easy to neglect the restrooms when you’re busy—but please, don’t! Next to the dining room, your bathroom is one of the most seen spaces in the restaurant. Plus, you may not realize, but more than 80% of diners associate a messy bathroom with a dirty kitchen. Make a good impression and keep toilet paper and paper towels stocked for all of your guests.
Finally, think about how the increased volume will affect your equipment. Do a thorough inspection of your ice machine (clean that condenser!) and make sure your fryer and other equipment is running smoothly. You do not want something as crucial as a dishwasher to go out in the middle of a busy service.
1 Week Out: Reservation Management
Hopefully at this point you have every table filled with reservations, with the exception of course, of a couple tables that you want to leave available for walk ins. The key to a smooth restaurant week is to call and confirm every reservation you have on the books. This way you can remind guests about coming, check to see if there are any changes to the counts and ensure your dining room is set up efficiently.
Another pro tip? Always secure a credit card for every reservation. Some guests object to the policy, but if you use a secure service like Open Table you can assure guests that their information is safe. Should you encounter any reservations about leaving a credit card on the reservation (see what I did there), simply remind the guest about Denver Restaurant Week and explain your policies during this time. Some restaurants even choose to add an additional field that checks whether or not staff has communicated business policies to guests—this helps to ameliorate any future conflicts that may occur.