Restaurant Week: Is Your Business Set Up For Success?

Every New Yorker's favorite part of summer is here again -- NYC Restaurant Week! With the "week" (which actually spans July 21 - August 15) well underway, diners across the city are enjoying three-course prix fixe meals at some of New York's top restaurants. While diners undoubtedly benefit from these budget-friendly lunches and dinners, restaurateurs need to be a bit savvier to ensure they recoup their investments. Without proper planning, a potentially strong opportunity to increase business revenue can have an adverse effect on a restaurant's potential.

Keeping a restaurant up and running in a big city is already one of the hardest jobs a business owner could take on, so promotions like Restaurant Week are a well-deserved opportunity for restaurant owners to reach a greater audience. There are multiple strategies restaurateurs can employ to ensure their businesses can not only remain profitable during Restaurant Week, but leverage the full marketing potential of the event to secure new customers and build future revenue. Below are four tips for restaurant owners on how to keep their balance sheets in check while taking advantage of one of their busiest times of the year.

Mix Up Your Menu

As customers spend less on food during Restaurant Week, there's more room in their budgets for drinks. Offering cocktail specials as a complement to the standard Restaurant Week promotional menu could entice customers to try a new drink -- or a few! It is also important, therefore, not to overlook the drinks menu in lieu of the special Restaurant Week food menu. Make sure you offer creative cocktails and an array of wine choices that can complement any prix fixe menu combination a diner could create.

Done right, this could help you bring in more money on alcohol in the long-term, as well. During Restaurant Week, keep track of which drinks are ordered the most and keep those on your menu even after the promotion is over. This could lead to repeat business to your bar or restaurant, and recommendations from satisfied customers could also create a big boost in your business long after Restaurant Week is over.

Build Your Man Power

More diners in your restaurant would normally be great for your bottom line. During Restaurant Week, however, it could mean adding another expense to your balance sheet in the form of additional staff members. While it might seem unnecessary or over-the-top at first, having a slightly higher number of employees on-hand could be the difference between smooth shifts and a hectic night. This means less pressure on you and an impressive operation in the eyes of your new customers, making it well worth the cost. Adding to your employee base could be done with temporary staff or increasing the hours of existing staff, depending on which you think would be best for your business.

Just as important, doing what you can to make sure your employees have their best feet forward will help your restaurant run as seamlessly as possible even with the increased traffic. Offering new incentives or adding a boost to your current employee rewards system could be just what your staff needs to help them stay on top of their game during the Restaurant Week rush. If this new strategy works, you can apply it again during other exceptionally busy times like the holiday seasons. Your employees will appreciate your taking note of their hard work during a stressful time, which will surely translate into their job performances and increase productivity in the long-term.

Give Them Something (Good) to Talk About

It is no secret that consumers have come to rely on online reviews of restaurants to help make their dining decisions. In fact, according to the recent CAN Capital Small Business Health Index, almost half of small business owners (45 percent) anticipate that mobile and/or online business reviews will have the biggest impact on their business in the coming months. Over the past few years, we have seen the impact that digital marketing can have in helping small businesses grow when leveraged correctly. What may seem like the smallest thing, good or bad, can have a lasting impact on your business should a customer choose to share it on social media.

It is also important to remember that hosting a greater number of diners during Restaurant Week likely means that more reviews will be posted online about your restaurant. This period of increased traffic is the ideal opportunity to make each diner's experience a great one - and, of course, one that they would want to boast about. These reviews will help ensure that curious customers who come across your restaurant online will be intrigued and compelled to come in.

In addition to focusing on customer service to ensure positive reviews across the board, don't be afraid to engage with your patrons online. Share your Restaurant Week specials across your social media channels. If someone posts a great review of their meal, be sure to thank them online and invite them back. Restaurant Week provides the perfect opportunity to create a dialogue with your current and new customers on social media and create lasting relationships that will keep them coming back.

Cover Your Costs

While you are already charging less for prix fixe dining options, the increased customer demand and the adjustments that follow will undoubtedly bring new -- and sometimes unexpected -- costs to your business. You will need to spend money on menu specials, extra inventory, temporary staff, overtime pay for existing employees, marketing promotions and additional tables, chairs and linens. By making sure that your business has adequate funding during Restaurant Week, you can turn a potential challenge into an opportunity for your business to expand. Planning for these costs will ensure that you stay ahead of the curve instead of falling behind it.

According to the CAN Capital Small Business Health Index, about a quarter of small business owners (27 percent) have secured working capital for their business from a bank. During the fast pace of Restaurant Week, you may need working capital more immediately than most banks can offer, and speed of funding may factor into your decision. Alternative finance providers are able to offer a faster return for business owners seeking capital, which is ideal for restaurants in an industry with very immediate demands. Acquiring capital in a timely manner would better ensure that restaurants have a successful Restaurant Week and allow them to reap these benefits long into the future.

Restaurant Week is an exciting time for restaurant owners throughout the city. While the promotional aspects may favor your customers, with these steps you can feel confident that you are setting yourself up for success well beyond the "week."