Not much has happened in the business of restaurants in recent years. I’m talking about innovations other than in the cooking itself or culinary approach, to increase revenues. With the tremendous competition now and rising rents and food costs, we’re finally beginning to see some new, creative ideas that are worth noting. Expect to see a lot more in coming months, especially with Priceline’s recent purchase of OpenTable. Here are several restaurant trends that have a lot of promise:
!.How to increase covers in the downtimes of 5:30 to 6:30/7? Fine restaurants are trying to make diners feel as if they’re special, going out of their way with attention and service. Restaurants realize they need to overcome the traditional stigma of diners feeling like second class citizens, part of an “early bird special” group. In addition, all matters of special incentives are being offered, from smaller portions (and prices) of signature dishes and a small bites menu to unique menus such as New York’s Le Cirque offering what they call a heritage menu with items like Dover sole and wild Burgundy Escargots. Read more in “No Shame in a Table at 5:30” in the Wall Street Journal.
2.As the top 1% get richer and the stock market continues on an upward trajectory, demand at the top restaurants in peak hours has been off the charts. New apps have sprung up like Zurvu and Resy that cooperate with restaurants sharing revenue for the most in demand dining times and access to prime tables (a “commission” from $10 a person to $50 a table).
3.Restaurants hosting a visiting chef from out of town or out of country has been around for a long time. But now there’s a new twist – a visiting local chef. Harry’s Pizzeria owned by star Miami chef Michael Schwartz hosted a series of themed dinners with Miami colleagues. We’re also seeing several chefs team up to do special dinners at a colleague’s restaurant. The idea? Copromotion which makes a lot of sense.
4.Reservation websites are providing incentives for early bookings. Members of Opentable get more points for booking early time slots and another app. leloca, gives last minute discounts at participating restaurants to users (like the restaurant counterpart to Hotel Tonight).