Recently I had the joyous and unexpected opportunity to dine at a swank Virginia restaurant, surrounded by a packed house.
There was a raised wooden platform smack dab in the middle of the dining room; I assumed it was construction in progress, and really didn't let it rise to the level of discursive thought.
Lo and behold, as I worked on my ginger-crusted sole, the lights came up on the 'construction,' and there emerged three players: one man with a well-worn acoustic guitar, and two women in colorful Flamenco garb. The stamping of rhythmic feet, the
provocative guitar strings, the flicking hand-fans and ecstatic shouts, all conspired to lift the atmosphere to electric excitement. Oh! That's why the place was packed!!
Consideration of adding entertainment and 'themes' - or both! -to bring a good restaurant to a higher level of notoriety is something YOU can do on your home turf, no matter how great or humble your establishment may be.
The recession stings, and people are looking for 2-fers, ways to get out of the house, ways to leave their troubles behind for a few hours. What better way can you think of than combining your great cuisine with bright entertainment or a fetching theme?
There are plenty of entertainers these days who are happy to get the exposure, and who will not insist on onerous fees to perform. Local people are the best, for as we know, the community is what will get us through. Themes? It can be anything that adds life, color or excitement. We've heard of soup night.. put out 4 tureens buffet style, and let your patrons sample them all, no limit.
What about networking night?? No kidding. A special night each month, and a special menu for the local business crowd to schmooz, hob-nob and share their business cards. And let's not forget travel night, where your guests are regaled with film, photo and story from other guests and your local travel agents. The list of themes are endless, subject only to the limits of your imagination.
Start small, test the waters, play it all out on a Tuesday or Thursday. Pick your least trafficked day and go for something a bit different. Try out various ideas, and let it morph and evolve naturally. It may not work for you, that's a possibility we concede in advance. But on the other hand, what would it be like if a backwater of an evening became your top-producing night? Those crowds will tell others, and for you, the economic gloom times could become economic boom times. It's possible.. others are doing it all over the United States and Canada.
Your restaurant IS the local gathering spot. Let's add some value-added and scintillating fare to our already wonderful menu, let's get the word out through the local paper, circulars, signs in the window and an email blast, and give people another reason to pack your house.