5 Ways to Boost Your Restaurant Revenue During Off-Peak Hours

Transform slow dayparts into cash cows — and lure new customers — with these creative ideas.
Full Restaurant
A good start to finding out how to generate extra revenue is to ask loyal customers what would bring them in during off hours. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shuttershock)

You keep an eagle eye on sales, so you know exactly which dayparts are slow — and maybe you even cut back on staff during those hours. But would if you could use them to generate extra revenue, without detracting from peak hour sales?

With a little effort and ingenuity, you can. Here are five approaches to consider.

Related: How to Appeal to Millennial Diners

Leverage your loyal customers

The best place to start is with your loyal customers, according to Matt Holsinger, CEO of Enthrallogy Marketing, which works with businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sectors. Poll your regulars or your loyalty program members to find out what types of promotions and events would be most likely to bring them in during off hours.

“Try to find perks that cost you nothing but are perceived as high-value for your guest,” advised Holsinger.

He suggested creating unique reward experiences valid only during certain off-peak hours. For example, “cardholders could be treated to a special preview menu featuring upcoming menu items,” which has the added bonus of letting you test new menu options.

Offer more snacks and small plates

Toast apps

According to Technomic, customers are more likely to purchase snacks from restaurants that provide healthy options. (Photo: zarzamora/Shuttershock)

To boost traffic between the three basic mealtimes, think snacks. According to Technomic’s 2016 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, 33 percent of consumers say they would purchase snacks more often at restaurants if there were healthier options.

To appeal to these nibblers, consider adding more small plate options or having a special tasting menu for off-peak hours. A tasting menu offers a chance to showcase your most popular dishes, whetting patrons’ appetites for the full meal at lunch or dinner.

Host a charitable event

Socially conscious consumers will often go out of their way to participate in events that benefit a good cause, so consider using some of your downtime to host a charity fundraiser.

Rodger Roeser, CEO of The Eisen Agency and VP of the American Marketing Association’s northeast Ohio chapter, suggested having a local celebrity come in and guest bartend or wait tables and donate their tips to charity. “They can work the slower hours so you’re not slammed, and it will bring in new folks that want to meet the local celebrity,” he said. It can be a great opportunity for some free publicity too, if you promote it on your marketing channels and send out a press release.

Use the space for new revenue streams

Cooking Class 2

Holding cooking classes is a great way to use empty space for new revenue streams. (Photo: Syda Productions/Shuttershock)

Instead of letting floor space sit empty or near-empty, think of a way to turn it into a new revenue stream, such as by renting out portions of your restaurant for meetings during off-peak hours or holding cooking classes.

“Get creative and experiment with selling experiences,” advised Holsinger. “Highlight one national food holiday each month and hold basic cooking classes centered on that item once a week.” During the summer, you could offer cooking classes for kids to help grow the next generation of restaurateurs.

Hold happy hours

Happy Hour

Use consistent and ongoing promotions, such as happy hour, to bring more customers in. (Photo: Rido/Shuttershock)

When planning your off-peak strategy, don’t forget about the tried-and-true happy hour.

While most happy hours target after-work crowds grabbing a drink before heading home for the day, think outside the box for ways to make happy hour work for your restaurant — even if you don’t serve alcohol, Holsinger said.

Schedule your happy hour to accommodate your restaurant’s slowest shifts, whenever they may be, and offer discounts on small plates or dessert items. For instance, some quick-service restaurants like Cici’z Pizza and Sonic have “happy hour” from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. to bring in more traffic during the mid-afternoon lull.

Market your happy hours so they stick in the mind. “The most important thing an operator can do when developing promotions is to ensure that they’re ongoing and consistent for the customer to remember,” Holsinger said. “Alliteration definitely helps.”

So bring on Taco Tuesdays, late-night Hipster Happy Hours and “Waffles for Wildlife” fundraisers, and turn your off-peak hours into moneymakers.

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