Big 3 Days in the Restaurant Industry: HELP!
The most grueling days of the year in the restaurant industry are (in no particular order): New Years Eve, Valentines Day and Mother’s Day. These typically are days where diners try new restaurants, usually a little out of their comfort zone price wise. This creates and interesting dichotomy and can sometimes set unreasonable expectations. Of all the days/nights to get out and try something new, these might be the worst.
Yes, its true these are bad days to try a new restaurant or a place that is a little pricier than normal. There are many reasons to avoid getting caught in the hype of dining on these days: we find these the most pertinent:
- Limited/Prix-Fixe menus
- “Holiday” pricing (some restaurants)
- Extremely busy restaurants with long wait times
- Atypical experience
Avoiding dining on these days instead around them might be better to a diner’s wallet, while providing a better experience and offering more options. However, a “following the herd” mentality dominates on these days and it is difficult to break away from this herd. Truth be told, we are guilty of going out on these days as well, particularly a recent Valentines day, more for dinner than a “Valentines Dinner”, but still out nonetheless.
Why do we feel the 4 above reasons are paramount to avoiding dining on Mothers and Valentines Day along with New Years Eve? Mostly cause they take away from guests getting a true gist of what a restaurant is all about.
It is very difficult for a restaurant to execute on days when business is abnormally busy. Consider the two greatest limiting factors, time is not one of them: seats in a restaurant and available kitchen space to prepare the food! The limiting reactant of a restaurant and the accompanying scarcity can be directly attributed to all four reasons to avoid dining on the “Big 3”. Keep this in mind anytime a restaurant is busy, it is the same reason it can take 10 minutes to get a latte on the way to work in the morning!
Knowing the scarcity of seats and kitchen space, restaurants do not want to cut back on quality of leaves the kitchen: it is the reason hordes of people want to be at that restaurant in the first place.
By serving a limited menu, chefs and KM’s can very easily predict what sort of inventory will need to be available for service and event choose what goes on the menu. This usually based on what is easy to execute and does not take away from sending the best product out for diners on these special days. Their goal is to make sure the kitchen is doing what it does and doing it well. Maybe there is an appetizer that is difficult to execute and after careful consideration, a chef decides to leave it off the Mother’s Day menu and instead puts a seasonal salad with strawberries on.
In addition to offering a limited menu, some restaurants opt for a prixe-fixe menu and only a prix-fixe menu. This is to streamline service and make executing the highest priority. Oftentimes as well, this lets the chef/KM choose what the kitchen is best at and send out a product that is equally as good! Even more exciting is that this usually results in extra special items being on this menu, usually imagined for that meal and only that meal! This is a huge win for the guests! The ugly part of these menu’s is that they usually are priced a little more than a typical meal, however there is a greater probability the execution is above average!
Many times restaurants will offer a limited menu along with a prix-fixe and include items from the prixe-fixe on the limited menu. These menus usually feature the best and most popular dishes a restaurant has to offer, coupled with an extra special item or two.
With the prix-fixe menu mentioned, be aware that a restaurant might use this as an opportunity to add a “holiday premium” to the price of it. This is purely to meet supply and demand of such days as Valentines Day. Restaurants do not want to intentionally gouge guests nor do they want to offend current regulars and even future regulars with obscene pricing. Many potential guests feel that restaurants get way too expensive for the big 3, however it is purely supply and demand.
Busy Restaurants with an Atypical Experience
After a little thought, two of the four reasons to avoid dining on these days are really one after all. Holiday busy can result in an experience that might be a little different than the experience a restaurant typically offers. Some of it can be attributed to the limited menu’s or sheer volume of guests going through. The guest counts can be so high on these days that many restaurant managers do not count them when considering records or workflow. Instead they rely on the amount of total seats available over the hours of service for the day. These days are outliers and only counted from a revenue standpoint.
The atypical experience might be the best reason to stay away from restaurants on the “big 3”. It is very difficult for restaurants to provide their signature experience when guest counts are artificially high and menus are shortened a little bit of what a restaurant is about can be lost in the shuffle. This is also true regardless of what any manager says. Execution and service usually suffer a little when a restaurant is busy. This is on a macro level; on the micro level there are always rock stars that can keep it together. To those people, we tip our hats and congratulate them on a job well done.
Why Write About This?
We are not attacking restaurants or the guests that enjoy them on these days, more of why they are not the best days to be enjoying a restaurant. In this industry, many relish these days, cause they are the peak of business and anticipation. Others, working in the industry and outside of the industry frown on these days for the same reason. Whatever it is that makes you happy, go ahead and do so!Spread the word with the whole staff!