With a record setting 288 restaurants taking part in the 14th Annual Dine Out Vancouver, it’s been considered a grand success in the Vancouver culinary scene. To some however, the festival has meant a gruelling period of high volume turnover, limited kitchen creativity and reduced wages through lower tipping and longer hours. In ‘An open letter to Vancouver from a Dine Out widow’ Mrs Sous Chef speaks to the dark side of Dine Out including her husband’s daily battle between sleep deprivation and disturbing levels of caffeine.
Mrs Sous Chef we are more than sympathetic! We know too well that the restaurant space can be tough. We can’t help Mr Sous Chef make his way home and most certainly shouldn’t offer him any more Red Bull, but we can offer some advice to restaurant managers (feel free to pass along to Mr Sous Chef’s boss) who are considering taking part in Dine Out and similar festivals throughout the year.
Should we do it - checklist
Does it align? Is the festival a good fit for your business? Are you looking to widen your audience and strengthen your brand reputation? Does the success outweigh the stress?
Are you staffed correctly? How will they be rewarded for their efforts? Are you able to enrol further staff if needed, and if so, will they be trained sufficiently enough to step up to the challenge? If you aren’t staffed correctly during the festival period, you may not only disengage or lose staff, but also damage your brand reputation.
Can your hospitality equipment cope with the higher demands? Is your commercial fryer or convection oven fit to cater to the masses? Without the right restaurant equipment your kitchen will struggle. Assess your kitchen output well before registering, and ensure all your commercial equipment is in great working order.
How can we be successful – checklist
Upsell! Ensure customers have access to higher profit items such as cocktails, wine pairings and coffee. Smart restaurants also upsell add-ons like proteins or truffle to enhance their Dine Out menu. Think about what these items could look like on your menu during the festival period, and at any time of year. During our most recent Dine Out experience there wasn’t a lemon water in sight after our waiter at Pidgin convinced us to embark on multiple rounds of Old Fashioneds.
Engage! Engage your staff, especially those who may be salaried or reliant on higher tips. Educate them on the benefits of return business and ensure you are well staffed to minimise overworking. While you may be reaping the reward of better business in a typically slow month, are they? A team incentive or reward may mitigate the negatives of a repetitive menu and reduced income.
Delight! Wow with great service. Focus on the future value of each and every customer. If your front of house staff are engaged your satisfied customer will not only return (when you’re back to your full price menu) but also generate positive word of mouth.
Restaurant managers, you know your business best. We suggest only getting involved in a festival if it is the right fit and you are well prepared. Festivals can be highly successful but are dependent on leaving a positive taste in each and every mouth, including your staff. We wish you luck in creating success.
Mrs Sous Chef, we’re here for you! We’ll be sure to be kind to any delirious and deranged looking chefs and as diners will continue to agree to those upsells and extra glass of wine. We’re also great tippers!