Separating recreational dining from the job-related variety is not always easy when you work for Restaurant Business. Just ask the civilian tagalongs who interrupt a supposedly social dinner outing to ask, “Wait—what’s ‘throughput’ again?”
Here are three ideas we encountered recently as restaurant customers but scribbled down as restaurant-business nerds who recognized an idea worth, um, emulating.
1. A curative for January doldrums
Customers who dined at Diesing’s during the frantic weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas walked away with a greeting-card-sized red envelope presented with their bill. Servers at the landmark bakery-diner in Kingston, N.Y., explained that a card inside the envelope entitled the bearer to a prize, ranging from a free muffin to a flat-screen TV. You were guaranteed a price, but only if the envelope was opened by a server upon a return visit in January. The rules printed on the exterior of the envelope and posted throughout the restaurant were unambiguous: Open the envelope earlier or on your own and the offer was voided.
The free muffin was very good. So was the $15 breakfast that went with it.
2. Stain-resistant dashboard dining
The new guest amenity at In-N-Out, a concept not exactly known for jumping on the latest gimmick, is something any slob can appreciate: A lap mat. As the drive-thru attendant explained in passing through a stack of the mats with a sizeable to-go order last week, car-bound patrons can put the sheet of paper on their laps and munch their burgers in peace and security, knowing an unforeseen drip won’t ruin the in-vehicle occasion.
Traffic reports for the time-crunched
The one bad thing about Cortina’s Italian Market in Anaheim, Calif., an avid fan of the deli-pizzeria explained to me, is the wait. With relatively few true Italian markets in southern California, the crowd can be thicker than the tomato sauce.
The market has addressed that issue with what amounts to a traffic report. An online tool provides a day-by-day, hour-by-hour projection of what the customer traffic will be like, based on historical analysis. Look for a lull, and you won’t find your wait being measured in pages torn off the calendar. You can see the tool here.
Got an idea you’ve stumbled across or incorporated in your facility? Let us know.