Saint Lou’s Assembly, a hip cafeteria-style restaurant in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood, opened in March but quickly got into summer mode. Owners 16” On Center restaurant group immediately started work on Lou’s Backyard, a 100-seat patio, which was ready to rock in May, complete with bleachers, umbrella tables and a bocce court. Read on to see what other cool ideas they came up with to build business in the warm summer days ahead.
1. Dinner in a basket
Instead of walking a tray down the cafeteria line, St. Lou’s patio guests can order up a picnic basket dinner for $21. It includes a half roast chicken, housemade potato salad, asparagus salad, a baguette and wedge of brie—and even a candle. Sometimes they run a special, adding a bottle of wine for a total of $59 for two. But customers also can order up beer, wine by the glass or cocktails to drink along with the spread.
2. Batching in bubblers and boozy floats
Speaking of drinks, Saint Lou’s preps icy summer beverages in batches and dispenses them in old-fashioned bubblers. Classic margaritas are the signature, but also available from the bubblers are housemade sweet tea (with an optional shot of rye whiskey) and seasonal lemonade (with the suggested addition of a clear spirit). Boozy root beer or banana floats are another way to beat the heat while hanging on the patio.
3. The dead hour comes alive
During lunch and dinner, Saint Lou’s meat and three-theme cafeteria offers about 20 food items, but service continues during the transition period—from 3 to 5 p.m.—when about six or seven items are available for the between-meal crowd and a couple of employees stay on shift. This strategy generates sales during a typically dead time and caters to customers with more flexible summer hours.