How to amp up lunch service

restaurant patio


I run a full-service sports bar and grille in a relatively small town. We have become the premier location for all sporting events in the area and we also have the added luxury of an open floor plan and large outdoor eating area to accommodate groups up to 300 people. Unfortunately, unless one of these groups reserves the floor on a weekday our restaurant floor resembles a ghost town during lunchtime. Because we make everything fresh we have prep cooks on site during the day to cycle the evening's food portions but I have no sales to help account for the labor. We are family friendly and could easily provide for business or client meetings but we are not exactly close to any of those types of businesses. Lunch periods are definitely weighing the restaurant down and I know we could be very successful if we could fill a niche in this category. How do I get those types of people in the door?

– William Taylor, General Manager, Arena Sports Bar and Grille, Bremerton, Washington


First, congratulations on your success. You can’t be pumping at high volume all the time, so it’s good you have that down as a critical part of your business.

Some operations such as those located in malls, airports, hotels, or college campuses are contractually obligated to open during down times, even at a loss, so it is good that you have the flexibility not to.

It may or may not be possible to get your lunch business going. I would suggest giving it a fair shot with a commission-based private events person (maybe one of your existing star employees looking for some extra cash) or some lunchtime promotions. If that doesn’t work, I would suggest closing for a la carte, saving on lunchtime labor apart from special events or large parties, and focusing on what you do well—evening and weekend sports business.

We have previously discussed adding and cutting dayparts from your operation. A breakeven analysis for the lunchtime daypart should clarify what you should do. If you do find it viable to remain open, work to streamline a lunch menu of easy pickups for your existing prep cooks and consider opening only the bar or otherwise segmenting the restaurant so that even in a sprawling space, guests feel some life in their little corner.

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