We primarily serve breakfast and lunch in an office building. We don’t want to open for dinner, especially since we don't have a liquor license, but we have been experimenting with special events to bring in additional revenue. Any other ideas?
– Abby Singh, Owner, Canteen 900, Forty Fort, PA
One thing I think we can all agree on is that everyone wants more revenue! The trick, of course, is to develop these strategies in a way that is both consistent with your core business model and does not add significantly to expenses. Adding merchandise such as private label coffee, for example, does not take up much real estate, does not add to labor cost, and can contribute to the bottom line. At the other extreme, opening for dinner, if your market cannot support it, means a significant add-on to food and labor costs.
I have looked into your evening events such as film screenings and hosting dinner theater. This seems like a great way to know that you fill the space in the evening and to split the difference between limiting your hours to breakfast and lunch and the vagaries of offering an a la carte dinner menu. Some other restaurant ideas:
Home meal replacement. Since you have a captive market of office workers, try to break into the evening daypart without staffing it by offering heat-and-serve dinners that guests can pick up in the afternoon. They can even order that evening’s dinner to go when buying their morning coffee.
Kitchen rental. If your lease and health department allow it, consider a kitchen share to help in covering rent and other fixed expenses. In the twelve hours or so per day that you are closed, a start-up caterer, baker, or small scale food manufacturer may be thrilled to rent an approved commercial kitchen.
Community events/fundraisers. I think you are on the right track with special events in the evening. It gets potential customers in the door, guarantees a certain amount of business, and builds good will. Some examples that I have seen: an art gallery night showcasing student work (art is auctioned to benefit the school and you sell food and beverage), a cook off (patrons buy tickets to sample, for example, the best chili in town; you sell beverages and desserts), or celebrity bartender/barista (maybe a school principal, local sports figure or TV personality with a portion of proceeds benefiting an organization).
Private label/retail. These days you can sell just about anything with your private label and even sideline in gift baskets. Since you are in an office complex, it is great timing to hit the employee holiday gift market. How about selling one of the employers in your building on each employee getting a logo T-shirt, private label sauce, and gift card to your restaurant for the holidays?
A final word of advice—while there are a million ideas for adding revenue streams (and I’m hoping readers will add theirs), don’t dilute your core business. No one wants to eat at a combination restaurant, barber, and oil change, even though you may relish the additional revenue.