We often have fellow industry people [as guests] in our restaurant. At my last restaurant, we used to send extra dishes to basically everyone we knew. At this one, my owner doesn’t like me to do anything for them. Is that bad business? Is there a recommended guideline?
– Chef, Philadelphia, PA
The answer to how much to comp others may come down to the golden rule—what do you expect when you visit others’ restaurants and are recognized as a fellow industry veteran? I have received comps ranging from nothing to everything and while I never expect it, it is nice to be treated extra well.
Like all promotional expenses in a restaurant, I encourage you think about comping industry friends from an ROI (return-on-investment) perspective. Does comping build good will for recruiting employees, sharing industry insight, politicking together about issues like zoning or liquor licensing, purchasing together, or growing together as a restaurant district? Does comping some items make you a regular industry hangout of people known to be generous tippers who spend heavily on food and beverage? Or is comping a favor for some guests who are taking advantage of your generosity and will never return or will expect it every time?
If you see some potential ROI, go for it. I recommend comping lower food cost items that will keep people drinking and ordering other high margin items. In this business, you never know when you’ll need a friend and it’s valuable to be known as a generous industry supporter, though not a foolish one who turns down revenue.