Will removing dayparts really make a difference in service?

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My question is would not offering a dinner service hurt our breakfast and lunch services?  We are a small family owned and run café, and 80% of our business is breakfast and lunch.  We are thinking of cutting out the dinner service and focusing on our breakfast and lunch, which is what we do best.  However, we do not want to upset or deter any customers in the process.  This idea also stems from trouble finding good employees that are willing to work the evening shift. Any advice would be great!

– Jason Bunkowski, Cornfield Café, Pelican Rapids, MN  


Previously in this column, we have discussed the decision making process for adding a daypart. The process for subtracting one is nearly the reverse.

First, if only 20 percent of your sales come from dinner, you’re on the right track to cutting this service. Focusing on breakfast and lunch can probably also get you down to one manager shift per day, cutting out a large expense with little return (in your case), in the dinner hour.

First, before making any decisions, determine if dinner is truly a lost cause. Would a new menu, talented cooks, a liquor license (if allowable), a change in décor, or other investment give you a return in the form of increased sales after 5 PM? An analysis of the competition and/or a restaurant consultant may help here.

If you are truly convinced that dinner is a losing proposition for your concept, don’t worry about disappointing the few dinner guests you have. If you think of dinner as its own business and you are losing money every day, there is simply no way to keep the lights on and the door open, no matter how pleased your few regulars may be. Unless you are required to be open certain hours, as some hotel, airport, and mall restaurants are, each daypart should be generating its own revenue and not subsidizing the others.

If you decide to end dinner service, do it thoughtfully. Give regulars some warning that your hours will be changing and offer a promotion to dinner guests for them to try you for breakfast or lunch. Use clear signage and update your webpage and review sites so guests aren’t disappointed when they drive up for a big night out and see a dark restaurant.

Finally, given the financial pressures of running a restaurant, some operations are exploring creative partnerships like renting space in the evenings for a talented chef to run a pop-up restaurant, renting the kitchen to a baker or caterer, or dedicating evenings to private events. Rent, of course, is paid for 24-hours per day, no matter how many meals you serve.

More on adding dayparts here.

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