Populous states like Florida, California, and New York are still maintaining unemployment figures teetering around 10%. Despite pundits boasting about our recovery and improving economy, chances are you still know people who are looking for work, who entertain ideas of “staycations,” and have memorized value menus around town. As someone in the hospitality industry, these conditions have and still continue to affect your business.
Celeb chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain will agree that once you’re relying on early-bird menus, your restaurant is not long for this world. However, that old theorem of restaurant life spans is being debunked today. In Florida, a state with unemployment running around 11.5% (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ findings for Nov. 2009), restaurants are seeing a surprising boost in early bird business from younger clientele..
This NYT article from the Economy section explains how restaurants across Florida are promoting early birds with success. As noted in the article, “promotions work when people have less money to spend.” However, operators and researchers suggest this also reflects changing attitudes of today’s clientele. Responding to tighter budgets, Americans’ priorities are shifting, and they are more willing to change their habits yet still enjoy themselves.
Clever marketing is working as well. Instead of calling it an “early bird special,” restaurateurs are ditching the dated term in favor of more appealing labels like “twilight dining” or the more up-market “prix-fixe.” In Florida, a state known for its high density of senior citizens, restaurants have used these labels to attract guests in their 50s, 40s, 30s, and even 20s.
While this might seem like old news, the recent nature of this article suggests there is still much to learn. Value is an engine of capitalist societies, and if you can remind consumers of the value of your service, you’ll draw satisfied customers, in hard times or not.