Ray Camillo – Founder & CEO, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting
Labor Day. Not exactly the revenue-slayer holiday of the year, but that’s the point of this blog: what the heck do you do with Labor Day besides staff low, hunker down and weather the dip? The answer is… PLENTY!
Just because everyone goes somewhere else for Labor Day weekend doesn’t mean your restaurant can’t capitalize on it.
So, let’s start with what we know:
- It’s a 3 day weekend. Anytime there is a programmed 3 day weekend, Sunday can behave like a second Saturday because very few people actually work on Monday.
- People party on Labor Day weekend. They spend money, they enjoy their families, they eat a lot and they drink in front of the kids.
- People view Labor Day weekend as the last hurrah of summer so they spend it outside.
So what if folks grill out in their backyards. So what if they go to the lake or the neighborhood pool or to Aunt Fanny’s backyard. Anyone who tries to change consumer behavior will struggle… so most restaurants just take the hit for a weekend and shake it off later. However, the pile of positives are undeniable so spoils to the restaurant that can go with the flow to compliment what people are already doing. Here are 5 ways that you could promote your restaurant for Labor Day weekend:
1) Picnic Baskets – Source a couple of nice looking or cool baskets (whether something modern and svelte from North Face or Marmot or something made of wicker) that can be re-used… where there is value in the vessel as much as the contents. Then build a few different sizes… lunch for 2, lunch for 4, lunch for 8. Load it with cold versions of your greatest hits. Maybe vary them with cold sauces or spreads or as a sandwich version (how about a double cut pork chop sandwich with balsamic mayo and caramelized onions on a Hawaiian bun?). Recipe a special potato or macaroni salad with your brand’s twist on it. Use social media to promote it long before Labor Day, planting the seed and saying how to use it. “Take it on the boat, to the beach, to the pool party, to Aunt Fanny’s” – use your brand voice. Include a Frisbee® or a couple of Nerf Guns. Make it fun and a little over the top. Charge for it. Score points with your customers and earn a place as their trusted source for special events. Fun, a little sexy and a little over the top.
2) Grill Kits – Everyone knows Dad loves to own the grill in the backyard. Ubiquitous Big Green Eggs® are fixtures in many a man’s backyard, and they’re not shy about cooking their favorite meat for their family. Get on that bandwagon and create a kit with marinade, meat, directions and sides to help Dad look amazing…and to protect him from blowing his chance at family fame by making it easy to master the meat (because he probably doesn’t Egg out as much as he said he would when he convinced everyone he needed it). Include a cool, high quality apron that he’d be thrilled to don over his cargo shorts… something manly and ironic that goes with bourbon and cigars. Heck, maybe include a couple of Romeo y Julieta cigars with lighter and cutter. Men pay good money to feel like men. Go take it… especially if you’re a steak house or a BBQ joint.
3) Make Beverages Easy – Unless I’ve been under a rock for a few decades, I’m guessing that it’s still illegal to sell house-made, spiked mixers. What you can do is create some Labor Day favorite mixers for both girls and boys: Sangria “day of” fresh juices, fresh cut fruit, a great reusable container (with your logo on it), and an easy to read recipe that basically says “add one bottle of Chardonnay and one bottle of Pinot Noir to everything in this kit, stir, voila!…you’re the greatest Sangria mixologist ever!” Make fresh squeezed lemonade with basil and/or mint and/or fresh raspberries… offer to mix it just before pickup. Offer a local soda or house brewed root beer in souvenir bottles. As with any Labor Day item, promote the heck out of it on social media and on your website.
4) Labor Day is fun – So make your restaurant a one-stop-shop. If your restaurant has succeeded in being a lifestyle choice, you already have some credibility when hosting the party…that’s why people come to you…because they feel cooler when they’re eating with you than they do at Cheesecake Factory. Carry this forward by promoting games with the food options above. Have you ever seen those old-school relay races where contestants have to spin their heads on a bat 10 times then try to run in a straight line to tag their partner who has to do the same thing? Three-legged race? Egg toss? Cook up a family relay race with branded instructions (your brand) to take home either with their food or as a handout with checks before Labor Day as a means to entice folks to come by to pick up a Grill Kit or Picnic Basket (above) or to return for the 2nd Saturday Bash (below). The freebie will be well received and will really spice up the family get together…and you’ll enhance your brand’s authority over all things fun.
5) 2nd Saturday Bash – Instead of hibernating through the weekend, promote a Labor Day bash where you’re the host of the Sunday cookout. If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard or enough property to have an outdoor party, book a reggae band (nothing is more American than a reggae band), fence off the yard, sell tickets at the entrance beergarten-style, set up burger and hot dog stations along with drink stations, build a few horseshoe pits (hire a referee with zebra shirt), and have a backyard blowout. You only need 200 or 300 people to respond to make it a big deal. If you do it halfway you’ll miss the point… make it a big event. Slip n slide, henna tramp stamp station, dunking booth (another referee needed)… you get the idea. Throw a bash and promote it ahead of time with check presenters, social media and website. Make people think twice about going far from home for Labor Day weekend and do it on Sunday night when people are a little confused about what to do with Sunday since they have Monday off. If you can get the backyard crowd to Uber over to your restaurant after hanging with the fam, they can keep the party going at your place.
When you nail it, you’ll have authority to repeat it – either for next Labor Day or for other dud holidays for which you can deploy similar tactics…and own that holiday. Memorial Day, After Fireworks Party on the 4th, MLK Birthday, Columbus Day. I see these as gold mines for the brave restaurateur who isn’t afraid of a challenge and likes to stand out from the crowd.