In case you missed it, on March 30, 2017, during rush hour, there was a massive fire under the I-85 bridge at Piedmont Road in Atlanta, GA. This is a big deal as this part of the interstate system moves roughly 250,000 people through the area every day. Not only is this disrupting interstate travel, it is also disrupting local business. As I was running errands the other day, I heard an interview on our local NPR station with a couple of businesses in the immediate vicinity and how they were being affected.
Are I-85 Transportation Issues Hurting Your Traffic?
One of the businesses being interviewed was a local, long-standing charitable thrift store. The woman was very upbeat and noted that they hadn’t seen a drop in business and mentioned that they might even have seen more customers thinking that people are taking a break from traffic to let it die down a little before getting back on the road to head home.
The other business was a much- loved restaurant that has been around almost 100 years. The chef was lamenting that they had seen a drop off in their guests. As Chef was answering questions like what time they open (that would be 5:00 pm) and what they were doing to compensate for the drop in guests in the meantime, he said they were adjusting staff hours to lower labor.
Wait… what?! I couldn’t help but mutter at the radio that there were other things that could be done to bring in more business rather than lower the earning potential of your staff. I’m sure they were understanding when they were told their hours were cut, but I guarantee they weren’t happy about it.
Do Something (Else) About It!
The I-85 bridge is now under construction. The City of Atlanta is confident that it will be repaired by June 15, 2017. That’s fantastic news and we’re all super happy about that, but this means that for about the next two months the staff of this restaurant is likely going to be facing shortened hours and trying to figure out how to make ends meet. But what else could this restaurant do? Plenty.
Change Your Hours
Have a conversation with the owners and the staff and consider opening a little earlier for the next few months. Advertise this as special hours to allow guests to “Ride Out The Wait” in the comfort of your establishment.
Happy Hour, Baby!
Take a look at your menu and consider making a few adjustments to some items and create a small Happy Hour appetizer menu. Consider a special “Traffic Buster” cocktail, or maybe a mocktail (since we don’t want to promote drinking and driving). Have a little fun with the Atlanta peach theme. Or, better still, play tongue-in-cheek with an “Atlanta’s Burning” smoky bourbon cocktail.
Extended Early Bird
You have early bird hours marked already, just extend them to start with an earlier opening time.
To-Go While You Wait
The delivery driver gets tipped, right? So why not extend that tip to guests who stop in for a to-go order and give them a drink (maybe one of those peachy mocktails) while they wait for their food?
We’re In This Together
Is there a nearby store you could co-brand with during this time? Maybe you could give a small discount like 10% when a guest brings a receipt from a local store you’ve partnered with. How about your staff? Run a friendly social media competition with them by asking them to post to their network to come see them when they’re working at the restaurant. The person with the highest number of friends who come in gets a break from side work for a night.
Regardless of these ideas or any others you decide to implement, you need to let your guests know about them. Heck, even simply letting them know that you’re open during construction is necessary to make sure you are top of mind when it’s dinner time. Post at least once a day on your social media account. Take pictures of your delicious food and refreshing drinks and share them. Shoot a short Facebook Live or Snap or Instagram video of your kitchen in full tilt. It doesn’t need to be polished, you’re showing the behind the scenes which people love to see.
To sum it all up, the restaurant business is tough. To be around as long as this restaurant has is fabulous and we want to keep it around. Temporary setbacks can be handled with a little creativity, humor, and elbow grease. Think outside the box and work with your people. Hope to see you for another 100 years.