ifting through last year’s shift notes to inform a New Year’s Eve battle plan can be … well, tricky—some stellar info by a rockstar AGM coupled often with a black hole left behind by an insanely busy Director of Ops.
We don’t have a crystal ball handy, but we do have some intel that might help—nine strategies that analyze guest behavior to build a customer experience that generates 2020 returns (business insights pulled from our waitlist, reservation, and table management data along with industry consumer data).
The goal: continue to boost profit long after the glitter settles.
Optimize door strategy
With walk-in traffic down and table turn times ticking up, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between your books and your guests’ experience at the door:
- If you book reservations: Day of bookings may be essential to profit—Wisely’s data shows that on average walk-in traffic is down 12% on NYE, so keep your book open even when your gut tells you “we’re full”. Wise idea: try to curb no-shows by personalizing your guest experience beginning with the reservation (e.g. if you have a DJ, ask on your reservation form “What’s your favorite song of the decade?” then they’ll be elated when it plays during service)
- If you run a wait: Our data has shown across the years that when running a long wait quote strategy is essential to guest experience. Better to thread the needle by over-quoting slightly and exceeding expectations than to “over-promise and under-deliver”—underquoting on a busy night is a recipe for comped meals + walk offs
- Either way: Start the party at the door with snacks and a cocktailer, and keep the party going with the surprise and delight of a 1 a.m. buffet after the toast dies down
Maximize efficiency and experience
NYE turn times are 5% longer starting at 6 pm, and by 11 they’ve hit a 20% increase over the average day. The best-run brands understand this behavioral shift and lean into the experience for those who want to linger a little longer. To maximize profit, increase operational efficiency in support of that experience (some great high-volume restaurants get this right every day):
- During the meal: Keep your table statuses up to date (even better if your system does this for you), and pre-bus, pre-bus, pre-bus, while keeping your guests comfortable. Offer something of value every time you clear a course (i.e. another round of drinks, or dessert)
- A longer turn time can work for both of you: Sound strategy recognizes that the best trade-off on New Year’s Eve is less traffic for higher check averages—reports show increases of 12%-40%. Custom up-sells with luxury add-ons is a best practice here—truffles, lobster, caviar, sidecars, and special selections of champagne make the night for your guests (and your bottomline!)
- Between turns: Driving down time between turns can lead to thousands of dollars more in sales (or 3-5% more covers) on a high-check-average night like NYE. Wise idea: sharpen your communication with guests—texting waiting parties, coupled with an automated phone call, can get them back to the host stand 3-5 minutes faster, while setting the tone for a great experience (“Ready to celebrate, Anna?! Your table is ready!”)
Keep your eye on Customer Lifetime Value
The best-run restaurants use “Experience Nights” to earn a second visit from new guests and to turn semi-frequent customers into loyal promoters. Wisely’s marketing gurus compiled easy-to-implement strategies that transform NYE efforts into 2020 returns:
- Boost acquisition through brand awareness: Encourage guest social media posts. As you make the rounds with the bubbly, let guests know that when they “post their toast” a handful will win a dinner for two certificate (valid in the New Year)
- Earn that second visit: Reach out to your NYE wifi sign ups with a personalized note asking about their experience celebrating with you, “Gary, we’re honored that you chose us to ring in the New Year, how did we do? We’d really like to know.”
- Leverage that stack of unsold gift cards: Add some purpose to your promotion + earn natural loyalty from guests aligned with your brand values. Do a flash sale in-store (and via email to a segmented audience of NYE visitors)—for every gift card sold in January a matching gift card will be donated to a local charity for upcoming raffles
At the end of the night, the promise NYE holds for expertly run restaurants is maximized profits through great guest experience night of, and increased customer lifetime value for years to come.
Photos by Eriksson Luo and Jude Beck