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Agony Aunt - Roger Jones

Published:  13 January, 2009

Even without taking the recession into account, things tend to be slow at this time of year. Can I use promotions to increase turnover (and profit) in my restaurant? If so, how should I go about it and what are the key pitfalls I should be aware of?

Roger Jones, chef and restaurateur at the Michelin-starred The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

The key pitfall that one should be concerned with when trying to increase business at a quiet time is not to devalue your product. It would be as mad for one of the car showrooms on Park Lane to start showing family saloons in their windows as it would be for a Michelin-starred restaurant to buy in cheap wines or for its kitchen to skimp on ingredients.

The important issue is to make the customer feel that they have had value for money. In my experience, offering cut-price deals such as 'Lunch for a Fiver; brings in the wrong type of clients.

Increasing sales of wines by the glass, to include top-end wines, is a sure bet when it comes to making the customer happy. While your customer may not fancy spending over £100 on a bottle, the same person would be happy to spend £15 or more on a glass.

Don't make the mistake, either, of thinking that customers only want the set lunch at lunchtime: offer the full menu as well. Why penalise lunchtime customers by reducing your offer to them? I also don't understand, as a chef, why some restaurants restrict gourmet menus are to the whole table. Give the customer the freedom of choice and you will be surprised at the increase in top-end sales.

Furthermore, it's important to remember that promotions should not be a cost to you: try and get a supplier or trade body to pay for the promotion instead.

At The Harrow at Little Bedwyn we are offering complimentary NZ wines with our set tasting lunch in January, courtesy of New Zealand Wine Growers. We are also offering a gourmet lunch tasting menu to the wine trade (at £25 per person), where they can bring their own wines without being charged corkage.