Originally Published December 11, 2007
While browsing the web, I came across an article titled, “Why is My Restaurant Not Full Every Monday Night?” (Google search if you’re all that curious. The article doesn’t answer the question, which is why I’m not linking it).
Its a common desire in retail to advertise the things which aren’t selling, and let those which will sell easily sell themselves. This is frequently bad strategy. Very bad.
It may well be part of the reason Wal-Mart thrived while K-Mart worked its way through bankruptcy. Of course, their respective advertising policies may only be a reflection of their inventory management. Then again, this all may be only a coincidence.
And for the record, our story is completely fictitious.
Assume that we have one Wal-Mart store and one K-Mart store, each stocked with various sizes of golf shirts in four colors: red, blue, green, and yellow. We’ll further assume that each store stocks ten in each color.
For some reason, the yellow shirts are in hot demand.
Each store sells out of yellow golf shirts.
K-Mart, in the traditional Henry Ford fashion * notes that they still have 30 shirts in stock. No problem.
Wal-Mart however, takes note that they are completely out of yellow golf shirts, and promptly puts ten more in inventory.
Humm. People will buy what they want, when its available to them. The won’t necessarily buy what’s being advertised. So, while K-Mart is advertising golf shirts in various colors, Wal-Mart advertises that they have yellow golf shirts, and they have them in stock. (Again, this story is of my own invention. It has only a passing relationship to any reality).
Can advertising sell them things they don’t want?
The bitter experience of K-Mart would indicate that people will purchase only what appeals to them, rather than what’s being advertised.
But our question wasn’t about golf shirts, was it? The question was “Why is My Restaurant Not Full Every Monday Night?”
The reason is simple.
Its not lack of advertising. (Rookie media salespeople will assure you that it is. They are wrong. It has nothing to do with advertising.)
It is because people customarily don’t go out to dinner on Monday evening.
They just don’t want to.
They tend to go out to dinner on Friday nites, on Saturday, even on Sunday. By the time Monday rolls around, they’re feeling as if they should stop being so extravagant.
On Mondays they plan to eat at home.
Is there a Monday appeal?
Is there a way to attract a relational customer to your restaurant on a Monday? Sadly, if Monday isn’t Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or a spouse’s birthday, there is not. You could maybe get a transactional customer into your restaurant on a Monday if you offered a discount, but transactional customers tend to stay home on Mondays too.
OK, make it a BIG discount. That will insure two things:
1. bad turnout, and
2. no profit from those rare few who do show up.
Humm. Advertising a restaurant is very much like duck hunting. You shoot when there are ducks to shoot at.
So what can you do about those Monday nights in your restaurant?
You can cut back on your staffing on Monday and hold your costs to a minimum. Then advertise your great Friday night specials, or your Saturday dinners, or even your Sunday brunch.
Wait for them to be inclined to dine away from home, then remind them to pick you. Cater to what your customers want – and do so on their timetable, and you’ll start boosting attendance as you fish for customers.
Your Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.
Got questions about allocating and scheduling your advertising dollars? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call him at 304-523-0163.
* Henry Ford is rumored to have said about the available colors of his Model T automobile, “You can have any color you want, as long as that color is black.”