If being short-staffed has had a negative impact on your online reviews, take heart that you’re not alone: According to Yelp’s State of the Industry Report, complaints over short-staffed restaurants shot up 229 percent in the first quarter of the year. But some positive – and telling – news came to the surface as well: Slower service and higher prices have not deterred guests, who have shown continued interest in both indoor and outdoor dining options. In fact, NPD Group reports that on-premise restaurant visits climbed 38 percent during the first quarter as compared to the 45 percent drop at the same time last year. At the same time, people are being drawn to dining options that offer an experience: Yelp reported openings for conveyor sushi spiked 500 percent, dinner theater increased 240 percent, supper clubs rose 200 percent and themed cafes climbed 75 percent over the same period last year. Of course, last year looked quite different from this year in a number of ways – and now we’re looking at the likely prospect of a minor recession (and a rise in unemployment) on the horizon. To be sure, the constant fluctuations in the economy and ongoing labor challenges will keep operators on their toes in the months ahead. But the good news is that consumers will continue to look for positive experiences that provide an escape. Where possible, consider what experiences you can offer guests that require minimal labor – whether through automation, pop-ups, or rotating menu items that have an experiential element.
When inflation is high and consumers are minding their budgets a bit more, they may need some extra incentive to dine out. Your special events and promotions can provide it. Looking at what you do best, as well as entertainment options that could complement it, what event might you create that would draw a crowd? Whether it’s hosting an Oktoberfest celebration, World Cup party or simply developing a menu that relates to a popular community event already in the works, find a vehicle to make the choice to dine away from home an easy one.