Lunch Business

We have been in business for over 4 years, and have always had a hard time with lunch business. We run a all you can eat lunch for $6.99, which currently includes pizza, salad, and a drink. Next week we will be adding a steam table, with breadsticks & potato wedges and still considering other options.(can do as many as 6 items). A good All You Can Eat day would be 20 people and we usually average less than 10. Menu includes 10 sandwiches different salads, and your typicle appetizers (Wings, Wedges, etc.)Any ideas for increasing my lunch business? Have tried faxing services with mostly bad feedback. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you.

Do you have any signage outside advertising the buffet? You also take flyers and samples around to local businesses offering them a deal for coming in for lunch. If you’re lunch is slow, is it a good idea to add more to the buffet? Just a thought. If you do mailers of any kind, you can have a coupon with a discount for lunch.
Just a couple ideas.

My dad gave me an old, brass department store poster frame a couple years ago. I never really put it to use until earlier this year. I took a thin piece of plywood and covered it with chalk board paint and slipped it into where the poster was supposed to go. Then I had staff write messages about lunch buffet or slice deals and had a tremendous response.

Something like that seems simple, but we had a huge response just from the sign because it stood out on the sidewalk.

Its all down to location with luchtime, it’s just gotta be convienient as well as good food and atmosphere.

We are going to give up trying lunchtime, it seems a lot of expensive promotion and at the same time reducing prices. Harder work for less money. But then our location really dosen’t suit lunchtime in my opinion but we gave it a try. I’m going to keep the shop closed during the day to keep running costs down and use that time to better our web, facebook and mailiings for evening trade.

We also ran into a similiar problem,we tried everything we could think of to boost our lunch sales but nothing seemed to really work. In the end we decided to just to open at 4 Monday thru Thursday which are busiest times and only stay open for lunch on Fridays,Saturday and Sunday. We also used the spare time for catching up on marketing.

I went down this road at a location I managed many years ago…We tried everything and the only that seemed to work was trying to do lunch by myself…On days I worked by myself we were swamped…On other days not so…The thing that worked best, although not enough was selling breakfast at lunch…In the end we gave up on lunches…

The reason I’m adding more items is because I’ve had a few bad responses and people walking out, after only offering pizza, salad and a drink. I have a competitor down the road that has chicken and mojos in addition to the other items and they are definately alot busier than i am, and there pizza is horrible. I’d like to add chicken to my menu but am not real fond of the grease aspect and have not found an affordable option for baked chicken. I am located on the busiest street in town and am less than an 1/4 from the community college and about a mile from the closest high school. Thought of doing slices at lunch time but I want to do it right and with low volume am worried about product quality and freshness.

All pro where are you located?

I’m in Visalia, California. Population is just over 100,000.

Have you ever tried doing lunch without the buffet? If so, did you try offering a meal deal of some sort? We currently do two different slice deals that include a beverage and they sell extremely well (dare I say too well?). We do the slices to order which does take a bit more time but I think people appreciate waiting a bit longer to have exactly what they want on their slices, they don’t have to settle with what’s available.

Little Miss Pizza,

So how are you doing slices made to order? Are you parbaking pizzas with sauce and cheese? What type of price point are you doing? How did you market this?

Our 2 slice deal with a beverage is $4 and 3 slice is $5. We do not parbake the crust. We use our 8-cut size which is then cut into 4 slices instead of 8 which makes them larger size lunch slices. If the kitchen were to receive a ticket for say a 2 slice deal without any other tickets, they will take an 8-cut and trim half of the dough out of a pressed out pan and place it in another pan for another 2 slice deal. We usually have quite busy lunches so it is rare for them to have to cut the dough, they would just make 2, 2 slice deals on the same 8-cut dough. Hope that makes sense!

We are in the “downtown” area of our town and therefore have the courthouse, city offices, law offices, etc all within several blocks. I originally walked flyers around to different businesses and offices featuring the lunch special and then word traveled pretty quickly afterwards.

Making slices and putting them in some sort of warmer just wasn’t something we wanted to do. I wanted to showcase what we had to offer in order to garner more dinner business and having a slice sitting in a warmer was not putting our best foot forward so to speak. Hence the unique method to doing our slices was born. Hope this helps!

The “Dough Doctor” Tom has written specifically on this and has a very easy and effective method for selling a “fresh to order” slice. I know it’s in the archives around here somewhere if you start poking around. I don’t recall the specifics but I know you open a dough, lightly sauce it and par-bake. Then it’s held till order where it’s ( I think ) given a second very light coating of sauce, and finished in 2 or so minutes giving a hot and “fresh” slice that is custom built to order.

If you are busy a Hatco warmer works great. Pies sell through fast and the come out just fine to the customer. I think they display pizza a lot better than any buffet (besides a buffet can be really nasty and I think it always comes off as cheap)

Speaking as a customer more so than an owner, I believe buffets are one of the most difficult concepts in food you can pull off. The primary reason people go to buffets, is because they want to see a huge selection. It is extremely difficult to pull off both quantity and quality or a decent balance thereof. I personally think a buffet is going to present an inferior product and standards more so than slices. Only places with really high margins or a lot of sales can successfully pull off a buffet. Between the loss from food sitting in pans or just from having to have many options, it just seems like a loser to me. We are in a small suburb with slow lunch business. We do pizza by the slice in a Hatco warmer and it works great for me. I think as the world has increasingly become more and more fast paced, your on the go offering has to be really good cause in a small market, their might not be enough people that have the time to wait on fresh.

Thanks everyone. This has been helpful.

I couldn’t agree more with Anselmo’s post! I am of the same opinion in that people typically expect a large selection at a buffet and it’s hard to do both quantity and quality. Doing a slice deal and doing it well not only helps add to your bottom line by getting more lunch business but also allows people to try your pizza without having to commit to buying a whole pizza. Many of our best dinner customers originally came in during lunch or with a friend/co-worker who brought them along to try our pizza and loved it. Good luck and hopefully you start seeing some good numbers for lunch!