Restaurant Week, Using The Law of Scarcity…

This past weekend marked the start of the 12th annual Restaurant Week in Kansas City.  This has become an annual event in many cities across the country for chefs to showcase their culinary skills.  In 2021, this normally “Dine-in” event will have a strong “carry-out” focus and many chefs are welcoming the opportunity to prepare selections that will taste as good at home as they would have if they were plated and served minutes off the grill.  

Some restaurants use this event to tweak existing dishes, in an effort to make them more memorable (hopefully in a good way) so you’ll come back for more.  Other’s focus on their core specialties and make sure when you think of Italian, Mexican, BBQ, Greek, American, etc. you think of their restaurant.   These approaches are the safest way keep existing customer’s satisfied and limit surprises with any new customers ordering for the first time.   

The Law of Scarcity

Some restaurants (usually more established) may offer a selection normally not on their menu but trust the Chef’s reputation to deliver a dish sure to satisfy curious taste buds. People who order these specials, often order them because they are unique, and the expectation is that you can only get it for a limited time, so they don’t want to miss out.  It’s the “Law of Scarcity” in action.

McDonald’s has mastered the Law of Scarcity with it’s McRib.  This machine molded patty of pork parts was first introduced in 1981. You’ve probably had at least one in your life (even if you don’t want to admit it).  Ironically, the sales of the McRib were so poor when they first introduced it, they dropped it.  However, years later they found by strategically placing it on the menu for a limited time as a seasonal item it took off.  Since then, many other fast-food restaurants followed with their “limited time” offerings as well.  

What does any of this have to do with your business?

You may not own a restaurant and you may not be a fan of the McRib, but there are some great take-aways you can apply to any business using essentially these same strategies.

  • Don’t abandon your core offerings every time you have a wild idea to try something new. 
    • The term pivot gets used a lot.  Sometimes adjustments do require a 180 degree directional change. But if your core business is still producing revenue, consider testing a new idea on a smaller scale before dumping all your eggs into another basket.   (Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs)
  • If a product or service is a little stale, often a minor tweak can spice it up and reenergize it.
    • Chef’s constantly play with their recipes to give them new life.
    • When is the last time you updated your marketing material, logo, and branding?  Is there a minor feature or benefit missing from your product of service?  Have you asked your customers?
  • If your reputation is solid, your customers will trust you if you offer them something new.
    • If your business has a reputation of taking care of it’s customers and you decide to offer something new, the chances are, your existing customers will be willing drink the Kool-Aid you’re offering.  
    • The warning with this is there is tremendous amount of responsibly that comes with it.  Don’t offer it if you aren’t “all-in” and willing to support it.
  • If you offer customers something new and it fails, own the misstep.
    • This ties into the previous comment and is about taking ownership of a mistake.  In the case of restaurant, if a customer truly has an issue with the meal, it is always in the restaurant’s best interest to own up to the mistake and offer a replacement or credit to resolve it.
  • If you have a product or service that has lost it’s demand, before you drop it completely, see if there is a way to apply the Law of Scarcity to it.
    • There is psychology at work here.  Don’t underestimate the power of trying to create a little demand for your product.  There is a reason sales are for a limited time.
    • January 17th is the last day of Restaurant Week in Kansas City. 
  • Most importantly: Participate in Restaurant Week – If we all contribute a little, it helps a lot!
    • Seek out a few restaurants in your area and place an order.  Many restaurants are really struggling, this is a great way to help them out.
    • Try an old favorite and at least one you’ve never tried before!
    • Not in Kansas City?   Google – “Restaurant week  (Your city)  2021”
    • No Restaurant week in your area?  Google “Restaurants near me”
    • Tip generously.
    • Leave only positive Google reviews, if you really have an issue call the restaurant directly.

What about you?  Are you a fan of Restaurant Week?  What’s your favorite restaurant?  What about the McRib?  Does your company strategically leverage the Law of Scarcity? Does it work?  As always, we value your comments in the space below? 

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

2 thoughts on “Restaurant Week, Using The Law of Scarcity…”

  1. Curt Steinlage says:

    I have a friend that is obsessed with the McRib and he will eat 2 a day during this limited time offer!
    My experience with restaurants over the years validate this blog. Most recently at the Grub Burger Bar (TX, GA, LA & FL) our restaurant week events drove sales up an easy 10-12% and as high as 20% when a team got behind it! It was always very effective for us to tweak an existing item to just increase the WOW or improve the value add to the item. Thanks for supporting Restaurant Week! Let’s EAT!

    1. C. Steinlage says:

      Thanks for sharing the perspective from someone who has been in the trenches of the restaurant business most of his career! Good stuff!

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