We all have quirky tendencies when it comes to our food. They may pop up while we're cooking and mix a few ingredients that have no business being together, yet the food comes out amazing. They could show up in the way we eat our food, like my brother who dips his potato chips in soda. When you run a restaurant such quirks or unexpected food combinations are important in setting your establishment apart.
Take for example, "Bacon Happy Hour" hosted each month at the now famous restaurant, Bad Decisions in Baltimore, or the "Skippy's Dare" pie at Randy's Wooster Street Pizza in Connecticut, comprised of provolone, bacon and peanut butter. For the record, I've had it and it's amazing. My favorite is Vinted Wine Bar in West Hartford, Conn., which offers an unexpected take on the traditional breakfast egg sandwich, complete with foie gras, truffle cheese, beef short rib and a poached quail egg.
These are just a few examples of the one-of-a-kind and seemingly outlandish risks chefs and owners are willing to take to stand out from the crowd. Here is the great thing: When executed right, they work. They are unique, they have a story and they are memorable.
What does this mean for your restaurant? Having a distinct, unorthodox, wacky food item or special can distinguish you in a big way. In the restaurant world filled with small margins, it's worth your time to produce an untraditional dish that carries a marked-up price that both intrigues and invites customers to your restaurant.
To help you produce a quirky dish that will get customers' attention while increasing your revenue, you need to first think through how you want to develop the dish or concept. For example, you can get people's attention by running a contest for the wackiest dish. Decide how long you want to run the contest, your strategy to publicize it, how food submission ideas will be accepted, the prize for the winning dish and how you'll introduce the new item on your menu.
Definitely use social media to help get the word out, but don't forget to promote the idea within your restaurant through on-table signage and your wait staff. You'll also need to brainstorm a sales strategy to get the most revenue potential.
Now that you have your game plan set, run the contest and make sure to keep your audience up-to-date with submissions, the individuals who made the submission, and how much time is left to submit ideas. Don't let up on the communication. Keep up the buzz.
After you choose a winner, again publicize who the winner is, what the winning dish or special was with a picture, and the name. Put it on your menu at a premium price and start executing your sales strategy. Boost that bottom line further by upselling current menu items that complement the new dish.
This will open up avenues for you to get more experimental and fun with your offerings. Experiment with other items that are currently on your menu like drinks, appetizers and desserts to find that next wacky and customer-attracting item.
Bacon ice cream anyone?