What comes to mind when you hear there is an expected surge of over a million possible guests entering your city for a weekend event? Disbelief? Excitement? Anxiety? How about all three? Having weathered major city-wide events in the past (BCS bowl games, March Madness, even one weekend that merged two huge NCAA football teams, a NASCAR race, and a comic/anime convention) we learned to remain cautiously optimistic towards promises of large influxes of people into our city – you can’t always guess where they want to go when they are in town.
But this was Super Bowl LIII – one of the biggest events in the country each year. Not every city can have an event of this magnitude, but there are lessons to learn for other major events that your city is hosting from conventions to NCAA events…even parades and outdoor festivals.
Nothing is more important than organizing, planning and knowing when to be flexible. The decision to plan early and think outside norms paid off huge dividends for us, leading to impressive profit margins and well-maintained inventories amid many other restaurants running out of product and staffing.
Knowing that major sponsors initiated their partnership search at the beginning of the previous year, “haste” was the team buzzword. Acting quickly enabled us to pair up with two major brands synonymous with the Super Bowl. These partnerships brought a critical cash influx to the restaurant to support purchasing and planning expenses while capitalizing on joint marketing to promote our brand and increase customer awareness. With these agreements signed and secured, we compartmentalized the restaurant into: menus, beverage program, FF&E and staffing.
A quick assessment of the kitchen demonstrated the line would prove to small to handle the anticipated guests and the menu too broad to efficiently maintain the demand. Working with the chef and suppliers enabled us to streamline the menu and showcase more profitable options. This included a plan for outdoor sale of wings, hotdogs, and other stadium fare. This led to the kitchen running smoothly and maintaining the targeted quality and inventory of product.
We believed that a full bar with 75-plus types of spirits would force delayed drink times and lost revenue as customers abandon ordering more rounds. A simplified bar strategy called for a well and one top shelf option of each liquor reducing selection to less than 20 brands. Liquor distributors submitted case discounts on popular brands and assisted in securing additional bottle openers, shakers, strainers, and other essential bar tools. Using the POS, we eliminated the ability to start tabs, requiring our bar staff to use a pay as you go system. These combined strategies eliminated walk-out tabs, reduced service bar drink times, and minimized bar comps. Bartenders quickly adopted the new protocols and retained efficiency during the restaurant’s busiest moments.
With the plan and layout in place, attention turned to tackling labor. A list of all staffed stations and estimated schedules created an ideal quantity of each position. The team also established a minimum quantity of each position needed. To hire additional staffing, we marketed a job fair across multiple hospitality social media groups and targeted job boards. Candidates submitted detailed hourly availability surveys and we quickly posted a schedule with additional staffing to provide a buffer for unexpected circumstances. A mandatory staff meeting with both temporary and established team members covered expectations, walk-throughs, and allowed employees a forum for a “Q & A” session. Restaurant management took employee support roles to help all the new staff feel part of the team.
All the planning meetings, coordination, and, most importantly, team work helped us realize a seamless and successful Big Game weekend. Any hiccups during the weekend were easily tackled thanks to alert and ready team members and management created an environment of clear communication. We conquered the weekend and are ready for our next big challenge
Goliath Consulting Group is an Atlanta-based restaurant consulting firm that works with clients across the US.
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