Dining Style, Marketing, Menus, Staff


Lagniappe… A Little Extra for your Guests

In the eighteenth century, when Louisiana housewives went to market to buy their rice, the merchant would throw in a couple of extra handfuls after the transaction was completed to compensate for the weight of the linen sack.

Pour la nappe” (for the cloth), he would say. Over the years this developed into “lagniappe,” which has come to mean “a little extra” and applies to all sorts of situations, including the breads, dishes, and sauces. [Blysen, Judith, Cajun – A Culinary Tour of Louisiana, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2003]

In today’s fine dining restaurants in some of the best hotels, guests are often provided prix fixe menus with each additional side adding to the final tab. In light of today’s challenging economic conditions, I have seen more and more fine dining and mid-priced chain restaurants offering a little extra for the same price just to make their guests feel as though they are getting a little more for their hard-earned dollars.

The actual cost of this lagniappe is nominal when compared to the gain in goodwill and this could be offered in a number of ways. It could take the form of an appetizer or dessert included in the price of an entrée, or simply a coupon which could be applied to the guest’s next visit.

I have recommended to some of my clients the following programs to be included in their marketing efforts:

  • Frequent guests can be treated to a discounted, or even a free meal, if they are dining with friends on their birthday. You might stipulate a table cover of four as a minimum. The name and birthday date (minus the year, of course) of each guest who uses this promotional would be entered into the hotel’s database for future reference. Before the celebrating guest leaves, make sure they receive a handwritten note card from the dining room manager thanking them for celebrating their special event at the restaurant. Provide each guest at the table with a promotional birthday certificate for their own use and encourage a return visit for them to celebrate at your restaurant.
  • Offer a complimentary house wine paired with particular entrees that are underselling. This may include new wines you are trying out.
  • Include complimentary full breakfast (at a full-service hotel) for a minimum stay at the hotel. This should be set for weekdays, rather than weekends, and marketed as a value-added hotel promotional.
  • Offering specialty “martini nights” scheduled mid-week (when business and hotel occupancy is typically off) contributes to the bottom line and allows walk-ins to generate new business. Successful management of these events should create sufficient hype and repeat business – it’s what you need to consider if you are not yet attracting this type of demographic.
  • Registering a wedding party to hold their event at the hotel’s dining facility during off-peak days and offering discounted pricing on certain F&B items (but certainly not your high-priced selections).
  • Conducting “manager’s receptions” for business travelers offering a free cocktail and limited hors d’oeuvres for an hour or two during the week. This also enables the GM to receive comments and feedback directly from the guests. Although this activity is not a new concept, it serves well to notate these complimentary events when guests check in. Note cards in each room should welcome the guests to enjoy the reception. Reminders should also be notated on the hotel’s website as well as posted on the in-room advertorials on the television set.
  • The chef could prepare a “tasting menu” offering its latest recipes in small portions, such as tapas. This is ideal for promoting the restaurant’s latest creations and becomes an ideal method to test-market new menu items prior to placing them into full production – it saves time and money.

Any of these promotional efforts can be perceived as trendy while heightening guest appreciation efforts. Most likely, your competitors are already conducting similar activities. Anything you can do to outperform will not only assist your bottom line but also increases awareness of your facility. It should be incorporated within the hotel’s marketing collateral pieces, especially on the hotel’s website where guests may base their decisions based on these extra value-added incentives to visit your hotel and dining outlets.

When considering what you are willing to offer as an “extra” for your guests, it may not always revolve around F&B, but it’s the most poignant facet that can be performed without compromising your marketing budget.

It is these challenging times when we will get our most creative. Adversity reveals genius.