It's understandable that the Hyatt Regency, which last week announced it was opening a new bar and restaurant "just in time for the big game," would want to take advantage of Super Bowl traffic. But a longtime member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International group says it's not always advisable to rush an opening just because three-quarters of a million people are coming to town.
"When a restaurant opens, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression," says Bill Bender of W.H. Bender & Associates, a restaurant consulting firm in Santa Clara, California. "It can irreparably harm your brand in ways which would take a long time to recover from."
Bender suspects most Super Bowl visitors will patronize restaurants with established reputations, not freshly hung shingles. "People want to go to restaurants that have systems that work," he says. But there's always the chance of a new restaurant getting slammed by a crowd that would pose a challenge to restaurants that long ago perfected their menus and staffing strategies.
"You have to make sure you're ready," says Bender, who's shepherded a sports bar and comedy club through Super Bowl weekends. "You have to have a full staff; you have to have your systems working."
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"We see it all the time," he adds. "Most people are looking to make money right away. As soon as they're approved, they open up. It's a big mistake. It takes two to four weeks to get equipment programmed and the staff working as a team."
The right menu won't impress if service is flawed, Bender says: "You can have a great chef, but if someone gets cold food, it doesn't matter."
Bender recommends restaurants set on opening for the Super Bowl focus on creating memorable experiences.
"Don't be cost-control minded," he says. "Have extra staff, have hostesses circulating with food samples. And that's besides putting up streamers and balloons. You want these people to be wowed."