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Where are your restaurant customers?

• See more Sanson Sez

I bitch a lot about the stupid stuff I see restaurants doing, but my columns belie how much I truly respect what you do for a living. I respect what you do because you make so many people happy. I respect what you do because your job is so crazy hard.

I eat in restaurants nearly every day, not just on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays like so many other people. Some days throngs of customers surround me, other days I’m sitting at the bar in an empty restaurant eating alone.

I can’t figure it out. Why are restaurants full some days and completely empty other days? Every restaurant operator I know doesn’t have a clue either. There is no method to the madness of why customers show up one day and not the next. Or is there?

Sure, Mondays and Tuesdays are traditionally slow. And you can predict that business will be slow on a horrible weather day. But why at a favorite hangout of mine could I not get a seat at the bar on a recent Tuesday, and a few days later on a Friday, the place resembled a ghost town?

“I can’t explain it,” the exasperated owner told me.

If any of you have even an inkling of why this maddening phenomenon happens, I’d love to hear from you. Crazy theories are welcomed. And old timers, has this been going on since the dawn of time, or has something changed over the years to increase the unpredictable nature of customer traffic in restaurants?  

Is it possible that television programing has gotten so good it’s keeping customers home? Is Netflix a culprit? Maybe social media addicts can’t stop updating their Facebook pages. I’m just throwing that out there.

We can likely ponder this forever, but how about something more useful? I’d love to hear from you about one of your sure-fire promotions that almost without fail brings customers into your restaurants. I’ll share the best of them with you and, hopefully, you can use them to draw customers to your restaurant no matter what day it is. Please email me with your thoughts.   

Service Dogs. I got an email from Elan Akin, who runs a New York-style deli in San Diego called D.Z. Akin’s. He’s been having an issue with customers coming into the restaurant with service/companion dogs. “I love the idea of a service dog. However, since there is no requirement to show any paperwork or identification, it seems that many people are using these laws to bring their non-service dogs where they don’t belong,” he wrote. The lack of guidelines from the ADA is frustrating, he added. “Some of my customers have even asked for their meals to be comped because they were forced to eat near a dog.” Can you help Akin out? If you have any experience dealing with service dogs, please email me with your thoughts and suggestions.

Michael Sanson, Editor-in-Chief
e-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikeSansonRH

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