How would you feel if the grand opening of your new upscale steakhouse restaurant was in the fall of 2008? As your doors were opening, the Dow was falling 3600 points. Discretionary income was suddenly zero. And, your patronage was only 10% of what normal time would have produced. That was the situation faced by Mark and Terri Stark, owners of Stark Steakhouse in Santa Rosa, CA. This is their story:
“We were having to throw out pricey food since the shelf life of a fresh quality steak is limited. So, we said let’s just give it away so to speak! A Happy hour saved us! We focused on a fun experience and over-the-top generosity! We told our patrons we would serve fancy hors-d’oeuvres and pricey martinis for only $1-2 each until the Dow (then at 6500) came back up to 10,000. It became the Happy Hour Dow Watch every day. We offered zany menu items like Dungeness crab tater tots, roasted bone marrow, potato skin fondue, and even a 32-ounce porterhouse steak for two!”
I probed Mark for more in our phone interview. “Our wait staff created a super fun experience and talked with our guests about the amazing hors d’oeuvres they were serving, some made from the finest Certified Angus Beef on the planet. Once people had a taste of the amazing food and generous experience, they stayed for dinner, told their friends, made us a destination for out-of-town guests. Blogs were written about us and reporters started hanging around. It saved us! And now our many guests are extremely loyal.”
Give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you. Mark and Terri proved the wisdom of that truism with their “Saved by Happy Hour” experiment. And, the payoff has been enormous. The restaurant has received the Readers Choice Best Restaurant Award of Sonoma County for the last four straight years and the North Bay Best Restaurant Award for the last three straight years. And, even with today’s volatile stock market, Stark Steakhouse is proving to be a consistent winner!