Kitchen Confidential: Is it time for ladies nights to get more creative?

A highly-experienced Dubai-based restaurant manager tells us how they would shake up ladies night
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Kitchen confidential, Ladies night

I see that outlets in Souk Madinat Jumeirah have recently banded together to do a ladies’ night across the complex, offering potentially 18 free drinks to ladies in one night. On the face of it, it’s a good and eye-catching generous offer and it’s a pleasure to see competing outlets working together to drive trade.

As a restaurateur, I’m really confused as to what this achieves? As well as encouraging people to drink irresponsibly in a family complex, you’re accepting that after their free drinks, they’ll be off to the next outlet. If the gamble is to be the last outlet they stop at and end up spending, how much do you think they’ll spend after 18 drinks?

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When I arrived in Dubai nine years ago, I was shocked at the number and generosity of ladies’ nights. The only places I’d seen them were Dubai... And the ‘80s. In the UK they were the punchline to a joke. An outlet that had one would be ridiculed.

I’ve had guests complain that their five hours of sparkling wine should also come with table service. I’ve had female guests tell me the guys should get free drinks, too. There are constant battles with guys drinking the girls’ drinks so the group doesn’t spend anything, and more importantly, I’ve had potentially high-spending hotel guests rightly furious at not being able to get a table because people are blocking tables with free drinks and bar nuts.

Whilst at a leading hotel group, I pushed (and pushed) to remove ladies’ night from my casual bar and restaurant. When it was finally approved, we proved immediately that our topline revenue went up and our cost of sale went down. Now more than ever, isn’t that the name of the game? Especially if your covers are reduced due to social distancing.

It’s an extension of the discount culture Dubai has fallen into and it only works for the big guns. I’d like to see us get more creative, so at least there’s some money in the till. For those of us who survive into 2021 and beyond, I’d like the mantra to be ‘less discount, more value’.

If you’re doing ladies’ night, don’t just do it on a Tuesday. Don’t just do three free drinks. Give a main course or more free after a minimum spend if you’re food-led. Give unlimited quality drinks for a one-off fee. Make sure there’s a return for the cost. Our suppliers have incredible offers at the moment to assist our businesses, use that to get creative. Look to your teams for suggestions, they’re closer to the ground than we are, you’ll be surprised at what a great resource they can be.

And please get creative with the drinks lists. House and sparkling grape or that one mixed drink we all offer on ladies’ night make us all look bad.

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