Cooking Up Success at ItaliAsiaSeptember 12, 2012 By: Alissa Ponchione
Great food promotions that create buzz around your restaurant or bar is a great way to increase guest frequency which in time boosts your bottom line. Management at the Italian and Asian fusion restaurant ItaliAsia understands this, which is why the restaurant decided to offer monthly cooking demonstrations for guests. Chef de Cuisine Johnny Forster of the Chicago eatery leads the demonstrations that highlight ItaliAsia’s menu items.
The promotion began this past January with the hopes to “get people to our restaurant,” says John Dexter, director of food and beverage. “It’s something that is fun.” And he was exactly right. The demonstrations pull customers into the restaurant to learn how to make something special; ultimately keeping the guests there for, at the very least, an hour while the cooking takes place.
During this installment, Forster demonstrates the art of making homemade mozzarella. The same mozzarella that is served in ItaliAsia’s Caprese Salad with vine ripened red and yellow tomatoes, freshly made mozzarella, red onions, fresh basil, aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil.
By testing guest’s culinary skills with different specials each month it entices guests to come back each and every time. Dexter also knows that adding wine pairings doesn’t hurt; which the also include in during the presentations.
Reservations are required and there’s a limit to 50 people, but it’s a complimentary offering that is meant to give guests something new to taste, while also creating a loyal clientele. “The last one we did was in May,” explains Dexter, so after taking the summer off, he’s hoping that those loyal guests are ready to come back for more.
Planning begins with the executive chef, who comes up with the food concepts, “then we flush them out with the restaurant director. We pick and choose what works within the hour time period,” while wines are selected that taste great with what’s cooking.”
Hosting these cooking classes in a private section of the restaurant offers a sense of exclusivity and luxury. “People sit around the bar and order cocktails, if they want,” while the cooking demonstration is going on. Guests are then given handouts with the list of ingredients for them to take home.
The short time frame doesn’t afford an opportunity to learn all the details but, Dexter says the chef makes sure guests understand what they’re doing, but it’s more about “people coming out for something fun to do.” In fact, the promotion has garnered a couple regulars. “We have about six or eight regulars,” says Dexter, that make reservations for each one.
Using Facebook, the restaurant’s website and email blasts to regular clients, as part of their marketing and promotional strategy, the turn out keeps exceeding all expectations. Guests “love it because it’s free,” says Dexter, and “that’s always good. They have a lot of fun and they go to the bar afterward,” for even more fun.