I did a lot of traveling in July and August, and I had two very opposite experiences that really affected me, and so I wanted to write about them.
In July, I had to go to Victoria to attend the opening of Itsazoo’s The Canterbury Tales. I’ve been to Victoria quite a few times before, but never to Mt. Douglas Park where the show was. Because it was an outdoor show, it started at 7 to take advantage of the light, so we didn’t have dinner before the show, thinking we’d grab a late one, after. By the time we chatted with the cast, then drove back to our downtown hotel, it was going on 9:30. We wandered around downtown Victoria looking for a place to eat, but everything was closed. The only options were fast food chains. Finally, after a lot of searching, we happily found a pub, The Bard and Banker,where we had great burgers, Strongbows, all while enjoying live music.
Flash forward one week. We’re now in Hora, the main town of the island of Naxos in Greece. It’s our first night there, and
we go and find a taverna by the water around 7 and order grilled octopus and tuna. The place is basically empty, except for maybe two or three other customers. Later, after the sun set, that same taverna was full to capacity, and the streets were crowded with locals and holiday-makers going out for dinner.
Victoria, named after the British queen known for being extremely conservative, is often referred to as having a population of “the newly wed and nearly dead.” There is, indeed, a high percentage of retired ex-pat Brits, there, so my feeling is, there is no market for restaurants to be open past 8 pm. It’s part of the culture there.
In Greece, however, where the hottest part of the day is late afternoon, everyone goes indoors to rest, and gets up later, when the sun is setting, and the weather cools down, to go out for dinner. Again, it’s part of the culture.
It got me to thinking about looking at our market. Do you really know your market as well as you think you do? If I were opening a restaurant in Victoria, I would probably assume off the top that I could close early in the evening. However, by staying open later, I might find that I tap into a hidden market. I encourage you to talk to your clients, to survey them if possible, and find out what it is that they really want, if you can serve their needs better. I’m not saying that you should accommodate every single thing, because you also need a rest and a life, but you never know what new information you might learn by listening to what they have to say.