On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will traverse its way across America, East Coast to West Coast, for the first time in almost 100 years. "From about 10 a.m. on the west coast until nearly 3 p.m. on the east coast, the Moon's shadow will plunge portions of 14 states into total darkness during the day, blocking out the Sun and creating an experience unlike anything else on Earth. Over 12 million people live within the path of totality, and millions more will flock from all over the country and the world to experience this event" according to Forbes.
My childhood best friend has had this solar event on his calendar for the better part of a decade, so we will be joining the flock of millions traveling to Nashville, TN, all the way from Dallas, TX. In our travel planning, one of the most important questions we have is: Where are we going to eat?
If you operate a restaurant in the path of this once-in-a-lifetime event, whose trajectory starts in the Charleston, SC, area and moves northwest towards Portland, OR, you'll need to gear up. Even if you aren't in the path of totality, most major cities across the country are hosting countless events at restaurants, parks, and numerous community hubs.
Host a Viewing Party
Vineyards in Oregon's wine country are hosting brunches and tastings. A pizzeria in Nashville is hosting an eclipse rooftop party (complete with a buffet and live music). If you're looking to cash in on the event, try hosting your own viewing party and invite your community to come in and enjoy a slice before or after they step outside and don their special sunglasses. Since we're only two weeks out, be sure to leverage your social channels and email marketing tools to spread the word about your event and generate buzz.
Since most cities in the path of totality are expecting an influx of tourists, selling tickets in advance may help ensure you can control crowds easier and order enough product to keep plates and glasses full. Check to see what your city's municipalities recommend for preparing for a crowd.
Once in a Lifetime Special
Capitalize on all the buzz by running a special as exciting as a rare lunar event, and get creative! Maybe you create a special moon pie to feature on the menu that day or offer 15% off online orders when someone uses the promo code ECLIPSE at checkout. Since Mondays are typically slower business days, running a special is an effective and easy way to take full advantage of the festivities.
If you're not "in the path", it's still a good idea to see what your community has going on and be prepared (especially if you do decide to run a special promotion).
If you ARE in the path, be sure to staff accordingly and order enough product for inventory. You shouldn't need to extend your hours late as the event will occur from mid morning to afternoon, but you might consider opening early to accommodate a crowd. Smaller cities are being advised to prepare for "infrastructure overload" with vehicle and pedestrian traffic, potential disruptions in cell phone service, and even a shortage in restroom facilities.
And remember, don't look directly at the sun! Stock up on safety glasses, sit back, and enjoy the show (and the increased sales!)