I have a really good marketing idea for a family restaurant: Offer your customers a choice of low-cost, flat-fee, feed-the-entire-family meals. For example, put a poster in the window that says, “Feed your family of 4 — tax and tip included — just $20!”

Hear me out… You see, people are getting scared. They will soon be very tight with their money. They will be looking for good deals… And they don’t want to get caught in a web of hidden expenses. Sodas, desserts, a la carte items, tax, tip, etc.

If dad knows, as he walks in the door of the restaurant, that he is going to be in and out for only twenty bucks, he will be very likely to go once, and he will certainly come back if the package was valuable and the food was decent.

Here’s the way it works: I walk into the restaurant, sit down at the table with my family, grab the menu, and I look at the flat-fee menu. There are three packages: $20, $40, and $50. (The cheaper package has the low-cost burgers, fried chicken, etc. The more expensive package has the seafood, etc. You get the point.)

Each package comes with 4 entrees, 4 sides, a salad for the family to share, 4 single-serving soft drinks, and 2 desserts (for the family to split).

From the restaurant’s perspective, here’s the economics using the $20 sample: $3 comes right off the top for the tip. You have $17 left. Take away the tax of $1.25 and you have $15.75 left to distribute among the cost/profit of your food items. You should be able to make it work. And you should be able to REALLY make it work with the $40 and $50 packages.

These packages get the customers in the door for a good dinner at a good value. Refills, extra dessert, etc, may increase the cost of his dinner. But the point is that he CAN be in and out of a sit-down restaurant with a family of four, for just twenty bucks.