The appeal of running your own restaurant is easy to understand: a room full of people brought together over a shared love of good food and good times. Sadly, the reality is that running one can be a very costly venture. To increase sales in your restaurant, you’ll need more than just excellent service, but the right business practice that's going to generate interest – and demand.
Depending on whether you intend to open up an FSR (full-service restaurant) or a less diner-focused QSR (quick-service restaurant), you're looking at some rather slim profit margins between 6% and 9%, respectively. When it comes to boosting your sales, then, the trick is to work smarter and not harder – and these ten tips should help put first-time restauranteurs on the path to profit.
Use Facebook to maximize business potential
Free, easy to use, and ideal for sharing photos of everything from new dishes to fresh wallpaper in your dining area, Facebook is an excellent marketing tool that allows you to engage directly with your customers. If you can respond quickly to queries and learn from feedback, you can effectively nurture brand loyalty among your emerging clientele. Facebook allows you to recognize the customer, hear what they have to say, and make them feel valued.
Update your menu regularly
A good menu will change with the seasons, but it pays to keep track of popular food trends and implement them wherever possible. The benefit here is two-fold: should your regular customers dislike the change to their standard seafood menu – with the introduction of a trendy dish like sushi bake, for example – then you can quickly scratch that and try something else, as you aren’t removing a popular permanent item. But, if the new dish proves to be a hit, it could attract new customers who will keep coming back for more.
Serve food all day
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in a new city and, after a day of sightseeing, your tummy starts to grumble at 4:30. A lot of restaurants close down between 3:00 and 5:00 to prepare for evening service, losing out on revenue from those seeking an afternoon snack. To keep pressure off the kitchen in the run up to the dinner rush, keep a contracted menu of small dishes – garlic bread, French fries, basic sharing platers – to appease hungry walk-ins. This little boost in sales could make a big difference each month, for relatively little hassle.
Utilize customer loyalty schemes
Whether it’s using stamps for buy-7-get-1-free coffee cards or discount codes in return for sharing social media posts, it always pays to reward your customers. Depending on how tech-savvy you are, it may be easiest for a young business to focus on points-based loyalty schemes (literally just stamps on a card), but you can still get creative with what you offer. Say a customer visits ten times, then they get a free meal when dining with three other customers; or you could even test-drive a new addition to your cocktail menu by offering it for free after a certain number of drinks purchased. That way, you can gauge reaction to the new drink and the customer will be pleased with having been given it ‘for free’.
Ask customers to become promoters
Word-of-mouth is a powerful force in advertising, and also one of the simplest. Inviting your customers to review your restaurant, or sharing photos of their dining experience in posts that tag your social media accounts, is how you can piggyback off existing networks. Should your customers be devoted to the kind of cuisine offered by your restaurant, there’s a good chance their friends will share this interest and want to check out your menu. Tap into that potential expansion of your customer base!
Invest in the dining experience
If the customer is always right, it helps if they’re always comfortable as well. You’d be surprised how much more gracious customers will be in their reviews when provided with premium furnishings such as calm-inducing lights, high-quality cutlery, and a sound system to put them in the mood for a pleasant evening out. Restaurants are about more than just than the food on their plate, and you could really boost sales by giving customers an environment they won’t wish to leave in a hurry.
Offer meal deals
Everyone loves a good combo, especially when they offer more for less. One of the best ways to attract customers to pick an item off your menu is when they have a certain bonus attached to it. This may be in the form of a free soft drink for specific dishes off the kids’ menu, or perhaps a glass of house wine with every steak sold. Not only a way to boost sales, this strategy also allows you to trial new dishes by offering them with free drinks: the free bottle of beer on offer will make customers order it, and you can assess whether said item is a hit and deserves its permanent place on the menu.
Home delivery service
Maximizing your sales growth comes from offering your product at the convenience of the customer. Better yet, take it to their door. With home delivery, you can enhance your turnover with orders that require none of the the time consumptions affiliated with traditional in-house dining. All you need to do is make the food and then dispatch it – everything else, from the choice of music, the brightness of the lights, and the choice of music, is totally left up to the customer. More sales for you and more convenience for them. While, you're at it, be sure to offer no-contact delivery to keep everyone safe.
Upsell your products
Now this requires your staff to be very well trained, to the point where they know the ins-and-outs of every item on the menu, but if you have a waiter who can tell customers what side to order with what main course, then you have a one-way ticket to increased sales. Customers always appreciate professionalism and usually put a great deal of trust in their servers, so they will likely make a purchase based on recommendation alone. Upselling your products in this fashion not only increases your revenue, but also puts you in stronger favor with customers who will be impressed by their well-informed servers. Knowledge is power, after all (and added revenue).
A new business can really cement itself within a community when it’s shown to take an interest in its cultural life. Hosting events is one of the best things you can to harbor goodwill with surrounding residents, as you will show yourself to be invested in its goings-on. Another great way to get your restaurant noticed is by hosting live music, as you will not only liven up the atmosphere of your business but potentially entice a whole new customer base into your restaurant: fans of the band you hired to play may be hungry after that gig and wish to peruse through your menu…
Running a successful restaurant is no easy feat, and it may take some time before your profits begin to outweigh your overhead. But if you really have a passion for food, then you need to pursue your dream and open that burger bar you’ve always dreamed about. What tips do you think will make the biggest impact in increasing sales in your restaurant? Be sure to test some of them out and reap the rewards.