There could be a dark storm cloud on the horizon for the restaurant industry. A lot of financial indicators are pointed toward stability, but not pointed towards increased growth for the industry as a whole.
Nevertheless, even in the worst of times, there are still tactics to address these four basic ways of increasing your restaurant sales:
- Attract new customers.
- Encourage repeat visits.
- Generate bigger spends.
- Turn more tables and increase flow-through.
How your restaurant tackles each of these core business areas can not only make your business more competitive in the market, but it can also make the difference between surviving and thriving in a difficult economy.
Attract new customers.
- Focus on mobile devices. 92 percent of consumers search for restaurants online. 81 percent search for restaurants on mobile devices. You have to reach customers where they are — and today, that’s EVERYWHERE.
Also, 3 out of every 4 people searching chose a restaurant based on the online results. Why? Because it matters to consumers that you have up-to-date menus, photographs, reviews, and other content. Today, we demand more information to aid in making a decision than ever before in our lifetimes — and fast. If that information is not available, a savvy consumer will just move on to the next choice.
- Spend smart on advertising. Because of the disproportionately large numbers of consumers its message can reach — and its overall longevity as a purchase — signage is still the least expensive form of advertising in cost/impressions. Investing in the right signage (with a minimum of clear, legible information in print) could be the best money you’ll ever spend on advertising.
Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth, however. Nielsen ranks recommendations from friends and family (83 percent) and recommendations from strangers (66 percent) as two of the most credible forms of advertising. Giving your customers the opportunity to spread the good word about your business through social media or other online means can be very productive.
Remember: word of mouth doesn’t just happen on its own. Jump start efforts by participating in community events, co-branding with other local businesses, and investing in some local, targeted advertising.
- Reward them. Rewards programs can expose your business to customers that you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise through email and web marketing — customers that bring more value to your business than any other.
Encourage repeat visits.
- Launch an LTO. Limited Time Offers take advantage of FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out. Not only will you draw customers back to try something special that wasn’t available before, but customers that enjoy your LTO will be more likely to return to have it again and again while they still can. And if truly successful, each LTO will build confidence in your brand, so repeat customers know the next big thing is worth it, without even having to investigate it beforehand.
LTOs can incorporate a discount offer — but they don’t have to. They just need to feel special and fleeting. Your brand doesn’t need coupons or deals — just something that sets you apart from the competition and offers customers something they feel is worth the time and money they put in.
- Respond to reviews. According to our own data, customers who receive responses to their comments return visit 20 percent more often. They also spend 16 percent more than the average customer when they do. Why? Maybe because this extra interaction personalizes the restaurant experience for customers.
Just don’t take their reviews personally, especially if they are negative — be gracious and helpful at all times. And even in the case of a bad experience, all is not lost. A well-worded apology can go a long way to securing that return visit.
- Reward them. Diners that chose a restaurant because they offered rewards through Rewards Network are twice as likely to return than if their choice was based on another factor.
Simply put, rewards of choice matter. These rewards influence return visits more than priority reservations and discounts do, without damaging your brand or operations.
Generate bigger spend.
- Train your staff to recommend appetizers, cocktails, side dishes, wine pairings, desserts, or just about anything special you’re offering at the time. It’s important, however, to have them focus on menu items with the greatest profit margin. These are not necessarily the most expensive!
Just be careful – servers must be genuine and not overstep into a sales-y tone when upselling. Customers can easily be turned off by a pushy server, which could result not only in less spend per ticket, but an unlikely future of return visits.
- Encourage customization. Offering multiple add-ons to dishes at a nominal price works well for limited service environments, take-out/delivery menus (especially those hosted online), and establishments that cater to younger customers. Why does age matter? Because customization is statistically a key expectation among Millennials (customers age 18-35), who now wield $200 billion in spending power, and outnumber Baby Boomers in the overall population.
- Reward them. It’s a fact. Rewards Network members spend 13 percent more per check on average than other customers. As a result, our clients see a consistent3-5 percent of additional revenue every month from customers Rewards Network delivers right to your door. That’s 3-5 percent in stable income your restaurant will see, rain or shine, month after month.
Turn more tables and increase flow-through.
- Train your staff. Everyone who works in your restaurant needs to know that they play a role in increasing your sales:
- Your host seats tables evenly in quadrants, so no one area is busier than another.
- Your serverspromptly input orders into the POS system and present checks in timely fashion.
- Kitchen staffkeep orders evenly spaced.
- Your bus personresets each table as soon as possible once a party leaves.
- The managerpays attention and course corrects the rhythm of service, as necessary.
- Incorporate better technology. Technology plays an important part in every part of your restaurant in 2017. In the back of house, kitchen flow should make sense, with freezers and warming drawers where they are most needed/accessible.
In the front of house, point-of-sale (POS), ticketing, and reservation systems should all integrate. And while it may not make payments faster, it is important to make sure your POS is updated with the latest EMV chip technology. This will protect not just your customers, but your financial liability as well.
And for limited service environments, electronic or static menu board layout should be quickly legible and encourage fast customization. Every additional item added is more profit for your restaurant.
- Expand for more accommodation. Ask yourself:
- Does your cashier or host station experience bottlenecks often?
- Is your ingress/egress pattern, queue, and beverage/condiment station placement working for maximum efficiency?
- Do you have the right mix of two-tops, four-tops, and larger table settings for your average party size?
- Would you benefit from a party room or patio build-out?
The wrong layout could be costing you money and customers. Purchasing new equipment or furniture, or expanding the physical space of your restaurant, could be the key to expanding your profits as well.
Source: greatmenusstarthere.com, 9-1-18 (Source: Excerpts; Matthew Griffith for Rewards Network)