A new generation of innovation has been spawned – and people are looking for new and different ways to sell meals to consumers. Your competitors are no longer just other restaurants. Now you have supermarkets and convenience stores selling meals, meal-kit services, food trucks, and stuff we haven’t even thought of.

You have to think of new ways to increase revenue in your restaurant. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Emphasize Upselling.

What’s your average ticket amount? Concentrate on raising it 5-10% through upselling. An extra dessert here, and appetizer there, it all makes a difference. Remind your staff that they are in the sales business. Getting a customer to add fries to an order, or ordering a more expensive appetizer, shows at the end of the night when you add up the tickets. Identify your top-performing salespeople and have them mentor other members of the wait staff. Sometimes the smallest thing boosts a sale. 

2. Evaluate Your Online Ordering Strategy.

Do you offer takeout or delivery? You should be offering online ordering for restaurants. Average ticket amounts are between 10% and 30% larger with online orders, and 95% of those that order from a restaurant online return to that restaurant. One third of restaurant customers say technology options such as online ordering cause them to order takeout and delivery more often. You can increase customer loyalty and, in addition, you can increase sales without bringing more people into your restaurant, thus reducing the load on your staff, and you also reduce the load on the person taking orders over the phone. You’re able to grow sales and profits without growing your staff or expanding your restaurant.

3. Spruce Up Your Mobile Image.

One of the most influential customer demographics that are important to restaurants today are the millennials – the group of people born after 1985 that came of age during the millennium. These are people that sleep with their mobile phone within arm’s reach. More than 50% of millennials make their buying decision in the six-hour window before they eat, with 29% of that group admitting that the window is closer to one-hour.  Seventeen percent of millennials don’t even plan that far in advance.  And guess where they are looking for the information on where to eat? Their phones. Getting your message to them when they are in decision mode is important. Since they live and die by their smartphone, that’s where you need to be. Millennials also like businesses that communicate with technologies they prefer – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

4. More about Millennials.

Studies show that millennials are loyal. So much that they don’t care as much about loyalty programs. What is more important to them is a frictionless experience. Remember, this group does not remember a time when there was no Amazon.com. Millennials think the whole world works like Amazon, or at least it should. You need to keep that in mind.

5. Communicate with Employees.

Hold regular meetings and let your employees in on your plans. With a little knowledge, they are more apt to give you their best performance. Some of your more astute employees will know when sales are soft. Others will not. Let your team know how the bottom line is going. Some restaurants have meetings before each shift. Remember, the performance of your staff reflects on your restaurant. A great staff can make a great restaurant. A poor staff can take you the other way, and many customers won’t even have to come in to find out. Word will get around. It all starts with leadership.

6. Get Those First-Time Customers to Come Back.

A Harvard study of the restaurant industry revealed that if you can increase the number of repeat customers by 5%, you can increase your profits by 25% to 125%. Here are some tips for making a good impression on first-time customers. 1) Train your staff to seek out those first-timers. Ask them how they found out about you, and pull out the stops when it comes to service. 2) Make sure their order is PERFECT. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Greet them with a smile and confirm everything in their order is correct. If it’s a delivery order, double check their bag before the delivery driver leaves (a good online system such as NetWaiter lets you know when you have a first-time customer). 3) Once you identify that first-time customer, give them a coupon for a discount on their next order (getting them to come back a second time is critical to getting them hooked).

7. Social Media Hot Buttons.

A recent survey of more than 1,200 consumers revealed their choices on where to dine or order takeout/delivery. 1) 83% said that treating employees well is important. Highlight your employee-of-the-month on social media. Did someone get a promotion, graduate from college, or do something great for a customer? Talk it up. 3) 73% indicated that support of their local community influences them. When you support a local event or sports team, take some photos and post them online. That stuff makes a difference. 3) When talking about your menu, remember the keywords that people like to read: “fresh”, “locally-sourced”, “whole grain”, and anything “all-natural” are great for getting folks in the front door.

8. Stay on Top of The Technology.

It makes a difference. Research from the National Restaurant Association indicates that technology, including online ordering, is playing a larger role in how restaurants attract more customers: 36% of customers say they are more likely to use technology options in restaurants than they were two years ago. 8 in 10 consumers agree that restaurant technology enhances convenience. 7 in 10 say it speeds up service and increases order accuracy. Another third also say that technology options compel them to choose one restaurant over another. About one-third also say that technology options cause them to order takeout and delivery more often. And interestingly enough, 45% say that technology makes interacting with restaurants more fun.

The bottom line: we are in a digital world and your customers are attached to their devices.  Use these channels to keep your restaurant top-of-mind, so that you emerge as the best option for their dining experience time and time again.

9. Increase Prices (Slightly).

You can’t lose a penny on every sale and expect to make it up on volume. If you hold off on price increases until you absolutely have to, then one of two things happens. 1) Either you won’t be able to raise prices enough to keep up with costs, or 2) you will raise prices too much, driving customers away. You should slowly increase prices on a regular basis to keep up with rising costs, and do so in a manner that doesn’t create sticker shock for your customers.

The goal is to progress forward so you can continue to run a healthy operation while creating minimal friction for your customers.

Another technique is to raise prices on parts of your menu, rather than across the board. If you follow a sound strategy of raising prices, the few customers you do lose will be more than offset by the customers you retain and who spend more.

Wrapping up…

These are just a few samplings of the ways to increase revenue at your restaurant. The real key is to keep an eye on the profit needle. When you see an uptick in sales, analyze why. What worked? Who knows – the next time we write an article like this, we could be talking about the successes in your restaurant.

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