Restaurant Consulting

10 Ideas to Increase Sales in a Restaurant

By Daniel Kezner

The restaurant industry is highly competitive. As a result, owners must constantly develop new and innovative ways to boost restaurant sales. Even those who find an apparent recipe for success will eventually need to innovate to keep customers coming through the doors. Increasing sales isn’t just about offering delicious food. It’s about strategically enhancing every aspect of the dining experience. However, many owners often jump to new and creative ideas before addressing the foundational elements that lead to solid sales. This article aims to give restaurant owners a starting point for boosting restaurant sales by focusing on fundamentals and creative enhancements. In doing so, restaurants can attract more patrons, develop customer loyalty, and stand out in a crowded market.

Focus on the Fundamentals of Restaurant Sales First

Before jumping into crazy promotions and outlandish events, it’s essential to remember that the ultimate goal is to enhance the bottom line – to put more money into your bank account. While innovative and extravagant ideas are alluring, starting with these strategies can often be premature. Many restaurant owners overlook the crucial step of refining the fundamentals of their operation, which are the bedrock for sustainable sales growth. Addressing these core areas effectively ensures a sturdy foundation, allowing additional creative strategies to be significantly more impactful.

1. Begin with Your Menu

A well-crafted menu is your primary asset. Through strategic menu development, engineering, and pricing, you can optimize your offerings to appeal to your target audience while maximizing profitability. This process involves carefully analyzing cost versus pricing and the layout and design of your menu to highlight high-margin items. By understanding the psychology behind how customers make choices, you can subtly guide dining decisions to boost average ticket sizes.

How to Implement It

To implement effective menu strategies, analyze your current menu performance to identify best-sellers and underperformers. Consider the cost of ingredients and the labor involved in creating each dish to determine their profitability. Use menu engineering principles to place high-margin items in prime spots that draw the diner’s eye. Regularly update your menu based on seasonal ingredients and trends to keep it exciting and fresh, applying dynamic pricing where appropriate to adjust for demand and cost fluctuations.

2. Improve Your Turnaround

Turnaround refers to the rate at which you serve and seat customers, and the efficiency of table turnover plays a crucial role in increasing restaurant sales. It’s about balancing providing a memorable dining experience and minimizing wait times, encouraging more footfall and repeat business. An optimized turnaround time directly contributes to higher sales by ensuring more customers can be served within your operational hours. Efficient table management and quick service enhance customer satisfaction and maximize your dining space’s utilization.

How to Implement It

To improve turnaround, start by analyzing your current service times and identifying bottlenecks that slow it down. Implement a reservation system to manage peak hours more efficiently, consider adopting a seating policy that matches party sizes to table capacities effectively, and leverage technology like kitchen display systems to streamline order processing and reduce wait times. Train your staff to recognize opportunities to gently encourage diners towards the end of their meal during rush hours without making them feel rushed.

3. Train Your Staff Continuously

Your staff is your sales team, and their performance directly impacts sales. Instead of thinking of them as waiters and cooks, treat your staff as a professional sales team that requires continuous training to stay sharp. A well-trained team delivers excellent service and can effectively increase the average spend per customer. Continual training ensures that your staff are constantly becoming better salespeople, improving menu knowledge, adept at handling different customer types, and skilled in creating positive customer experiences.

How to Implement It

Establish a regular training schedule covering the basics, more advanced sales techniques, and product knowledge, and utilize role-playing exercises to simulate different dining scenarios to help improve their interaction skills. Send them to professional sales training events. Introduce incentive programs that reward staff for upselling and receiving positive customer feedback. You can also engage your team in the menu development process, allowing them to offer insights and suggestions based on customer interactions.

4. Lower Your Costs

Reducing your restaurant’s operating expenses, labor costs, and Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) can significantly impact your bottom line. While cost reduction might not increase sales, it has the same effect. It puts more money in the bank. Efficient cost management ensures you’re increasing revenue and retaining more profit. By scrutinizing these areas, a restaurant owner can identify inefficiencies or overspending and adjust accordingly to improve financial health.

How to Implement It

Start by thoroughly reviewing your current expenses to identify areas of waste and overspending. Implement inventory management software to track and control stock levels and reduce waste. Negotiate with suppliers for better pricing or consider alternate suppliers with lower prices. To reduce labor costs, optimize your staff scheduling to align with peak hours, ensuring you’re not overstaffed during slow periods and adequately staffed during rush periods. Then, regularly audit your restaurant operations to find further cost-saving opportunities. They are always there.

Once the Fundamentals Are Covered, Then You Can Get Creative

With a solid foundation, your restaurant can explore more creative strategies to attract additional customers and boost sales. This phase allows you to differentiate yourself in the market by offering unique experiences that draw in new potential customers and encourage repeat business from existing customers by leveraging your restaurant’s uniqueness and your team’s creativity to create buzz and grow your sales.

5. Maximize the Use of Your Space

Using your restaurant’s space to its full potential can open up additional revenue streams beyond the traditional dining experience. This could mean transforming your venue to host various events or offering unique experiences that complement your culinary offerings to increase sales and enhance your restaurant’s reputation as an engaging community space.

How to Implement It

Here are a few ideas for maximizing the use of your space. Pick one and try it out, or use this list as inspiration to come up with your own creative ideas:

  • Interactive Culinary Events: Host cooking classes, wine tastings, or chef’s table events to engage with your patrons more intimately.
  • Mystery Dining Events: Create themed dining experiences where guests book without knowing what’s on the menu or do a “dining in the dark” event to add an element of surprise and exclusivity.
  • Art and Music Events: Host local art exhibitions or live music nights to attract customers from different demographics and encourage diners to linger longer.
  • Cocktail-Making Events: Offer mixology classes, allowing guests to learn and create cocktails.
  • Farm-to-Table Experiences: Partner with local farmers to host dinners that showcase local produce, connecting diners with the local agriculture that is their food source.
  • Rooftop and Garden Dining Experiences: If you have outdoor space, transform it into an engaging and social dining experience for special events or regular dining.
  • Culinary Tours and Tasting Journeys: Design a premium-priced tour through your restaurant’s specialties or a tasting menu that takes guests on a culinary journey.

6. Pop-Up and Collaborative Events

Pop-up bar/restaurant events and collaborations with guest chefs can significantly boost your restaurant’s sales by bringing in a fresh crowd to rejuvenate your restaurant’s image, making it a dynamic and exciting place that patrons are eager to experience. These events create a buzz and draw attention from the media and food enthusiasts, and collaborating with guest chefs serves to diversify your menu and exposes your restaurant to the chefs’ followers.

How to Implement It

To successfully host pop-up restaurants and collaborative events, start by identifying chefs and brands that have a following that would be interested in your venue and align with your restaurant’s ethos. Plan the event well in advance to ensure adequate promotion and leverage social media to create excitement. Offer exclusive menus or dishes that can only be experienced during the event to entice a wider audience. Finally, ensure the guest experience is seamless by training your staff on the unique offerings and the story behind the collaboration.

7. Get Involved in the Community

Engaging with your community can significantly enhance your restaurant’s visibility and sales. This approach transforms your restaurant from a dining location into a community staple, creating a loyal customer base that supports local businesses. Activities and collaborations with local artists, musicians, farmers, and other businesses attract diverse crowds and build a sense of community belonging, which can translate to increased patronage and sales.

How to Implement It

Here are a few ideas for getting involved in the community. Pick one and try it out, or use this list as inspiration to come up with your own creative ideas:

  • Collaborate with local artists and musicians for your restaurant’s unique art shows or live music nights.
  • Partner with local farmers and artisans for special menu items or events that showcase local produce and crafts.
  • Engage with local schools, charities, and organizations by hosting fundraising events or offering cooking classes.
  • Create or integrate social initiatives that give back to the community, strengthening your brand’s social responsibility.
  • Host corporate events like holiday parties, brand launches, and speaking events.
  • Open a food truck and attend local events, offering a taste of your menu and creating brand recognition with a broader audience.

8. Create a Retail Offering

Expanding your restaurant’s offerings to include retail items can significantly increase sales by providing customers with tangible reminders of their dining experience that they can take home to diversify your restaurant revenue streams and enhance brand loyalty and recognition. Each customer that wears your merchandise serves as a living advertisement for your business. High-quality, branded merchandise or gourmet products related to your culinary theme can turn occasional diners into regular patrons and brand ambassadors.

How to Implement It

Here are a few ideas for creating a retail offering. Pick one and try it out, or use this list as inspiration to come up with your own creative ideas:

  • High-Quality Merchandise: Offer branded apparel, such as t-shirts, hats, or aprons, that patrons can purchase, but instead of using cheap fabric, printing, and basic designs, make it high-quality clothing that customers will want to wear.
  • Take-Home Meal Kits: Create kits that allow customers to prepare their favorite dishes at home; you could even explore prepared meal delivery offers.
  • Signature Sauces and Spices: Bottle and sell your restaurant’s signature sauces or spice blends.
  • Custom Cookbooks: Compile a cookbook of popular recipes from your menu.
  • Loyalty Cards: Promote gift cards that double as loyalty program cards, think Starbucks, making it easy for patrons to share their dining experience with friends and family, collect points, and access exclusive deals that encourage repeat visits.

9. Leverage Technology to the Fullest

Embracing technology can revolutionize your customers’ dining experience, making your restaurant stand out and significantly increasing sales. Beyond the basics, like an online presence and social media engagement, innovative tech solutions can offer customers unique and memorable interactions with your brand. This could range from streamlined ordering processes to immersive dining experiences that blend the culinary with the digital.

How to Implement It

Here are a few ways that Technology can be leveraged both in your dining room and online:

  • Interactive Tables: Integrate tables that allow customers to order, play games, or view the chef preparing meals in real time.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences: Offer VR tours of your kitchen and the source of your ingredients, or create an experience where your customers dine in a separate virtual space.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) Menus: Develop AR menus that allow guests to see 3D models of dishes before ordering.
  • Virtual Cooking Classes: Host online cooking classes led by your chefs to engage with your audience outside the restaurant.
  • Mobile Ordering and Payment Apps: Develop a proprietary app that enables online ordering and direct payment through mobile devices, whether for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
  • Social Media Integration for Reservations: Integrate reservation capabilities directly within social media platforms. This can tap into the social browsing habits of potential diners, making it easier for them to book a table without leaving their favorite app.
  • AI-Driven Personalization: Utilize artificial intelligence to offer personalized dining recommendations based on a customer’s previous orders or preferences, enhancing the customer experience and encouraging repeat visits.
  • Blockchain for Transparency: Implement blockchain technology to provide transparency about sourcing ingredients, appealing to customers interested in ethical and sustainable dining.

10. Create Your Golden Cheeseburger

Introducing a high-profile, signature dish can significantly elevate your restaurant’s brand and attract media attention, increasing sales. When implementing this idea, restaurants have gone as far as serving a $1000 gold-leafed cheeseburger. Such unique culinary creations become talking points that encourage customers to visit your restaurant for the novelty and experience. This strategy boosts immediate sales and enhances your restaurant’s reputation as a destination for unique dining experiences.

How to Implement It

Creating an extravagant menu item involves identifying a dish that aligns with your restaurant’s theme and can be elevated with premium ingredients or an unusual presentation. Research current culinary trends and existing customer preferences for inspiration, then once you’ve developed your signature dish, market it through social media, influencer partnerships, press releases, and local media to generate buzz. Consider hosting a launch event to introduce the dish, inviting influencers and food critics to amplify its impact. Remember, the goal is to create a memorable experience that guests will share, promoting word-of-mouth and attracting new customers eager to try your culinary masterpiece.

There Are So Many Fun Ways to Increase Restaurant Sales

Implementing the strategies outlined—from refining the menu and optimizing operations to leveraging Technology and engaging with the community—can transform how restaurants operate and are perceived. As we’ve explored, success comes from a blend of operational efficiency, customer-centric experiences, and innovative offerings. The journey to increase sales is continuous, requiring adaptation and creativity. Still, by embracing these principles, you can ensure their establishment survives and thrives, creating memorable experiences that keep patrons returning.

Meet The Author

Daniel Kezner

CEO / Owner
From training staff to designing kitchens to refining brands, we’ve done it all during our 25+ years in the industry. And we can help you get it done too. We’ve developed the strategies to make it work....and that’s what makes us the consultants who can help you get where you want to be.
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