What should you do to increase sales at your restaurant? It all depends on the customers, competition, and the present condition of your business. We’ll discuss several ways to increase restaurant sales here. But you aren’t required to apply all of them.
What to Know Before Your Sales Campaign
There’s no shortage of articles on increasing restaurant sales. We think that employing all the ideas out there may be impractical or even counterproductive for some of them.
That said, you should take specific steps to identify the best sales methods for your business. You must consider the competition, your customers, and your location.
How to Boost Your Restaurant Business Sales
All the sales ideas discussed in this guide fall into one of five broad categories of restaurant processes.
- Improving customer experience.
- Selling more to customers.
- Attracting more visits monthly.
- Increasing customer base.
- Raising menu prices.
A. Improve Customer Experience
Are you aware of any customer complaints about your service? That they haven’t told you doesn’t imply the absence of such complaints. Not everyone will voice their problems without being asked about them. This is why many businesses run customer surveys.
We’re starting with this point because preparing a conducive environment and putting up great offers are necessary before launching any marketing campaigns. Otherwise, much of your effort will be wasted when most customers avoid your restaurant after one to two visits or when their pain points remain unsolved.
1. Satisfy customers every single time.
It goes without saying that much of your marketing efforts will go down the drain if customers leave your restaurant dissatisfied. On the other hand, when customers leave your restaurant feeling they’ve enjoyed one of the best deals of the day. It’s even better if they have this impression after every meal — chances are they’ll talk a lot about your joint.
Satisfying your customers significantly beyond expectations is the best way to promote your restaurant among locals and even online. People like to yak about their great experiences because they feel lucky about it. Similarly, they may rave about peculiar features of your restaurant, such as a digital menu and the ease of ordering it offers.
Do you know how your customers feel?
How can you improve customer experience when you aren’t in sync with their current level of satisfaction? You must know what customers like and dislike about your restaurant before you can please them.
Without having this in mind, you might question the relationship between customer surveys and an action plan to increase sales in a restaurant. Soon, you’ll understand why marketing that doesn’t incorporate customer intel can’t produce optimal results.
Understand your customers in-depth.
We’re emphasising customer satisfaction because it’s the backbone of your business — without which no marketing trick under the sun can help you. All the sales techniques brought up here hinge on customer satisfaction.
You can’t effectively improve your menu, service, and overall guest experience without detailed customer feedback. The first step to increasing restaurant sales is to get a better understanding of their likes and dislikes. You can only do that by collecting information from them directly.
But how do you collect information to help your sales campaign and the overall action plan to increase sales in your restaurant? There are several ways, the most effective of which is a customer satisfaction survey. Social media platforms, your website, review sites, etc., are other effective avenues for gathering information, but only a survey provides in-depth intel and answers all your questions.
2. Conduct a customer satisfaction survey.
When last did you conduct a thorough survey of your customers? We think you should survey at least three times a year because consumer preferences change relatively often in the restaurant industry. The menu items a customer liked best three months ago might have dropped to the bottom of their favourites list.
Although relatively one of the easiest, many people have no idea how to design a restaurant customer survey. And this inability prevents many restaurants from conducting such surveys.
Below, we have listed the things you need for a successful customer survey:
- A purpose - why are you conducting the survey? What do you want to get from it?
- The length of the survey (shorter is usually better)
- The questions
- A convenient medium (we recommend Google Forms, as it’s free and can be shared via a link)
- The criteria for participation
- Incentive for participation (e.g. people who participate get a chance of winning a prize)
The kind of information to ask for.
Find out what customers like and dislike about your menu; ask them about the quality of the food, especially in terms of taste and safety. They’ll also have opinions about the attitude of your staff, speed of service, hygiene, entertainment, seating, etc. Additionally, try to discover their chances of recommending your restaurant.
Some customer information you need to obtain isn’t related to their experiences at your restaurant. For example, data like their age, frequency of visits, how they found your restaurant, etc., will help certain aspects of your marketing efforts. You can ask customers many other questions and use the answers to design your marketing strategies.
After obtaining customer data.
So, after asking questions or running a customer satisfaction survey, you now understand your customers thoroughly and have saved enough data about them. What’s next on our list of ways to increase sales for your restaurant?
As a restaurateur, you should know better that the restaurant business is a highly competitive space. Competitors are perhaps the biggest obstacles to customer traffic. Without understanding your competitors and developing a competitive advantage, you’ll need a miracle to stay in business.
3. Research the primary competitive factors.
Try to find out what your competitors are doing better, especially if they receive more customers than you. The reason is that, even if you manage to draw some of their customers away, the gain won’t last if you don’t outmatch or at least match the competitors’ performances.
Identify your competitors’ weaknesses and try to make them your strengths so that customers will stick around for long when they respond to your marketing campaigns. Service quality of competitors shouldn’t be your only focus; you ought to know their online and offline activities too.
More about your local competition.
Extensive discussion on competitive analysis will require a separate long-form article. We’ve only mentioned these prerequisites so you don’t jump into designing a sales campaign without adequate market intel. The general idea is to be armed with all the necessary information to execute a successful sales mission.
For example, you must pay attention to the competition if you decide to increase sales by raising menu prices. We’ll soon discuss how to raise menu prices without unsettling customers.
The biggest pitfall with price increases is ignoring lower-priced competitors or raising prices abruptly. Considering your competition is helpful even if you’re reducing prices to attract more sales.
4. Analyze the customer and competitor info.
Obtaining in-depth information about your customers will enable you to know how to delight them, delight them more, stop displeasing them, or displease them less. Because without this, nothing we say here on how to boost your restaurant business can bring you any enduring progress.
So, focus on the customers’ complaints and try to eliminate them or, even better, turn them into positive experiences. For example, if many of them think your prices are relatively higher or even outright expensive, you already know that increasing prices isn’t one of your sales-growing options.
On the other hand, many other customers can tell you that your dishes are underpriced and even recommend an acceptable maximum, especially when you request such opinions in your surveys. In this case, you’re definitely going to have to revise the menu. This will be much easier if you operate an online menu that offers numerous perks over printed variants.
Having taken care of customers’ complaints and probably improving their already incredible experiences, the next step is to make them buy more. There are many ways to entice customers into increasing their portion or purchasing a new item. We’ll discuss these below.
B. Increase the Average Transaction Size
As creatures of habit, you’d find most people order a particular size every time they come in. They could be doing that for budgetary, health, or ethical reasons.
If increasing portion size is unthinkable for them, perhaps for any of the aforementioned reasons, they won’t respond positively to your polite pushing towards eating more. But you should try because others will. This section focuses on ways to achieve this.
1. Develop good relationships with your customers.
This makes it likelier for them to accept your recommendations to spend more. Knowing your customers’ favourites and the customer by name is one effective way to develop a friendly relationship with them.
While you can know a person’s name on their first visit, it takes more time to understand their preferences. However, it’s easy to collect information about your regular customers during their stay.
Urge your restaurant staff to develop casual relationships with customers, such as addressing them by name, knowing their favourite dishes, answering questions, explaining menu options, etc. That way, it’s easier to use those customers as your advocates when implementing an action plan to increase sales in your restaurant.
Knowing this information about your customers will make it much easier to sell your best bottle of wine to them next time they visit - people love to feel special, and being able to provide personal touches is the key to this.
2. Upsell current or new offers.
For some customers, increasing their usual meal is unacceptable. They’re possibly conscious about weight gain, aren’t willing to spend more, or simply eat with discipline. Hence, persuading some people to increase their order size might not work, no matter your technique.
The staff upselling your dishes should know the menu inside out because the slightest hesitation could make the customer change their mind.
You can try recommending such people to other dishes, drinks, or snacks. It’s not only when a customer sits down to order that you can upsell; sometimes, people will sit chatting after a meal. You can take that opportunity to tacitly recommend a drink or snack to accompany their conversation. You should also give priority to the most profitable menu items when upselling.
3. Optimise the restaurant menu.
Not every upselling tactic involves talking with your customer. Your restaurant menu will surpass all other tactics at upselling and is one of the primary ways to increase sales for your restaurant. Hence, your restaurant’s menu should always be up to date and attractive.
We recently posted an article on how often to update your menu. You can check it out to learn more about using the menu more effectively.
In summary, items that don’t sell only occupy space on your menu. Identify and swap out those with new offers.
C. Increase Customer Visits
Increasing customer visits is similar to persuading them to buy more. This works better on customers that visit other restaurants too. Employing certain tactics can make them prefer you over all others. We’ll discuss such tactics in this section.
Increase restaurant efficiency.
From sending customer orders to the kitchen to preparing and delivering them, presenting and collecting checks, plenty of time can go by.
Your staff might take longer than necessary to complete any of these steps. Even if only a few minutes are wasted, these can quickly add up into hours.
It’s common to overlook these delays, especially when they’re short. But accumulated over time, they can set back your table turnover by thousands of dollars.
Here’s how dilly-dallying in your restaurant affects sales:
1. Delays affect frequency of visits.
Customers eating at your restaurant might notice these delays, especially when you have a competitor that delivers faster. This can discourage them from coming to your restaurant.
2. Queues reduce table turnover.
Another drawback of delayed services is that a queue can quickly form in your restaurant, signifying inefficiency or incapacity. A hungry guest might not be willing to sit down and wait for two or three people ahead of them. If there’s a nearby competitor, some customers will go there even if your dishes are more delicious or affordable.
Therefore, try to see that your staff don’t waste even a few minutes from when a customer enters to when they leave. As soon as one customer leaves, clear and prepare your table for the next. That’s how to increase restaurant sales without even advertising.
One way to increase your restaurant efficiency is by having a digital menu that's accessible on the internet. That way, customers can decide what to order before entering your restaurant.
D. Increase Your Customer Base
This is all about roping in new customers. If you can get the hack of bringing in new customers and getting them to revisit regularly, you’re going to exponentially grow your business.
Something we will discuss later is how you can utilise freebies to encourage repeat visits - this can provide a big psychological boost to help your business.
Let’s examine some customer growing methods.
1. Harness the power of social media.
Almost all your customers will be on social media, as will your competitors. There are many platforms out there, and you ought to know the ones your customers use. You can get this information through a customer survey.
After identifying the most popular platforms among your customers, you need to design and launch a befitting social media campaign for each platform. It’s important not to neglect any platform. You can post the same content across, sometimes with slight modifications.
Keep in touch regularly.
Social media is one of the most effective tools for promoting your restaurant. But you ought to update it regularly with fresh, helpful content so that people can be encouraged to check out your pages often.
Few customers will continue to visit a restaurant's social media page that posts only once in several days. If you’re posting more regularly, this puts you front of mind and highlights that you’re providing up-to-date information - this builds trust and will grow your customer base over time.
So, try to feed your social media pages regular content so that whenever you post an important message or announcement, it’ll reach many of your customers. This is an excellent means of boosting your restaurant business.
Use local social media influencers.
Can some of your customers be considered social media influencers? Do you have a rapport with them? You might get their help in promoting your offers.
Just like when we said you could get customers to review your business, you might also be able to convince some local social media influencers to help you spread the word. Additionally, across all your social media pages, encourage viewers to share all your content if they like them.
If you know the kind of food pictures to take and the kind of marketing language to use with those pictures, more people will discover your restaurant whenever you post on the pages. This is because some viewers will share those content with thousands of people who’ll also find them attractive.
It’s not uncommon to find travel bloggers who have worked with restaurants in the past - these can be a great way to increase your following and reach online.
2. Get more and more positive reviews.
Even strangers looking for where to eat will choose your restaurant without a second thought if they see many great reviews on Google My Business or similar platforms. You won’t get these reviews without pleasing many customers, and you can’t satisfy customers without knowing their needs and wants from a restaurant. Ultimately, a happy customer will be easy to sell on new offers.
Customer satisfaction creeps into everything you do to attract new customers, retain them, or make them spend more. While it’s one of the critical ways to increase sales for your restaurant, it can either prop up or bring down your marketing efforts. That’s why every concept we introduce in this guide is rooted in customer satisfaction, where the water and nutrients that sustains it is concentrated.
Ask for those reviews whenever you can.
Should you relax after satisfying customers? No. Because not everyone can spare a few minutes to add a five-star to your restaurant.
Learn to politely request a review from your customers. This doesn’t mean you should ask every single customer for a review, unless you want to neutralise a recent stream of one or two stars.
Instead, ask many new customers for favourable online feedback if they like your business. Most bright-faced consumers will assure you at once they’ll do it. You can also ask them to recommend you to family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, or even strangers who request their opinion of a restaurant.
Top tip: Create a QR code to your Google Review link so customers can quickly and easily add reviews at your restaurant.
3. Leverage the free offer bait.
Humans are creatures of habit. It’s difficult for them to change restaurants once they get used to one. That’s why peeling customers off your competitors isn’t easy.
Restaurants often use different tactics to achieve this. Sometimes, it requires giving up something to make a customer temporarily break their restaurant habit. You can offer free items, discount coupons, specials, etc.
But successfully wooing a customer to your restaurant for the first time is only the first step in this action plan to increase sales in a restaurant. There’s still plenty of work if you want to squeeze the most benefit out of that customer.
The 40, 42 and 70% formula.
If a customer you don’t recognise enters your restaurant, ask them politely if it’s their first time. If they’re a new customer, gift them some promotional item that goes well with their order, and treat them as best you can. This is the best you can do to retain the first-timer.
You’d think a new customer who enjoys their experience will return a second time. But according to a recent restaurant survey, the possibility is just 40%; this means they’re more likely to never visit again regardless of how well you treated them. In other words, 40% is the best chance of a return you can hope for on this first visit.
After a meal and before the new customer leaves, give them another free promotional for their next visit. With this new offer, their possibility of returning is higher than 40% but below 42%.
If their second experience is as good as or better than the first and you give them another free offer in advance for a third visit, the chances of that customer returning rise above 42%.
After their third visit with the same or better experience, you have a 70% chance of retaining that customer for life, with or without free offers. Your promotional offers mustn’t be expensive. In fact, they should be items that people won’t come in mainly just to get that.
4. Fight negative reviews.
Remember we talked about people reading reviews to visit your restaurant for the first time? The fact is that people don’t usually read too many reviews before making a decision.
You'll lose sales if you allow negative reviews to profoundly impact your rating. This explains why dealing with all negative reviews is one of the top ways to increase sales for your restaurant.
Some people will leave a bad review over minor issues like onion toppings on burgers when they didn’t ask for it. No restaurant or hotel staff is perfect, so these things are bound to happen. But it’s unfair for your restaurant’s rating to drop significantly over little mistakes that anyone can make.
How to deal with nasty reviews.
Some customers need just one excuse to condemn several things about your restaurant. The profit you make from those customers will never be worth the damage of an unfair, nasty review.
To handle such reviews, follow these steps:
- Respond to all negative or somewhat negative reviews.
- Transform the negative review into a positive one.
- Hide unfair reviews or ban the reviewers.
- Get more positive reviews.
While some negative reviews are genuine, the good part is that nasty reviewers usually comprise a minority of a restaurant’s customer base. You can either manage those reviews by writing a befitting reply that may get the user to update or edit their review to a positive one, or you can simply hide them and even ban trolls.
Don’t rely on review management software.
Don’t worry about negative reviews you can’t neutralise. More importantly, don’t waste your time and money on review management software out there because it’s near impossible to remove negative reviews through them.
More positive reviews to neutralise the negative ones.
Apart from answering all negative and neutral reviews, divert much of your reputation management efforts to asking for new ones from customers. This is the best, easiest, and most effective way to whitewash your name, even if the negatives are genuine and plenty.
You don’t have to ask people for reviews verbally. There are software programs you can set up to trigger an email message to customers the next day after their meal. Instead of asking them outrightly in those emails to review your restaurant, just give them a Yes or No question about their experience.
Those who answer “Yes” will see a message asking them politely to leave a review. The “No” respondents can be directed to a message box to explain why their experience wasn’t great.
Only you can see these complaints, instead of the whole world, if posted on a review website. Such feedback gives you ample knowledge on how to boost your restaurant business.
5. More ways to increase your customer base.
Marketing channels are many today due to various means of communication. We previously discussed only social media because it has the broadest reach, albeit in terms of conversion.
Here, we’ll be looking at other marketing strategies you shouldn’t ignore, no matter how well your social media pages perform. You’re basically leaving money on the table by not using them. Some are online, while you can do others offline.
- Online marketing.
- Building a database.
- SMS & email marketing.
- Requesting staff input.
You can post different content on your social media pages, such as pictures of your food, stories, videos, etc. You can also pair these efforts with adverts on Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Ads are more effective when announcing promotions, combo dishes, free offers, etc. The reason is that they stick around longer on the pages longer than posts you share. However, to achieve this, you need to know the right time to run these social media ads.
Building a database.
In all your marketing activities and ways to increase sales for your restaurant, find a way to collect a bit of personal information from those who respond to it. These include names and email addresses, phone numbers, location, age, etc. You can use this data for targeted adverts, invitations, collecting feedback, etc.
SMS & email marketing.
If you do an excellent job of collecting information from your customers, SMS & email marketing will be among your most powerful communication lines with customers, both new and existing. Not everyone will see your online posts when they go live, including ads that linger for a few days.
Anyone who eats at your place for even less than once a month is unlikely to see your emails as spam. If you know the right time to send those emails, most recipients will read them and probably respond to your call to actions (CTAs).
Requesting staff input.
Communicating with employees is another great way to sync with your customers better. Your staff will likely understand customers better because they interact with them more.
It’s essential to have a policy of seeking staff opinions regarding how to increase sales by serving customers better. You’d be surprised at how spectacular some of their ideas might be.
E. Raise Menu Prices
While this may seem counterproductive when trying to attract more people to your restaurant, it can make a significant difference when done right. This is particularly helpful to those concerned about how to increase restaurant sales without advertising.
A digital menu allows you to modify your menu prices easily. You should create one and choose from our several design templates if your restaurant lacks one.
Tweak menu prices.
You can optimise your menu pricing to boost sales by upselling regular and new offers alike. You can either increase or reduce the prices of your regular dishes and specials or offer combos with a reduced total price.
We’ve already discussed upselling; let’s talk about increasing sales by tweaking your prices.
1. Reducing prices of items and combos.
Reducing menu prices can drive sales by unleashing a domino effect across several marketing channels.
Regular customers will quickly notice and appreciate any price reductions. Those who ate at your place once or twice a month may double or triple their visits. Similarly, other customers will order more, and you may see a sharp increase in positive reviews.
2. Increasing menu prices.
On the other hand, you can also increase the prices of your bestsellers to make more money. But be careful about increasing your menu price; the implications can be instant and disastrous and may yield the very opposite of your intended goal. If you have to raise prices, do it gradually.
Even a few cents addition can grow your revenue by thousands of dollars and still go unnoticed by most customers. Those who notice are unlikely to worry, especially if they enjoy your services. But be careful here, too; a short pattern of small raises can paint an impression of tricking customers, which may upset them eventually.
We’ve tried to classify all the ways to increase sales for your restaurant into five categories. The truth is, most ideas can fit into two or more categories. For example, improving efficiency can increase the number of daily sales by enabling you to serve more customers from the same table count. At the same time, it’ll improve customer experience by saving time.
The digital menu is a big convenience for restaurant customers and contributes to their overall satisfaction. Menuzen is one of the few digital menu platforms that integrate all the tools your restaurant needs to maximise profits.
Menuzen is built to help you attract customers. And best of all it’s free. Sign up today!