Owning a restaurant is not an easy job, to put it mildly. Between keeping the plates coming, the staff happy, the customers returning, doing the paperwork, and the marketing, its no surprise that most restaurant owners fail to strike that perfect balance between catering to your loyal returning clientele and attracting new regulars.
Whether you’ve been operating for years or are launching a new resto, there are three main ways of driving sales in foodservice: recruiting new customers, retaining them, and then maximizing the time they spend in your restaurant.
Here are our six best insights to help you on how to increase restaurant sales without advertising, attract new guests, while retaining and reaffirming your beloved regulars.
1. Enhance Your Mobile Presence
Mobile phones and tablets are the most commonly used devices for browsing the internet. If your web presence is not optimized for mobile, then it isn’t designed to be viewed, simple as that.
If the navigation of the site isn’t mobile user friendly either, if it’s hard for customers to find the information they need, or if it takes too long to load, most customers will just leave your page.
The only way to ensure you’re not left behind by the mobile revolution is to make technology your friend. Your site or sales funnel needs to be attractive and representative of your brand, but it needs to be optimized to be engaging on tablets, phones, and desktops alike.
Social Media is huge, especially when it comes to mobile viewers. If you don’t have social accounts already, you need them, stat!
Maintaining a consistent, active social media presence will help build relationships with your guests, and keep them up long after they leave. You can push announcements, events, and stories about your restaurant that engage your guests and attract new ones.
2. Attract New Customers
First impressions are everything in the restaurant industry. A regular customer is more likely to dismiss a below-par experience than a first time customer will. A forgettable experience isn’t much better, either.
Making sure your guests have an unforgettable first-time experience will encourage them to come back again.
When it comes to attracting new clients, try different approaches, and keep what works for your business. Take part in your city’s restaurant week or any “Welcome” packages that your community offers (like booklets of coupons and information on local businesses and resources for newcomers). Giving away dinners as charitable raffle prizes gets guests at tables, as well as giving you authority as a leader in your food community.
Developing a first-time customer loyalty program, which can include vouchers, coupons, or specials and gifts for new customers, is a great way to attract new diners. It also fits perfectly with sales funnels, specially designed websites engineered to convert curious potential customers to return guests.
3. Retain Existing Customers
Ever heard the phrase “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold”? That applies to customers, too.
It’s great to keep new diners coming in, but most of your restaurant’s business will come from repeat guests.
61% of small businesses report that more than half of their revenue comes from repeat customers. And since maintenance costs less than acquisition, the smart money is on keeping guests coming back, rather than trying to lure more and more new guests in.
When it comes to keeping customers engaged, a solid content strategy, as part of an overall inbound marketing campaign, can give you impressive results for less money than traditional outbound marketing (think: billboards, commercials, and the Yellow Pages ads no one reads). You can find out more about how to craft your own here, or contact us at Collide for your custom strategy.
The #1 reason you should do everything you reasonably can to keep your existing clients happy? They’re your best marketing tool.
Word of mouth, especially in the mercurial restaurant industry, is the best way to attract new guests. Most people don’t trust paid ads (no matter how much you paid for them).
People trust their friends. They trust word of mouth referrals and recommendations (and warnings!) about local restaurants.
Treat your customers well, and they won’t just come back, they’ll bring their friends, too.
4. Give Customers Options
Everybody loves options. Now, more than ever, customers are expecting businesses to be flexible and to offer alternatives to make the customer’s life easier. Or at least, less stressful.
Make being your customer easy by offering options. Perhaps a takeout menu if you’re usually a sit-down. Or try offering call-ahead pickup and food delivery. If you don’t want to set up an in-house delivery system (trust me, you probably don’t), sign up with easy to use services like UberEats or Foodora.
Offering customers options, for everything from payment to packaging, can go a long way towards making them feel cared for. And ultimately, likely to return.
5. Train Your Staff Well
Your ingredients might be the freshest, and your recipes might be the tastiest, but if your service sucks, don’t expect much return business.
Your staff is your secret weapon when it comes to customer satisfaction. And marketing. A skilled server with a smooth upsell technique can increase sales in your restaurant with a simple conversation, without the guests feeling like they’re being “sold to.”
Train your staff a few simple hospitality tricks to help them bring in more sales, tips, and increase your bottom line. Here are 5 easy ways:
1) Describe Menu Items, Don’t List Them
“Would you like appetizers?” isn’t a very appetizing line.
“Would you like to try our chef’s special garden-fresh bruschetta starter, served on freshly toasted french bread?” is.
2) Recommend Specific Items.
Guests are more likely to accept a specific recommendation (“if you like seafood, try the wild caught sea bass”), rather than just “try the specials.”
3) Timing is Everything
Make sure servers know when to offer specific items: drinks and appetizers when the guest sits down, dessert or coffee and tea after the main course, but before bringing the check.
4) Know your Numbers
Encourage staff to suggest menu items with the highest profit margin.
5) Know your Regulars
Servers don’t need to describe or list menu items for regulars, who already know the drill. A simple “have you been here before?” will help if servers aren’t sure, plus increase your table turnover rate.
The most important rule of the upsell, though: be gentle. Don’t pressure your staff into feeling like they need to upsell every item, every guest, every time. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson, and aggressive restaurant upselling does more to alienate guests than encourage them.
6. Maximize Your Table Turnover Rate
Marketing may bring the customers to your door, but an empty dining room table waiting for them is what brings them in.
The more customers you serve, the more money you make, so it’s in your best interest to have a high table turnover rate.
To calculate your table turnover, if you don’t already know what it is, divide the number of parties served by the number of tables. Table turnover rate is usually different based on the meal, so measure turnover for your morning, lunch, dinner, and evening crowds to get the best metrics.
Increasing your table turnover rates allows you to seat and serve more guests, but it’s crucial that the diner’s experience doesn’t suffer. Here are a few proven ways to increase client turnover:
1) Keep an organized seating system that tracks customer arrival time. Better yet, get with the 21st century and invest in seating software designed for restaurants.
2) Reduce your booths. People get cozy and loiter. Tables in the middle of the restaurant encourage guests to move on after eating.
3) Mind the vibe. Slow, relaxing, calming music encourages people to sit and stay awhile. That won’t help your table turnover rate, but loud music will encourage patrons to eat faster.
4) More servers for larger tables. It’s much kinder to your staff (and happy servers serve better) and better customer service. Plus, it gets large parties fed and on their way sooner.
5)Don’t accept reservations on your busiest nights. Holding tables for customers who don’t show, or show up late while ready-to-pay clients are turned away won’t increase restaurant sales.
As much as the restaurant game changes, some things never will: Make good food. Hire great staff. Treat people well. Don’t neglect the business of being a restaurant owner.
That can be a lot of hats to wear. And Collide Digital is here to help you when you feel more like a hat rack than a human.
We design custom web sites, sales funnels, and marketing strategies that help small restaurants succeed. Contact us if you’d like to talk about increasing your restaurant sales. In 2020, and beyond.