The restaurant business can be one of the most satisfying careers you can be a part of. Its whole purpose, after all, is to bring people together, feed them, and create a moment of togetherness.
It can also be one of the most frustrating business sectors around. Competition is fierce, tastes change, one momentary slip can sink the whole endeavor. Yet there are ways that your restaurant can overcome any obstacle and in fact boost sales.
1. Participate in Local Promotions
Many cities have sanctioned programs to celebrate and spotlight local businesses. The arts festival, summer concerts in the park, restaurant week.
Participating in one, or all of these, can help boost your profile within the community. Not only does it solidify your image as a partner interested in the advancement of civic pride, it’s also an opportunity to court new customers.
If you’re looking to boost sales, you can bring people into the restaurant or you take the restaurant to them.
2. Loyalty Programs Boost Sales
All of us have our wallets stuffed full with loyalty cards from gas stations, grocery stores, retail outlets, and very nearly every other place we shop. When we stop to think about it, those cards will often dictate where we spend our money.
Have you ever driven an extra mile for gas so you could earn your points? These loyalty programs are a great way to build repeat customer engagement.
So why not set up your restaurant with this same type of program? Perhaps it’s a card that gets “punched” for every 10$ spent with the goal of earning enough for a free appetizer.
The card could also be something that holders can use for a discount on certain evenings. These loyalty programs can create a bond between customers and restaurant, leading to increased business opportunities.
3. Open Your Space
There was a time, years ago that the neighborhood restaurant was more than just a place to grab a bite to eat. It was a place for the local community to get together, catch up on the day, make plans, and in general enjoy the company of others.
Over time, the QSR replaced many of these local eating places. They can also fulfill that responsibility of the earlier restaurants.
To boost sales, why not open up your meeting area as a place for local organizations to host meetings. If you don’t have a meeting room, you can group some tables in the back to provide this same service.
Local organizations aren’t the only one you might open up to. With the freelance and contractor population at an all-time high, you could fill in some of your slower periods with Workday Specials. Give people an opportunity to “set up shop” as it were and receive certain discounts during the time between the lunch and dinner rush.
Doing this provides you with a two-fold benefit. It brings some traffic in during off-peak hours and it also builds a relationship with customers for the long term.
If the people in for the meetings or to work are treated well, have a clean area, enjoy good food, and have an overall positive experience they will return for larger meals with family and friends. Not only that, but they’ll also be quick to recommend your place to others.
4. Reach Customers Where They Are
Sometimes people want to eat out but they just can’t get out to do so. Maybe they are putting in a long day at the office, spending a Saturday at a baseball tournament, or just overwhelmed with housework.
When they think about getting food, is your restaurant in the mix? What’s your takeout system like?
Are you losing sales because when people call in to place an order they don’t understand the full extent of your menu? You can only try and up-sell so much over the phone.
That’s where an online ordering system can be beneficial and be a key way to boost sales. Online ordering in many communities is also expected and when you don’t have that capability it leaves a negative impression and people will often “move on.”
The downside for many smaller restaurants has been that building an online ordering system has been a costly and time-consuming affair. There are a number of off-the-shelf solutions now though that negate those concerns.
Tools like Placebag come fully functional out of the box. Restaurants can easily customize the experience for their particular menu options so customers can quickly find the items that they are craving and also see those that they didn’t even realize they were hungry for until that moment.
5. Three Things – The Staff, The Staff, The Staff
You could have the best location, the nicest ambiance, the tastiest food but if the staff is rude or sullen, if they are disinterested and distant, people aren’t going to want to come back to eat.
It’s no secret that going to a restaurant is an experience and it takes a number of pieces to fall into place to make that experience memorable. In a good way.
A staff should be trained to read the table. If it’s a couple that looks like they are out on a date, perhaps a more subdued approach is warranted. Where if it’s a family night, they might appreciate a more engaged and involved wait staff.
You also might consider giving your staff some leeway with a few items. If they know that the couple is out celebrating an anniversary, either because they overheard it or perhaps saw presents on the table, then let them know its OK to take a dessert over on the house. Giving the staff this freedom before they need to ask for it can create some surprising moments.
6. Appreciate the Regulars
You always want to have new diners coming in through the doors. It’s important though to acknowledge those “regulars” who you’ve gotten to know by name or just recognize by face.
Make sure they are greeted, thanked, and treated right. Perhaps sending over an after-dinner coffee or by taking some other small step, just every now and again, to show your appreciation.
7. Fix any Concerns
Remember that people don’t always speak up about their concerns so, when they do, it’s important that you listen. That’s because if one customer is voicing an issue you can be sure that others have had that same issue as well and just never voiced it.
So when you make something right for one person, you’re fixing it for all the others down the road. When you do this, you’ll discover that people are pretty forgiving and appreciative when someone hears their concern and offers a better way.
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