There are many creative and tried-and-true ways to increase profit margins in the restaurant business.
This guide will help you bring in new customers or get existing customers to spend more and visit you more often.
There are many research-backed strategies that you can use to make a restaurant a success, from renting out your space for private events to serving seasonal food.
1. Optimize your menu by evaluating and optimizing it
Take a hard look at the current menu. Is it too large? Is it easy to identify entrees from appetizers?
Strategically designed menus should encourage purchase. The menu should be easy to use and highlight the items you want customers to buy. It means that you can mix and match price points, popularity, or niche items to make it easier for patrons to make their final decision.
This may result in a decrease in the number of food and drink choices. It may mean that you have to distribute your food items in a seasonal format to create artificial scarcity around expensive products. Only you can determine what sells well, which products bring in the most sales, and what costs are too high. You can decide and test which combination of these categories will be most appealing to your customers.
You may have to compromise descriptions and even reduce the size of your menu if you want to make it more user-friendly. It is not possible to upload a photocopy of your paper menu online and expect any results. It would help if you were focused on speed and minimal decision-making. Clear categories, concise descriptions, and feature images make it easier to navigate and simplify online shopping.
2. Expand your services
Due to the current crisis, additional restaurant services have become a necessity. Online ordering and delivery are becoming increasingly popular. However, if you don’t have enough seating or can’t provide any, it is essential to offer more options. It doesn’t matter if you don’t offer delivery or pick up; you should consider implementing either one.
Pick-up is as easy as setting aside a few spots in your lot for these types of orders. A marked area in the store for a pick-up is needed. An employee can also be present to ensure that everything is available when a customer arrives.
You can use services such as UberEats or Grubhub to test the potential sales value of delivery. It may be more profitable to grow your delivery fleet over time, but it is likely more cost-effective and efficient to use an existing network to get started.
Online ordering is a good option if you do not intend to use a service. However, it is time-consuming and unfriendly to pay by phone or in-person after picking up a pick-up order. Integrating a payment portal into your website will simplify the process and make it easier to sell your optimized online menu.
It would help if you didn’t have everything available for delivery or takeout. You should choose items that are simple to prepare and arrive in a clean, presentable condition. It may be a good idea to concentrate on your highest-selling or most profitable products. You’ll have to factor in additional overhead costs and incremental costs. Items with a low margin may not be financially sustainable.
3. Sell complimentary items
No matter what industry, product, or service, every business should strive to increase its customer lifetime value (CLV). The CLV refers to the total amount a customer spends on your business during their relationship with you. It can be over their entire life or just a few months. In some cases, it may even be a single visit.
Restaurant owners should provide exceptional customer service and high-quality food to keep their customers coming back. However, you also want to maximize each customer’s CLV for every visit. Selling complementary products is the best way to achieve this.
Complementary can also be applied to appetizers, desserts, mixed drinks, and signature brews. Any other glass or plate that does not include an entree is considered complementary. The pricing of your entrees will affect how you approach these items. Some appetizers may be offered free of charge or at a reduced price if customers purchase a drink or multiple entrees. You might also consider creating a combination that can be bought at a reduced price.
No matter which route you choose, you should remember that your goal is to increase volume. Thus, both the customer and you are increasing their value.
4. Maintain your inventory with care
It is easy to let inventory costs spiral out of control, especially in restaurants. Your inventory is likely to have a shorter shelf-life, so there is always the possibility of things going wrong. It’s essential to balance having enough products to meet demand and not buying too much. You need to keep track of your inventory to avoid running out or throwing away old products.
Maintaining inventory is, in many ways keeping your business financials in order is similar to maintaining inventory. It is essential to forecast the demand for the coming days, weeks, and months, then compare it to actual results. Restaurants are somewhat cyclical, so you can usually look at past sales to get an idea of what to expect. However, these numbers should not be trusted blindly.
Pay attention to the current situation when forecasting sales. For example, it may not be possible to predict a record-breaking day this year from a big event last year. Perhaps there was an increase in foot traffic at a local football game or concert, but that isn’t happening this year.
To help you understand what factors could influence or hinder sales, consider the market, the weather, promotions at other restaurants, and the general market. These are just assumptions. You may not find every factor that directly impacts your business. The more you pay attention to forecasts and compare actual results, the better your inventory buying will be.
5. Start a loyalty or reward system
We also mentioned the idea of increasing the customer’s lifetime value. The first point was more about how to make it happen in a single visit. However, it would help if you found other ways to keep customers coming back. A loyalty or reward program, in addition to high-quality food service and excellent customer service, is another option.
A reward program does not have to be complicated. A punch card, which accumulates to a free item after a certain amount of sales, is the simplest way. You can also offer membership cards that can be tracked through your POS system if you’re looking for something a little more modern. Finally, a technical option allows you to send promotions and free items directly to your customer’s email address.
Be sure to choose which discounted or free products you offer carefully. The customer must value the product. However, it does not make financial sense to give away expensive meals. Instead, choose appetizers, desserts, and drinks that have a minimal impact on the bottom line.
6. Host events
Even though it is not possible to host events in the current climate, it is something that you should consider. Events are an excellent way for businesses to attract new customers and keep existing customers. You can offer discounts on drinks or partner with local companies to create a memorable experience when deciding what type of events to host; think about your target audience and clientele.
Even though COVID-19 makes it challenging to eat in, this doesn’t mean that you can’t host digital events. For example, you could Livestream a cooking class, menu reveal or bring your customers exclusive products. 2 Towns Ciderhouse, a company that participates in the annual Cider Summit in Portland OR, teamed up with other cidermakers to provide tasting kits to their customers. The limited-release ciders were then shared at a virtual party where participants could discuss and enjoy them together.
People are looking for social interaction and a sense that they can return to their favorite shops and restaurants. It’s possible to increase your sales by finding unique ways to host and create events.
7. Establish branded revenue streams
Customers love branded merchandise. There are many options, from stickers to sweatshirts to glassware. Now is an excellent time for you to offer your brand of swag.
It will require an upfront investment. You are starting a new business in many ways. Therefore, it is essential to plan carefully for the implementation. Talk to customers and vet vendors before deciding if additional products are a good idea for your company.
To validate customer interest, you may want to begin with a small number of products. A smaller number of products will ensure that you don’t spend too much and encourage customers to purchase. Next, review the results of your initial launch and decide if you should produce more apparel/merchandise.
8. Encourage employee growth
Your employees can make a massive difference in the success of your sales efforts. Your employees are the face of your restaurant. If you don’t treat them like such, they can quickly derail any efforts. Therefore, it is best to make them part of the decision-making process and provide growth and training opportunities and incentives.
Focus on upselling new services or menu items. To find the most effective way to talk with customers, you should review scripts, descriptions, and menu ideas. It is also a great way to get feedback from your employees about what sells and what doesn’t, which will help you refine your menu.
Maximizing your table turnover rate is another way to encourage employee participation. Some of this depends on the speed of your kitchen and the adoption of modern technology. However, your ability to increase the number of customers you serve depends on the quality of your staff. You can work together to optimize your restaurant’s layout and ensure that your team can help customers.
Although it can be a complex process, including employees and taking care of their personal growth can help increase sales. It makes them more interested in your business and gives them a stake.
9. Increase prices
Although it may seem like a bad idea, increasing prices is all about how you do this. It won’t shock your customers if you adjust prices gradually over time to account for rising operational costs. On the other hand, you’ll lose customers if you delay and increase prices without adding services or upgrading to compensate.
Recall your forecasting efforts to plan for price increases. Examine your inventory costs to determine which products are more costly and need a price rise to be viable. To make the transition easier for your customers, you should keep the same price on the less expensive products if you can.
It may be more sensible to eliminate any menu items or products that don’t generate revenue if price increases aren’t feasible for you. Although it may be disappointing to some customers, removing them is better than closing your doors completely.
10. Focus on local marketing efforts
What is your advertising budget? Are you evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts? Are you reaching the right people with your marketing efforts? These questions should be answered. If they aren’t, you may need to rethink your marketing strategies.
There are many affordable marketing strategies you can use to market your restaurant. But we will be focusing on the local. Advertising in another country or state is not a good idea. The likelihood that they will visit your restaurant is very low.
Both your digital and traditional advertising should be focused on local promotion. It would help if you targeted a specific area within a reasonable distance from your restaurant. Advertise with local newspapers, schools, and other organizations. You can expand your reach as you grow, but it is best to start with the people closest to you.
Are you ready to make a profit?
It is not a comprehensive list. However, if you offer these services, you will be well on your way to starting a restaurant business.
A food truck is a great way to start a restaurant if you aren’t sure how to do it. It is more cost-effective, and you can learn what you should include on your menu once you open your restaurant.
Disclaimer. The opinions and views expressed in this article are the authors Judge Napolitano.