Creating a simple recipe for increased restaurant sales

Extremely long hours, reduced profit margins, customers who may be quick to leave scathing reviews on online forums yet fail to appreciate how you’ve rearranged both the restaurant seating plan and your booking schedule just to accommodate their needs.  Does this sound familiar? Yes, they’re some of the disadvantages of working in the restaurant industry. Trust me!  After 15 years of experience within the sector, I feel as though I’m an expert in recounting the downsides of the profession.

However, conversely, I have to admit there’s also an immense feeling of pride involved in seeing a restaurant full of satisfied customers, eager to sample your dishes and recommend your premises to family and friends. Let’s face it – profitable bank balances, happy and contented clientele and an overflowing booking diary – that’s what it’s all about.

Now, before we go any further, it’s important to point out that there isn’t a magic ingredient for success, no ‘silver bullet’ to increase restaurant sales and no single marketing activity which will reverse fortunes overnight. The answer is more a matter of increasing the number of covers you serve or increasing the spend per cover.  Of course, if you can achieve both of these, you’ll be on to an instant win – increased sales turnover resulting in a thriving, lucrative business.

So, is there a trusted recipe for success?  The following points will help you achieve your financial targets and transform your restaurant into the talk of the town:

  1. Menus for those with special dietary requirements / allergies

This may not sound like a revolutionary concept to attract customers, but it’s one that’s often overlooked.  The simple fact is that the majority of restaurants and coffee shops fail to either take this into account at all or don’t recognise its importance.  How many restaurants or cafes in your local high street offer a separate menu with vegetarian, vegan or gluten free meal options? Probably very few. Unwittingly, they’re turning away potential customers.

Success is about making your customer feel important.  “But I’m a vegan” or “I need a gluten free alternative” should no longer be statements to fear.  Good customer service isn’t about hurriedly putting a dish together for a customer who feels insufficiently catered for by the regular menu options, although in some establishments the management clearly think it is.

By providing a clear, noticeable menu outlining a selection of vegetarian or vegan friendly choices and gluten free alternatives, you’ll capture repeat trade from a section of society who currently may not be able to eat out regularly. Most importantly, it avoids customer embarrassment and eliminates that impromptu need to rustle up a suitable alternative.  An automatic answer to less stressful kitchens and customers who are reassured that you care about them.

Proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. I’ve been regularly visiting an independent tea shop in Liverpool ( because I know their sandwiches can be made with gluten free bread.  In total, I estimate I spend close to £250 a year here. On the same street there’s 12 other restaurants and coffee shops. They’re all similarly priced, attractively designed and offer great service, yet I don’t feel comfortable having lunch in them. Why is this? Because by neglecting to take into account dietary requirements, they fail to make me feel wanted.  Now, if just three other customers spend the same as I do per year at Leaf, you’ll immediately see that’s £1000 in extra annual turnover – just by offering something so basic as a gluten free sandwich range.  Add in a few vegetarian, vegan or gluten free main meals and the benefits are obvious.

I’d also like to give The Lounge group a mention here as I love their gluten free menu too!

Have a look for yourself…

So as you can see, ignoring the needs of a growing section of the community really isn’t a sensible business decision. Why not be innovative, take the lead and reap the rewards?  Investing in creating an appealing range of gluten free menu options will undoubtedly prove to be time well spent. Set yourself apart from the crowd with an alternative menu of competitively priced, healthy eating options and let your reputation do the talking for you.

  1. Leave drinks menus / special drinks menus on tables

Why do waitresses take away the drinks menu when you’ve made your initial choice? All too often you place your order and the menus are automatically whisked away from you. By doing this, it removes all marketing, up selling and cross selling opportunities (unless you have the most amazing waiting staff in the world). But even the most efficient waiting staff can’t be at the table the whole time.

Instead, why not leave a short seasonal cocktail list – containing no more than five options – on the table throughout your diner’s entire stay. Cocktails have great margin and tend to be consumed at the same speed as any other drink. Yet they command a higher price and can possibly add an extra £10 per cover. Make sure these cocktails are easy and quick to prepare and you could quickly see an improvement in the profitability of your restaurant.

  1. Follow up on bookings  

When purchasing goods online, it’s common place to later receive an email asking about your satisfaction with the goods and service you’ve received.  Similar software is available to restaurants. Services like Open Table etc, automate feedback after a booking. There’s even free tools from the likes of TripAdvisor that you can utilise to increase the amount of feedback left.

Don’t worry about the likelihood of receiving bad reviews through this, but instead think of it as a tool to increase awareness and ultimately sales.  Sites like Trip Advisor, which may seem to attract negative comments and reviews, can actually bring in customers from visitors to the area browsing online for a restaurant to book for an evening out.

  1. Print and distribute leaflets  

At first glance, this doesn’t sound like a groundbreaking dynamic new formula for success, does it?

Never underestimate the power of print.  Significant advantages can be gained from printing and distributing flyers, leaflets and brochures in your local vicinity simply because your competitors prefer to concentrate solely on social media.  Printed media is still an effective means of getting your message across – and into the homes of potential customers.

Despite the advent of new technologies, there’s still a huge number of people who still prefer to receive free glossy leaflets which visually promote local establishments. It keeps your telephone number close at hand too, eliminating the need for web browsing, or asking directory enquiries for your contact number when enquiring about availability. Furthermore, by offering an incentive – some form of reward or discount by bringing the literature in when they dine – you may fill quieter times in the restaurant as well as returning your investment and increasing sales.

If you’d like to know more about how Umami can help with your restaurant marketing and increase your restaurant sales please complete the form below.

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Main photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

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