10 Ways to Increase Restaurant Profit Without Spending a Dime

Stephanie Graham
February 17, 2021

It's the dream; increasing your restaurants' profit, without having to raise costs. It may sound too good to be true but in the foodservice industry, it's not just about the goods it's also about, you guessed it -the service.

In this article we will explain how educating your team around smart selling, creating intentional suggestions to your customers, and building relationships with your patrons can make a world of difference to your bottom line.

Here are 10 tips we recommend to help you keep more in your pocket without spending a dime.


1 - Teach your staff how to upsell and cross sell with every order.


If you don't already know, cross selling and upselling are a huge way restaurants can raise their margins without having to raise their costs.

Cross selling, is the act of offering something else to the customer when they make their initial order, and upselling, is offering an upgraded or premium version of what the customer is ordering.

Sure, we are all familiar with the super size question, but did you know that upselling and cross selling can be so much more than just recommending larger sizes? 
In fact, in almost every order that your front of house staff take, there is probably an upsell or cross sell opportunity. Here are some examples:


How to upsell and cross sell drinks to a Customer:


Upselling drinks: 

Did the customer order a highball? Try to suggest premium over well liquor, and while we're at it, let's make that single a double!
Glass of wine? You should probably go for the bottle - just you? No problem, that also comes by the half carafe.

Cross selling drinks:

Did the customer order a glass of wine? Why not recommend the cheese plate to go with that?
Getting a coffee? Heck, you could recommend they pop some Bailey's in there. (If they are of course of age)

How to upsell and cross sell food to a Customer:

Upselling food: 

Did the customer order a burger? Always recommend both adding something to the burger (like an avocado or egg) and upselling the side to something like yam fries, soup or salad option instead of the free option of fries. Remember, every dollar counts.

Cross selling food:

Customer going straight for the burger? Have your staff ask what they are going to start with today - *hint, wings to great with a burger*. And don't forget to offer desert.

Cross-selling and upselling techniques do not have to be obvious, blatant or annoying. In fact, the more natural the process is, the more helpful it is to increase bill amounts, and help build valuable customer relationships, causing customers to return. Customers not only feel important and loved, but they experience true value when visiting your restaurant.


2 - Facilitate a deep understanding of the menu for your staff.

Before you can sell something well, you have to understand what you are selling. Make sure that you are giving your staff the opportunity to understand the menu, so they can sell it in an authentic way.

In the same breath, staff should be tested on the menu before they start their position; and on an ongoing basis, or when new items arrive.

Another way to educate your staff is to organize a tasting for new staff members, so as a team they can discover the flavour profile, and share that information when they are selling it to customers.


3 - Learn that Customer's name.

Just like the show cheers, people want to go where everybody knows their name. 95% of customers feel that great customer service is major factor in choosing restaurant, and building a personal relationship with a customer will keep them coming back.

We are social creatures, and the food service industry is a social place. During the pandemic, learning customers names who may be picking up take out, or placing an order can be another great way to drum up recurring business during hard times.



4 - Learn your Customers' patterns.

People are really creatures of habit, chances are if you work in the restaurant industry you are going to see the same guests, around the same time of the week, possibly for the same occasion, on a regular basis.

The more you can learn about your Customer patterns, the more you can customize their experience and make your restaurant location their go to spot.

Know that Joe likes to come in with his friends for the game? Why not reserve them a table by the best TV.

Does Martha like it a little quieter when she has her weekly visits with the gals? Let's tuck her into that nice quiet corner by the window. Anticipating your customers needs will make them feel special, seen, and give you the opportunity to be their new "go to spot".



5 - Share the hits.

Every restaurant has "their best dish", why not share it with new guests?
This doesn’t mean you should only sell things that previous guests have liked.
Rather use reviews to recommend customer favourites.

Another great technique used to upsell new customers is to suggest an option if you notice a guest is unsure of what to choose. This could be a dinner special, customer favourite or personal favourite of the server. It could be as simple as commenting on which of the two meals you prefer to increase their ability to make a decision and turn over the table more quickly. Restaurant News has 10 great tips to help improve cross selling and number 8 focuses on recommending higher margined dishes.

For example, if someone asks about the salmon respond saying you like it but the Tilapia (a higher margin dish) tastes better. But building trust is essential to selling value so make sure the recommendation is or looks genuine otherwise customers will feel more uncertainty.  


6 - Make it a vibe.

ace where people want to visit.  Are the lights too bright? Music too loud? How might it look to guests when they look around. It is important to remember that guests are there to relax, so make their environment a great one.

Not able to offer dine in at this time? That doesn't mean the customer should miss out on the dining experience. Offer your customers a little something while they wait, offer them a seat, or simply remember their name and greet them kindly. They will come back!



7 - Training, training, training.

Employee’s are the face of your business; and armed with the proper tools can be the best asset. Employees need to be trained across all spectrums of serving. This includes menu knowledge, selling techniques and social skills. These skills give them the opportunity to connect with customers and provide individualized service – without sounding pushy.

When training consider taking a moment to focus on social skills, cues, and body language. For example, knife and fork placement that symbolizes if the customer is finished eating, or still enjoying their meal.

The server should also know the customer of your restaurant enough to know when to up-sell or cross sell an item.

Teaching these social skills, along with ongoing menu training, and helping a server understand what items have high-profit margins will nurture relationships with customers.



8 - Feature a dish with great margins.

Some dishes are expensive to produce and create, but the good news is that once a customer builds trust with your establishment, they will appreciate a great suggestion.

Customers can easily be overwhelmed by large menus anyway so a great win win to increase the bottom line is to find an item with a low cost, great taste, and high profit margin - then have all staff promote this item for the day to beef up the bottom line



9 - Learn and leverage Customer purchasing behaviour.

It's not just about when they visit, but about how they visit. Did you know customer behaviour can be understood using technology and tools that analyze their purchasing behaviour?  In turn, this information can be used to tailor the customer experience using e-menus and tabletop ordering, which have proven to increase bill size. Younger generations are used to interacting with screens. By removing the “people barrier of judgement and possible confusion you can increase overall bill size.  

The more you know your customers, the better you can tailor your offerings to what they want. If a dinner special consistently sells out add it permanently to the menu. Recommend a wine pairing with it or ask your top customers to help you create seasonal menus. Asking high value customers to help build out menu specials gives your servers ammunition to upsell the menu.  


10 - Make it fun.

Working in the restaurant industry can be a lot of fun, you get to interact with guests and co-workers in a playful way. That is why making a game out of work is a great way to both boost moral, and increase sales.


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