Restaurant Marketing Report - 7 Secrets To A Full Restaurant

Simple ideas and strategies to put "bums on seats" and fill your restaurant or cafe with paying customers.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Want an extra $200,000 in Sales?

Want an Extra $200,000 in Sales? Assuming you are turning over a million dollars that is what you are more than likely to find when you get to know your numbers...
I keep meeting restaurant owners who think they know their numbers but in a real sense have little idea what they are, or why they are so important? If you are really serious about growing the sales and profits in your business you need to let the numbers become your best friend.

The first numbers I like to know as a marketing and profit improvement strategist is what is the average ticket size; the average spend per head by segment (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Functions); the total sales per segment and the number of covers served in the shift.

You then follow this daily and graph the result.

As soon as you track this you will start to see trends and early warning indicators. By focusing on each part or segment of the business and their particular numbers it becomes easier to manage and find ways of growing each part of the business.

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to grow your profits is to increase the average spend per customer. You can do this by training and focusing your staff in add on sales. The bread, the water, the salads, the sides, entrées, desserts, an extra glass of wine, etc.. etc.. etc.. I am not going to go into this here.

If you don't monitor average spends how do you know your team is making the most of every opportunity. Many owners and managers find it very enlightening to track the average spend by server. This will quickly show you where your leaky profits are. Try it. You will be in for a surprise. Once you know where the problem is it is easy to fix.

Here in Australia where our dining culture is not driven by tips I often find ticket sizes are short by 20% or more. This is often because of poor training and management. Simply not enough focus is placed on growing the average spend. If you don't measure it, it won't happen.

Know the numbers and you will improve. After all 20% is a lot of money lost on an annualized basis. That is $200,000 if you are turning over a million dollars. Don't assume it is happening. Measure and make it happen!

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Saturday, 21 July 2012

How to be Controversial, Create publicity and Sales!

Being controversial to create publicity… my mentor Dan Kennedy in July’s NOBS marketing letter talks of a large Pizza chain in the States offering FREE pizzas to anyone ordering in Spanish. They did this because they found 70% of their customer base was Hispanic. The same chain had also made the news when it started accepting payment for Pizzas in Pesos as well as US Dollars. Both of these events hit the news and created controversy.

The question is do you have a key demographic in your area that you could leverage off to get noticed. It is all about knowing who you want and don’t want as a customer. These sorts of strategies can attract and repel. You could do the same here e.g. accepting payment in Italian Lire to reinforce the “Italianess” of your restaurant. Imagine the headline “Our food and service is so Italian we even accept payment in Italian Lire”.

Or, may be being really controversial like offering for a limited period “Free Desserts for Married Gay Couples or those who want to be Married” if you wanted to attract high spending gay couples and your demographic supported this. Or, a “Free Pizza for Boat People” … could be extended to anyone who owns a boat, been on a boat, etc. You bet the shock jocks would pick up on this. Or, “Order your Pizza in Arabic or Lebanese and get your Pizza for Free” if your business is say in the heart of Auburn to get your business to stand out from everyone else. I can see them queuing down the street now. You bet you will be noticed. You will attract a whole new group of customers. Whether they are the customers you want is your decision. 

Another idea could be… “Vote with your mouth… order either a Julia Pizza, Abbott Pizza or that Green Crowds Pizza and get a Free Dessert”. With politics on everyone’s mind at the moment that is sure to get the attention of the news desk. You need to be fast with this though as time on this opportunity is running out.

You can see how easily you can create a story to be noticed. Controversy and being outrageous gets people talking about you. All of a sudden you break the “disease of sameness” and you attract free media exposure worth thousands. Of course any initiative should be supported by appropriate ads, press releases and though out strategy.

Be interested to hear what you think.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

How to handle telephone reservation inquires when your restaurant is full and still make money!

It was 5.20pm on Saturday night and I phoned “Roberto’s Pizzeria” (name changed for confidentiality reasons) to see if I could get a last minute booking for Helen and I.

The phone was answered by a girl.

When she answered she just said “Roberto’s Pizzeria”

I asked her who was speaking.  She repeated “Roberto’s Pizzeria” …. Note: who ever answers the phone should identify who are speaking… this creates warmth and relationship

I then said ‘Hi it is Alistair Gray speaking could I book a table for 2 this evening?”

Response: “We are full” … no apology just a very blunt response

I then repeated my question “Are you sure, it is only 2, can’t you fit me in”

Response… spoke to some in the background… and then said “No we are full” … end of conversation.

Wow, talk about telling me to “…. Off.” It was very blunt and unfriendly; the fastest way to lose customers for good.

The telephone is a critical contact point for your restaurant and must be manned by someone competent, warm and caring.

The impression I got was very cold, blunt and uncaring…just another transaction.

First rule: Create a standard way everyone in your restaurant answers the phone. It is common courtesy and good manners to always say your name and introduce yourself.

Here is a suggested script….

“Good evening, Thank you for calling Roberto’s Pizzeria. It is Alistair Gray speaking how may I help you tonight?”


“Good evening, Thank you for calling Roberto’s Pizzeria. It is Alistair Gray speaking. May I ask who is speaking please? <Wait for answer> Thank you <name> how may I help you tonight?”

I strongly recommend you set up a standard greeting for your business and let all you staff know this is the minimum standard for answering phones. I prefer option 2.

It is important to…
  •  Value your callers… thank them for ringing… they could have just have easily rung your opposition
  • Think someone is ringing to give you money not as someone ringing to interrupt your day as this will show in your voice
  • Take responsibility for the call and the customer and their requirements
  • Start building a relationship by identifying who you are and by getting their name  
  • Answer the phone professionally with a smile on your face and with warmth and enthusiasm… you welcome their call

Remember … the telephone is the gateway to your “till ringing.” Treat all calls with the love and respect they deserve … without them you have nothing!

In this case the girl showed total distain for my call… she did not even ask any questions to determine my needs. What time I was looking to dine? Without knowing what time I was looking to dine how could she know whether she could fit me it. She did not even attempt to come up with a possible solution? If you display empathy your customers will care about you.

I may have been happy to eat at 6 or 8.30pm. Instead she didn’t ask. The larger the restaurant the more options you have to maximise table turn. Try and create an option for the customer. After all you want the business and they want to dine with you.

Don’t forget this…

Whenever you are unable to accommodate a booking you are pushing someone to a competitor to eat. How you handle the situation will determine whether they will consider coming back. You want to create good will and encourage them back at another time.

The goal is to show empathy and try and help the customer to find a solution to their problem… they want to eat

Some possible strategies to employ….
  • Always apologise when you are unable to help… not the blunt “We are full approach”
  • Offer alternative times to dine if possible
  • If you offer take away … maybe that is a possible solution
  • Offer to book them in tomorrow or next weekend… this obviously is not an immediate solution but keeps them coming back
  • Get their details and offer to send out a voucher for a FREE entrée or Dessert to make up for the inconvenience (strategy to get them back another time)
  • Set up a referral strategy with another restaurant where you agree to cross promote when you are each full…this way you are seen to be helpful and the business loss is retained between 2 restaurants. Even set up a referral discount arrangement so business remains between the two restaurants. The reality is they will go somewhere else so why not set up an alliance between 2 of you to help each other
  • Maybe only take bookings for say 90% of the restaurant with the balance to be on a first come, first serve basis … i.e. you reward early bookers, but create the flexibility to handle the rest. Most restaurants have diners who leave early. This is an empty table to fill. Or, they face the challenge of managing the impacts of last minute no shows. In this way late bookers have a way of getting a table. They just have to wait in the bar for a table to come available. You get a way of increasing table turn. Of course you warn these diners they may have a wait to get a table. It is all about understanding your flows and developing a strategy for maximum usage depending upon your situation. This is better than a blanket we are full approach after all increasing your table turn is what it is all about.
  • Carefully select the right person to handle the telephone … someone who can “Wow!” your callers over the phone with their caring and professionalism

Finally, determine the strategy and procedures for your restaurant and then communicate them to all staff. Record them in your procedures manual so they become the standard.

Always, finish the call by thanking them again for calling.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit

Sunday, 1 July 2012

12 Ways for you to boost the sales performance, staff satisfaction and retention in your restaurant

  1. Lead by example… spend time working actively on the floor interacting with customers, taking orders, listening for opportunities and selling to your customers
  2. Take time and meet one on one with each team member each week… create regular dialogue with your team members and use this as a way to communicate expectations, seek feedback, thank and acknowledge their work, build loyalty, trust and accountability. This one activity alone will have a significant impact on reducing staff turnover
  3. Become a great sales coach… spend time encouraging and helping individual team members to improve. Done right this is a highly powerful way to motivate and support your staff. After all, most of us want to do better. Use your experience by offering help, tips, and motivation. This will go a long way to improving individual satisfaction and performance
  4. Train your team regularly… despite the challenges of split shifts and casual workers, create opportunities to regularly train your team. Whether it is in a group or in sub groups. This is a powerful way to improve service and sales performance. Use role plays; actively involve team members, set challenges and competitions to reinforce your training. Create a regular training schedule and plan. This is a really powerful way to raise the performance of your team and also to improve staff retention
  5. Set up a mentor program… assign a mentor to new employees to help them settle in and to assist in fast tracking their effectiveness
  6. Monitor individual sales performances… compare customer average spend numbers by individual by staff members. The results will surprise you. You will quickly identify your high performers; those needing some skill development and those who need to be moved on. Share the numbers with team members and set goals
  7. Fire quickly… if a team member is unresponsive to training and coaching, or just doesn't fit in, move them on. The last thing you need is for someone on the team to be dragging down team performance, service and efficiency. This impacts on everyone and you are much better without them
  8. Seek feedback and suggestions… make sure you are open to feedback, ideas and suggestions from your team. Be open to change. They are at the front line and often will see things that is slowing them down or inhibiting better service performance. Seek their ideas for promotions and marketing initiatives. Involve them and they are likely to take ownership
  9. Regularly reward and acknowledge your people… a word of thanks or slipping a team member a couple of movie tickets goes a long way to acknowledge a job well done and staff satisfaction
  10. Invest in your personal development… regularly attend seminars, read and listen to audio programs; watch DVDs. Not only the hospitality industry but look outside for ideas and ways of developing your own skills and understanding. It will pay you handsomely 
  11. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate… keep your team informed about everything that is going on. Let them know about your promotions; your plans and goals; the performance of the restaurant.  The more they know the more they can help and work with you to achieve your goals
  12. Get a coach or mentor… like Olympians and other great sports people who achieve great success and peak performances you need someone to encourage you, hold you accountable and challenge you to get your achieve your best

Finally … I never said it would be easy. The most common complaint and concern I hear is the challenge of keeping well trained staff. The strategies above will help you reduce staff churn and make a positive impact on your bottom line.

After all, your people are you most valuable asset. Invest time, nurture, care for them and you will be well rewarded.

Give it a go and most importantly create a sense of fun!

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit