If you’re a restaurant owner right now, you desperately need to increase restaurant sales and revenue as quickly as possible (like yesterday).
The idea that the economy will just be turned back on and everything will be like it was before is a pipe dream.
For your restaurant to survive, you need to figure out how to increase restaurant sales, revenue, and profitability for at least the next 12-18 months.
Anything less is a short sited approach.
Because even as lockdown orders and restrictions ease, consumer spending in close proximity locations (like restaurants) is not going to magically re-appear.
Also, what happens when (not if) there is a massive
My family are restaurant power users. Before the pandemic, we ate out more than we ate in.
Even so, eating out is great, but not if I could be putting my family at risk.
That stinks for restaurants and unfortunately, not all restaurants are going to survive this economic shutdown.
But I believe there is a way for restaurants to thrive and not just survive during this pandemic.
If you’re ready to learn how to start thriving, let’s get started.
Keep in mind, the first few ways are general things you should already know but are good reminders.
Then I’ll get into some specific and actionable strategies in section II.
Restaurant Sales Action Plan (Part I)
When you’re on a flight, the safety procedure that nobody pays attention to explains what to do in an emergency.
In the event that the plane is going down, your are directed to your mask on before helping others.
If you pass out or die, you’re no help to anybody.
Make no mistake about it, some restaurants are “going down” in this economy.
As a restaurant owner, your first job is to survive, then you focus on how to thrive.
As a restaurant owner, I know that many of your employees are like family.
You want to help them and probably already have at great cost and possibly risk to yourself or your business.
Some of the concepts here may be hard to swallow, but if you don’t put aside your feelings as the leader and steer your ship, no employee will escape the consequences.
If the ship (your restaurant) goes down, everyone on the ship goes down with it.
Keep that in mind as you read some of the more difficult points in this article.
I’m giving you ideas to help and some of those ideas require sacrifice.
Here we go.
1. Really Understand Your Best Asset
You number one asset is people, not food.
Your people and your staff.
It’s your staff who will ultimately be able to increase restaurant sales and revenue for you.
Your employees are your #1 asset.
If they know you feel this way, they aren’t going to show up the way you need them to during this crisis.
They will be worked harder, stressed out more, and under duress while at the same time trying to take care of your customers.
Protect them and provide PPE for everyone including masks and gloves when appropriate.
In fact, you can support us and this site simply by ordering your PPE through our amazon affiliate links here:
Also, require them to protect themselves and your customers.
If they don’t want to do it, it’s time for them to go.
It’s that simple.
Some employees will push back on this initiative. If they submit or if they leave, either outcome will increase the respect, admiration, and loyalty you have among the remaining employees.
You are no longer running a restaurant, you are driving a vision to save the livelihood of everyone on staff!
Hard discussions and decisions will have to be part of the process.
If you can think of any other ways to keep the staff even safer or feel safer, do it.
Actions speak louder than words.
Even if you’ve not been the best leader, putting their health and safety above all else will inevitably make them understand that you do care tremendously about them and their family.
A good brainstorm session to get their ideas on how to make everyone safer is a good place to start.
Then implement the ideas you can and thoroughly explain why you can’t implement the ideas you can’t.
They need to understand the why behind the “no”.
2. Protect Your Profit
What do you know? The first hard truth has reeled it’s ugly head.
Your #1 goal above all else is to increase restaurant sales.
You must be be profitable no matter what.
You can’t pay your bills, order food and supplies, pay employees, etc. if you aren’t making profit.
Sure, you can borrow, but eventually that will come to an end or overwhelm you financially and you’re just kicking the can down the road.
There are limits on the emergency funding and loans.
I’m not sure of all of them or of all the details.
What I’m positive about is that when the deadline arrives, you may not financially be able to keep kicking the can down the road.
So you need to be ready.
If you don’t increase restaurant sales revenue and profitability enough to justify the staff you’re paying, then eventually you’ll need to let some people go and thin your staff.
It’s not easy.
But it may need to be done and you need to be emotionally prepared to do it and have a plan in place.
The only way around it is to implement all the ideas below and hope you produce enough revenue to stay afloat or turn a good profit.
3. Practice Full Transparency with Staff
If you’re in a dire situation you need to be upfront with employees.
They need to know how serious it is as well as how important they are to restaurant sales and the overall success of your establishment.
Sure, you could keep it from them and try to shoulder it all as the leader.
But do you really think you’re keeping it from them?
They’ll read the stress in your body language, your tone, your emotional state, and maybe by some of the things you say.
They’ve been with you for awhile… if sales are suffering and things are bleak, they already know it.
They know it because they know what your typical sales look like.
That means they know what a decrease looks like as well.
If you’ve treated them right they should be passionate about helping you increase restaurant sales so you can stay afloat.
We have a president who has consistently promoted the message that there is no problem and no serious risk, just a little speed bump… everything will be okay, everyone’s going to be okay.
Guess what Mr. President?
Everything’s not okay and everyone’s not going to be okay.
Some businesses will never recover.
Some people will never recover.
Some people will die.
Intelligent thinking humans have lost respect for Trump as a leader.
Don’t give your staff a reason to do the same thing.
Paint a vision of the battle plan.
Lead your staff to battle.
4. Keep an Eye on the Supply Chain
What happens if the supply chain breaks down?
You need to keep an eye on the restaurant supply chain and have a plan.
Perhaps you could scale back your menu, increase your restaurant sales in other areas, or offer new dishes.
Whatever you decide to do, you need to have a plan already set for IF this happens so you are prepared to pivot faster than your competition.
This is another good place for communication.
Talk to your staff. Ask them what they think the best plan would be in the event that happens.
You may find out that some of your employees are super creative and have a great handle on business strategies.
Some of them will shine during this pandemic.
5. Know and Promote Your
Most Profitable Dishes and Items
Do you know which dishes you make the most profit on?
Do you which items sell the most?
Do you know which will increase restaurant sales and your bottom line the most?
If you don’t know your numbers, the time to learn them is right now.
When sales are slow, profitability is ten times more important.
You and your staff need to be hyper-focused on selling your high-margin products.
Is it an appetizer?
A main course?
A specific drink?
Don’t just pay attention to the percentage, the numbers are important too.
Maybe a cheaper dish has a higher profit margin when looking at percentages but a more expensive dish makes you more money per sale.
Which on do you focus on?
Focus on both.
If you have any high profit item that can be made quickly, easily, and sold in bulk, then consider running a special to get as many out the door as quick as possible.
6. Re-train Staff to Always offer Upsells
In most restaurants we frequent, upsells happen sometimes depending on the server or order taker.
It’s no longer optional, you need to upsell every single customer before closing down the sale.
Those upsells need to be targeted and focused on high profit desserts and/or boxed carryout for tomorrow.
Think about if from a customer perspective.
We’re all locked down and those of us still choosing to stay inside are tired of cooking and preparing meals.
Regardless of your food, there is still a pain point… that is dinner the next day.
It can be this simple:
When you have a customer on the phone, your upsell could include tomorrow’s dinner.
“Would you like to add XYZ to your order… it heats up really well and would be perfect for tomorrow”
“Would you like to duplicate your order and have dinner ready to go tomorrow?
They are on the phone.
They are tired of cooking.
AND they are hungry (they haven’t eaten yet).
Give them the option to order more.
Even if it only equates to 10 more sales per day… those add up!
The key is to make it a system or script and have an expectation that everyone do it.
Don’t forget to communicate why you’re doing it to your staff so there is more buy in.
If there is genuine buy-in, they will do it even if nobody is standing there watching or listening to them.
Increase Restaurant Sales Action Plan (Part II)
Give the Customer What they Want
7. Toilet Paper… Really?
I don’t know about you, but our area ran out of toilet paper during the coronavirus lockdown.
It was really hard to get and was sold out everywhere.
Interestingly, many restaurants and small businesses were commercially stocked when everything shut down.
So one local restaurant was giving a free roll with every order over a certain amount.
It sounds stupid, but take out orders were flying off the shelf.
His restaurant is about 90 minutes from my house but I wrote down the restaurant name and number.
My plan if we ran out… order food from his restaurant if they were still giving the toilet paper away.
Start to ask better questions.
What do you have that the customer wants?
Let’s say the public grocery supply chain goes down for something that you can still order commercially.
Maybe you could run promotions to increase sales or even order extra supplies and get them into the market.
Make sure you aren’t breaking any federal or local laws.
As long as you aren’t price gouging, I don’t see how being creative to meet a supply and demand deficit could hurt you.
It would only help, so be creative and look for opportunities.
8. Over Communicate Safety
You know what else customers want?
When I do order food these days I wonder about safety and potential contamination.
You want to focus on how you are making the food safe for the customer and how you’re communicating that.
For example, social distancing of employees at work may help them, but it won’t make much difference for the customer.
Consider including a flyer outlining all the things your restaurant is doing to make sure the food is prepared and out the door safely.
This could be as simple as a list but make sure everything you say you’re doing… you are actually doing.
Here’s an example of what a flyer might say:
In these times of uncertainty, we want you to know we at XYZ restaurant are making the safety of our customers and employees our #1 priority.
Here’s what you can expect from us:
- We are following all Coronavirus and COVID-19 food safety guidelines as outlined by the FDA at https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
- All employees are being checked for temperature and surveyed about symptoms before starting work. Any employees with a fever or exhibiting symptoms is not permitted to work.
- All employees are wearing gloves during food preparation and changing them out anytime cross contamination could occur.
- Surfaces are being constantly wiped down throughout the day and on the hour.
- Masks are required and being worn at all times by all employees to reduce the risk of virus spread.
- Extra care is being given to make sure food containers are kept clean and free from virus contaminants.
- Containers and packages are being wiped down before being shipped to your home or loaded in your car.
This is just what I came up with off the top of my head, but you could alter it, change the wording, or add things.
The key is to communicate to the customer what you are doing.
They can’t see it what goes on in the kitchen and they probably don’t usually worry about it.
Cold food is particularly worrisome.
A simple flyer like this could put them at ease and even increase loyalty to your restaurant.
I’ll give you a real life example.
My children like subway sandwiches over the sandwiches in our local deli.
Our grocery deli was not using masks and gloves and we didn’t buy fresh food from them.
However, a few weeks ago they started to use both and now we order food from them often.
However, our local subway still does not use any masks.
When I walked in and saw that it was just business as usual with them breathing all over the food as they prepare it, I turned around and walked out.
I let my daughter know we wouldn’t be eating subway again until this thing was over.
Here’s the thing, this will probably go on for 12-18 months with multiple outbreaks in that time frame.
The only reason I saw our deli was using masks was because I was there to shop for groceries.
A restaurant only gets 1 chance.
It’s unlikely I’ll even set foot in a subway until this is over because there is no reason to.
In my mind, they don’t get it and even if they start wearing masks, I’ll never know.
9. Add High-End Expensive Options
This is the time to get creative.
How can you increase your revenue dramatically?
If you’ve ever thought about adding some expensive, high-margin products or doing something else creative to generate revenue, this would be the time to do it.
Maybe you create the city’s most expensive burger or hottest wings.
Something with some sizzle that is for a limited time and one of the highest margin or expensive items on your menu.
Then make sure the staff is pushing it and upselling it.
Also, consider adding some special services.
If your city allows people to come to the restaurant, have you thought about having semi-private dinners for an additional fee.
This would work perfect if you have an area of the restaurant you can block off for “private parties”.
Maybe your marketing message is something like…
To further protect our customers and staff, we are offering a private dining experience by reservation only. Come have dinner safely with your family by booking an exclusive private dinner party on our rooftop deck (or whatever you can offer). You will be served and come into contact with only one server from start to finish who will following all CDC and FDA guidelines. We will also take your picture and email it to you so you can have a photo of this historic moment in history.
Depending on what that experience looks like, you could charge a premium if you marketed it as an experience.
That was just my first thought off the top of my head.
Play with it.
Make it better.
Make it yours.
10. Increase Restaurant Sales by
Focusing on Carry-Out and Delivery
Everyone wants to get people back in their restaurant.
That’s fighting an uphill battle. Plus, you can only serve so many people in the restaurant at one time.
Your focus right now should be on making the carry out experience extremely fast and efficient.
If you become known in your town for having the cleanest and fastest service around, people will have no problem coming back over and over until this pandemic passes.
It’s also easier to scale.
When a person sits down and eats, they may take an hour.
When they pick up their food, it may take 5 minutes.
Does the profit margin or food cost change?
So pump out lots of food to lots of people and you may have some of your best months that your restaurant has ever had.
Don’t get sucked into this idea that your job is to help solve the problem that people want to get out of the house.
Let some industry that can’t take the product with them solve that problem.
You focus on profits and service.
11. Increase Customer Experience and Satisfaction
Another great opportunity right now to increase restaurant sales in your business is by focusing on customer satisfaction.
You have an opportunity to build tremendous brand loyalty by focusing on customer service.
As orders go out, attention to detail is imperative.
When you’re at a restaurant eating and something isn’t right, it’s easy to fix.
Just let the server know and soon all will be well.
Not the case with take out of delivery.
Try to double check every order and get all the custom details right.
Did the customer order an extra serving of bread or ask for an extra packet of special sauce.
Whatever the detail is, make sure the requests and the order is 100% correct.
It’s highly unlikely a customer will return for missing items but it will certainly make the meal less enjoyable and leave a bad taste in their mouth… (I couldn’t help myself).
That being said, you will inevitably get some orders wrong and get customer calls.
Make sure you over deliver and make it right.
Here’s another true story.
When we order take out it’s usually in the $70-$90 range.
Since this coronavirus we’ve had 2 orders wrong and here’s how the restaurants handled our call.
Restaurant 1 talked in circles before finally apologizing.
They then basically said, “sorry about that but too bad. I can’t do anything about it, you can wait for the manager to get one the phone but I doubt they’ll give you a credit or anything”.
Restaurant 2 immediately apologized and asked me to stay on the phone 1 sec while they get the manager.
The manager quickly came to the phone and immediately apologized, got my name and added a credit for the meal that was wrong for the next time we order.
Guess who will be getting our continued business during this pandemic and guess who won’t?
Customers understand accidents happen.
But no customer in their right mind is going to re-order from a place that won’t make it right when they mess up.
12. Revive Social Media Presence and/or Advertising
Last but not least is your social media presence.
It’s time to bring it back online.
There is no better way to get exposure.
If you’re going for free exposure using Facebook, I suggest creating a local group around your type of food.
There are two key things in this recommendation that you need to understand.
- Facebook Group and business page
- Type of food (not name of restaurant)
Facebook Group vs. Business Page
These are both important.
The business page posts can be “boosted” to reach more people or you can run ads for specials and stuff.
If you plan to pay for advertising, a business page is necessary because you can’t do it without one.
In addition, as companies cut back on advertising, there is a good chance Facebook advertising may go down in price, which will allow you to reach more people cheaply.
We get clicks to our targeted ads for less than .20 cents!
You certainly can’t do direct mail that cheap and with facebook you can get laser focused on who you want to target.
Pick your ideal customer or location and run ads to that group.
Facebook Group targeting Type of Food
The Facebook group works differently than ads but can get you more free exposure.
The idea is to draw in new customers so don’t do a group name like “XYZ restaurant”.
If nobody has been to your restaurant, they might not join the group.
But suppose you’re an Italian Restaurant in Miami and you do a group for “Miami Italian Food Lovers”.
That would be perfect because you can draw in anybody in Miami who likes Italian (not just those who have been to your restaurant).
The key to a group is to post everyday and post things that engage your audience.
The more people engage with the page, the more exposure Facebook will give it.
You want a group because right now, the Facebook algorithm favors groups.
13. Offer Immune Boosting Supplements
We’re still the the “give the customer what they want” section, correct?
You offer deserts anyway.
Right now though, one thing people want is to boost their immune system.
If you have orange juice, real fruit smoothies, or other high antioxidant products on your menu, now is the time to push them (or add them if you don’t have them).
Depending on your restaurants financial situation, you may want to consider going way outside the box on this one.
There are companies whose entire business model is to make high quality antioxidant and nutritional supplements and deliver the directly to the customers door.
You’re restaurant could be a distributor for one of these companies and create additional revenue that way.
Get enough customers and this could generate enough revenue by itself to keep your restaurant afloat.
For it to work for a restaurant, you’d need a product that can be easily sampled.
You could buy the product in bulk to get your price down.
Then you could sell or give away samples of the product with an informational sheet on the product AND how to order more from your unique distributor ID.
You’d make the profit from each sample sold but more importantly, you could earn recurring revenue from customers who order every month.
People would go to your link on the information sheet you give them to order more and have it shipped directly to their house.
The company dropped ships it to the customer and you get a commission.
It has the added bonus of being one of the fastest growing home business models in the world right now.
That means if any of your customers decide to be distributors, you could potentially earn income off their efforts as well.
It’s almost like earning an affiliate commission on Amazon except the company is a network marketing company.
If the customer decides to buy it every month, you get a commission every month without having to do anything but make the initial sale.
Maybe you make a little or maybe you grow a huge base of customers, either way it can be money in your pocket to help you float your restaurant until this pandemic is over.
All you have to do (usually) is pay an enrollment fee and get a little product to test (or place a bulk order).
I hope this article was helpful and gave some insight on how you can increase restaurant sales during slow times or in a small town.
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Thanks in advance.
We appreciate you and we wish you the best during these trying times.
If you still need some encouragement and inspiration, I just stumbled on the song Rattle today and it’s awesome.
Here’s a link to the video…
Lastly, if you’d like to start a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, click the John 3:16 link below our picture.
Jason & Daniele