Tis the season…to get a boost in restaurant sales! The holidays are upon us, and one thing we count on at this time of year is that people are going to eat a lot of food! Since they are going to be out shopping and visiting relatives, and doing all the Holiday things they do, they will almost certainly be eating out more often.
Multi-unit limited service restaurant operators are the best at providing great food at a fast pace and an affordable price. The day-to-day challenges of running these operations during the holidays is amplified, and controlling rising food and labor costs becomes more important than ever. In addition they have to keep up with changing restaurant technology and consumer tastes and behaviors.
So here’s our list of the 12 things every operator should do to increase sales.
- Redesign/reimagine your stores. OK, so you are probably not going to be able to gut remodel your store between now and the beginning of January. Plus, it can be very expensive to completely redesign a store, and especially challenging for smaller franchisees. What you CAN do quickly and affordably is re-energize with some simple changes that make your restaurants “pop”, like switching to customized soda dispensers, adding Digital Menus (indoor and in the drive-thru), putting some big TVs for guests in the dining room, and changing up your lighting to more modern and brighter fixtures (such as LEDs, which will also save money due to energy efficiency). Another awesome addition is a video wall to enhance ambiance. You may even be able to get a tax break when purchasing certain things as part of a restaurant redesign.
- Embrace mobile technology at all levels. Mobile has absolutely exploded. You’ll want to consider accepting mobile and contactless payments by both equipping your restaurant with payment terminals that have Near Field Communication (NFC) to accept these types of payments, and possibly creating a digital wallet for customers to use as part of your loyalty app. And don’t forget the ever important mobile ordering. Making it easy for customers to order their food from a click of a button on their phone has proven to be extremely lucrative for a multitude of restaurant concepts this year. And it’s not just customers who want mobile, tons of restaurant technology companies offer mobile apps to make it easier for employees to manage technology in the store. For example, WAND customers use the TRM Mobile app to make changes on-the-spot to their digital menus as well as read back office reports.
- Create a strong loyalty program. There’s a reason consumers were up in arms when Subway eliminated their stamp cards years ago – customers love to be rewarded for their loyalty, now more so than ever before. The millennial and Generation Z customers who frequent QSR and Fast Casual establishments are not just pleasantly surprised when offered a loyalty program but they’ve come to expect it. If they frequent your restaurant multiple times a month (or week) they want to be rewarded by you for that loyalty. If you haven’t yet, be sure to build a strong loyalty program that incentives and rewards your guests to make repeat visits and purchase more from your stores. Start collecting customer email addresses and start sending offers. These are your best customers and one of your greatest opportunities to increase profits.
- Simplify your menus. Less is more when it comes to menus. The growing trend we’re seeing is restaurant concepts reducing the number of items on their menus. There are many benefits of doing this:
- It makes it easier for customers to see the options and choose what they want
- Customers choose menu items faster thus you can increase your speed of service
- Smaller menus means less inventory you need to supply so less food waste
- You can buy more menu items in bulk and lower your food costs
- When menus are less cluttered there is more room to highlight LTOs and highly profitable menu items
- Be environmentally sustainable. Hippie is in! Consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever before so making changes where you can increase sustainability is key to appealing to a broader base of customers. Some ideas; switch to recyclable packaging, investigate more energy efficient equipment, switch from paper static menu boards to digital (indoor and outdoor), look into installing solar panels and consider partnering with an environmental nonprofit to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint. For most organizations, environmental sustainability and social responsibility start at the top of your organization. If you don’t have one yet, create a task force or committee devoted to this initiative.
- Add nutrition information. The FDA caloric menu labeling requirements may have been pushed back a year (deadline is on December 1, 2016) but with the release of an updated guidelines document this fall we can expect this will be pushed through and be mandated nationwide a year from now. Regardless of the FDA’s involvement, the bottom line is customers want more transparency when it comes to their food choices so you should be adding calorie counts to your menus if you haven’t done so yet. Worried about losing sales when you add calorie counts? Don’t be. Numerous independent studies have shown there has been no correlation between adding calorie counts on menus and lost restaurant sales.
- Offer contactless payments. It seems like every other day a new company or credit card issuer is offering a new way to pay with a mobile digital wallet. The reason? Consumers want it. 54% of consumers said they would use a mobile wallet instead of a physical wallet to pay if it were offered in more places. Contactless payment options have numerous benefits, among them; increasing speed of service, attracting lucrative customers and increasing data protection. If you’ve thought about getting contactless payment options in your stores but keep putting it off, now is the time to take action.
- Use menu psychology. At WAND we are surrounded by menus and we create tons of digital menus for our customers. And if there’s one thing that’s jumped out at us, it’s that menu psychology is one of the most cost-effective ways restaurant operators can increase sales. There are a myriad of things you can do with your menu layout to drive certain customer behaviors to increase ticket sizes. Just do a search for “Menu Psychology Tips” and you’ll be inundated with ideas. Need a few to start with? Read our 3 Menu Psychology Tips for QSR and Fast Casual Concepts
- Embrace digital indoor and outdoor menus. We’ve touched on digital menus a few times already but this is a biggie. If you haven’t embraced digital menus inside your store and in the drive-thru you’re missing out on a huge way to increase operational efficiency and drive ticket sizes. As a multi-unit restaurant operator digital allows you to change your menu from your home office with a click of a button at multiple stores. When deploying that new LTO or testing out a new food item digital allows you to do it easily without having to replace hundreds or thousands of static menu boards. And in the drive-thru especially you can see big gains by speeding up your service, increasing order accuracy and promoting key LTOs to incite last-minute purchases by hungry consumers.
- Go local. Consumer’s in today’s world want to know where their food is coming from and they have a desire to frequent establishments that embrace local sourcing. Numerous consumer studies have shown locally grown items are important to guests when choosing a restaurant. An interesting fact is that the word “local” equates to the word “fresh” in the mind of the consumer. So however it is you do this, whether you grow your own foods or partner with local food service providers, the bottom line is you should be looking at what you can do to go local and (when you have the operations to support it) let your customers know that you’ve gone local.
- Make your menus more diverse. Customer palates aren’t what they used to be. As the world has shrunk in the digital era consumers are more open to trying new cuisines and different menu items than ever before. Consider experimenting with different ethnic menu items that your competitors don’t offer. When everyone offers the same thing it makes it very difficult to compete. But when you expand your menu offerings to be more diverse not only can you attract new audiences but you’ll have something to talk about as a differentiator.
- Use restaurant business intelligence. When it comes to increasing restaurant sales, having clean and clear data and business intelligence is vitally important. If you’ve got an outdated back office or point of sale system that doesn’t give you the metrics at either a high-level (corporate) or granular (franchise, individual stores) level then you need to go back to the drawing board and find better reporting tools. Smart restaurant business intelligence platforms can notify you of cost saving opportunities or flag areas where you can increase revenues. Many of these platforms offer mobile reporting so restaurant operators can access key insights anywhere, anytime.
Well I think that about wraps that up! There are obviously lots more things you can do to increase restaurant sales and profits but this is a pretty decent list to begin with.