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Restaurant Marketing. 5 Low Cost Ways to Make More Money in Your Restaurant. Menu Optimization, Guest Check Average...

Updated on January 15, 2012

There are times of milk and honey and there are times of peanut butter and jam. Having had a somewhat tourism dependent restaurant business in a country that has been pretty volatile (with both highs and lows) for the past many years, I have grown sort of accustomed to both sides of the economic coin.

Anyone can make it through in the good times, but the tough times tend to weed out operations without solid foundations. But tougher times also force you to revisit your methodology – to tighten things up and to get a little leaner and a little meaner. And if you can actually do this, you'll be in great shape whenever the tide turns, and the guests start flocking back.

I am no "marketing expert" just a guy that has learned the hard way a number of restaurant lessons. Here are a few relatively straightforward options for fine-tuning a restaurant business to make the most of its potential. (Note – none of these "tips" will really cost you anything…).

1. Tighten up

When the dining room is full to capacity you might get away with bloated food costs, but when guests are a little scarcer – you've got to make every table pay off. Look hard at the food-costs on every dish and eliminate any that won't make the grade. The up-side to slower nights is that your cooks should have more time to prepare foods from "scratch". Don't have anyone sitting around bored when they could be busy and happy and cooking. It's more satisfying to make it all yourself (rather than opening a can…) and it almost always tastes better too.

2. Revisit the menu

The menu mantra I've heard throughout the years is that your menu should be competitive. What this means is that every dish should have to compete to stay on the menu. If you have a dish that underperforms (even if you happen to love it) it's probably time to scrap it in favor of something that's actually going to move.

You should also make sure your menus are optimized to induce the ordering of your most profitable dishes. I won't get into menu optimization here, but, placing a dish in the upper right corner of the menu, for example, is a great way to boost its sales. And if you can boost the sales of a few dishes that make you a greater profit %, you can really see a difference in the end of the month bottom line.

3. Extend the hours

This is a big one, but extending your hours of operation to get an additional service each day can be a great way to increase your sales, without greatly increasing your fixed costs.

You have to pay the same rent on the space whether you serve breakfast or not!

4. Increase guest frequency

It's is a lot harder to convince a new guest to try your restaurant than it is to convince an existing customer at your restaurant to come back a little more frequently. If you have an existing customer base, work harder on increasing customer frequency than on encouraging new visits and you will see a better financial response.

For example

If you get great dinner business, but little lunch trade, offer your dinner guests a lunch promotion certificate with the dinner check.

5. Increase guest check size average

If you could get each guest to spend 15% more you'd make a lot more money each month! And it's a lot easier to get existing guests to spend a little more than it is to attract new customers.

Work on the old standbys, appetizers, cocktails, wines and beer and desserts. Get promo cards on the table advertising your best desserts – have drink special posters in the hall to the restrooms…

Nothing groundbreaking here, but like I said, I am not a marketing guy, I'm a restaurant guy, and so this list of ideas comes from the point of view of a guy that would rather by in the kitchen than the office, but that understands the painful truths of the business as well.

Good luck to you all!

Menu Optimization Ideas

Ideas for Building Slow Night Business


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    • TravelinAsia profile image

      TravelinAsia 6 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

      Great Advice John,

      I can see that these simple yet effective strategies have contributed to your success at your own restaurant. I have not had the chance to visit lately because I live outside of town, but when I have friends traveling through CM, I will take them to your place.

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Excellent hub which really hit the nail on the head, thanks for these well shared article.Am well informed now.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Great Hub! Very intelligent use of time and money. Also, check your water bill, check for leaks - they add up! Water loss, is money out your pocket.

    • Andreas profile image

      Andreas 8 years ago

      Fantastic Hub, you have nailed the key components of restaurant marketing. Your views are similar to that at the