Open a restaurant, they said. It’ll be easy, they said. But night after night, you struggle to fill tables with paying customers. You might have one or two packed nights, but it’s a ghost town the rest of the week.
Before you start thinking that you're sure to become just another statistic, one of the 60% of restaurants that fail within the first year or 80% that fail in the first five years, try some of our business growth strategies to increase restaurant sales. Here ya go.
1. Digital marketing
Depending on your location, you might get plenty of walk-ins who want to give your restaurant a chance. But, more often than not, people research restaurants online before choosing where to eat. And that’s where you should be.
Make sure you have a website with hours, directions, and a downloadable menu. Create an Instagram, Facebook, and even Pinterest account to get people craving your menu items. Sign up with Google My Business, too.
Get on local directories online, and try your hand at Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
2. Get involved in the community
Whether it’s getting a booth at your city’s food expo in the summer, hosting a fundraiser for the local animal shelter, or sponsoring a kids’ hockey team, it’s important to get involved in local activities, mingle with community members, and get your name out there.
It’s a great way to get people familiar with your restaurant and get to know potential customers face to face.
3. Reward loyalty
People LOVE points. They love loyalty programs. There’s something to be said about the satisfaction you get from getting a free meal purchased with points or a discount on your birthday.
Although it might be tempting to focus all your energy on gaining new customers, it’s important not to forget the loyal customers you already have. The more you treat them like you truly care about them and appreciate their business, the more likely they’ll be to give you good reviews, refer you to their friends, and become regulars.
Loyal customers might be single-handedly responsible for bringing you in a ton of new revenue.
4. Ask for reviews
Speaking of reviews, they're next on our list of business growth strategies you should try. Start a contest to encourage existing customers to leave reviews of your restaurant online, whether on Google, Facebook, or Yelp.
This will really help when it comes to attracting potential customers who are searching for a new place to eat this weekend. Never underestimate the power of social proof.
5. Offer delivery and online ordering
It can be tough to grow your small restaurant if you only operate from one physical location – especially if it’s not the best location to be in. That’s why it’s a good idea to offer delivery (and accept online orders with online credit card processing, too).
Pro tip: team up with a food delivery app like Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash to get more exposure and more sales.
6. Sell big-batch orders for parties
Consider what items on your menu can be made in large quantities (like fries and wings), and create a unique menu of these delicious dishes for business functions, parties, and other large gatherings. This is an easy way to boost sales.
7. Offer entertainment
Whether it’s a live band or karaoke, or maybe even a UFC fight on the big screen, offering entertainment is a sure-fire way to bring in a crowd, especially younger customers. It’s a good idea to book entertainment on your slow nights.
Keep track of what else is going on around town at other restaurants so you can make sure you bring in the biggest crowd. You don’t want to book karaoke for Thursday night if the restaurant down the street already has an established karaoke night on Thursdays, for instance.
Then, promote the special night extensively online, on posters, etc.
Live bands are also great because the performers will promote the night for you and bring in their own crowd of followers.
8. Build a first-time customer program
Give away discount codes or coupons that offer first-time customers a free dessert, drink, or appetizer with the purchase of a meal. Share the discounts online and the coupons in the community, such as at your local library or post office. It’ll tempt people to come in – where they’ll soon fall in love with your restaurant and be sure to come back.
Upselling is a great way to boost sales, making it one of the top business growth strategies for restaurateurs. You can get more money per table by training your servers on the art of upselling.
For example, having servers describe the more expensive menu items can tempt customers to try them. Making a point to describe creative cocktails can get customers to buy a drink instead of just ordering water. And asking them if they want to purchase an extra side with their meal can get them to buy more with their entrée too. And, of course, make sure servers always describe desserts and offer coffee, too.
If increasing sales is an issue at your restaurant, make sure to try some of the different business growth strategies described here.