In most businesses, the almighty dollar rules the day. For restaurants, it’s all about the pennies. As the industry runs on tight margins and shifting external variables, fighting to secure steady profit is key for success. Growing your customer’s check average is one way to do so. Whether you are operating a delivery business or a fine dining establishment, there are many techniques to grow the average spend of your customer while providing your guests with a special experience. In time, those pennies will become dollars in your pocket.
The Perfect Check
“The perfect check” is an age-old concept in the restaurant world. It represents a customer whose order takes advantage of all your operation has to offer. This certainly includes all of your typical moments of selling during a standard meal, such as:
- A cocktail or champagne upon seating – prior to ordering
- An appetizer for each guest
- A beverage for the meal – wine, shared for the table
- An entrée for each guest
- A side for each guest
- A dessert for each guest
- A beverage for each guest with dessert
Sounds simple, right? The reality is just because we know what we would like the guest to order does not mean that they will. However, by focusing on giving your guest the best possible experience through your unique and special characteristics as a dining destination, you can make landing that perfect check more likely. Time to show off and stand out with what you provide.
“The reality is just because we know what we would like the guest to order does not mean that they will. However, by focusing on giving your guest the best possible experience through your unique and special characteristics as a dining destination, you can make landing that perfect check more likely.”
Specials are a wonderful way to position seasonal offerings that likely may have limited time availability. These dishes, when created well, will typically capture an extra dollar either in pricing or in profitability. The extra dollar can come from either place to impact your profitability. Plus, their star status will likely draw more customer attention.
Extra or Shared Appetizers
While classics like mozzarella sticks and potato skins will always be a crowd pleaser, you can leverage your appetizer offerings to introduce samplings of your menu and encourage sharing. Whether it’s tapas, charcuterie boards, salads, or dim sum, offering unique appetizers that underscore your unique concept adds dollars to those checks and makes an impression. Think about a selection of small bites to excite the guest with your chef’s talent.
Add Ons to Entrees
Premium sides, extra toppings, and classic pairings should be standard beats in every conversation with customers. Guests will love options and suggestions while you can enjoy the extra profit they bring. For the average steak house, offering a lobster tail for the table is a go-to in growing a check. And nothing says you can’t make that lobster tail a plate of Jerusalem artichokes or squash blossoms to accompany those entrees. Remember, the goal is to add one more plate to each course, building your overall check.
Wine is an obvious choice for raising a check average, but don’t be greedy. Most guests may lack knowledge or comfort in selecting a bottle or glass of wine best paired to their menu selections. Help them make a great choice. If your staff is well educated, they can suggest a bottle that pairs with a particular dish or selection of dishes. You do not need to sell the super expensive offering. You just want to add the extra revenue to the check. A $50 bottle works wonders for your check average when a $100 bottle could scare off your customer. The key is finding what appeals most to your customers while ensuring a special dining experience.
“Most guests may lack knowledge or comfort in selecting a bottle or glass of wine best paired to their menu selections. Help them make a great choice.”
Tastings – Wine by the Glass & Draft Beer
Speaking of beverages, do not be afraid to offer a small taste of a wine or beer to a guest deciding their selection. A guest who chooses something they like will most likely order a second glass. A selection that doesn’t please will not just limit a sale, but will likely make a guest less adventurous when exploring your other menu offerings. Great service results in great sales.
Giving Away Good Will
At the end of the meal, you have a last opportunity to win your guest for a great review or a return visit. Say your table didn’t order dessert. Give them one for free. While it may seem counterintuitive for growing profits, most cases will result in guests ordering a beverage or two to enjoy with their gift. Plus, the cost of that single dessert is often eclipsed by the profits made in beverage sales. If no beverage sales occur, you certainly offered an inexpensive reward to your guest for dining with you, inviting repeat business.
Make It Easy for Your Customer
For delivery and fast casual operations, be sure your menu has options for the customer to add to their order. Similarly to point-of-purchase displays at a supermarket, those impulse buys add extra profit to the sale. Make sure you are offering simple options of sides, desserts and beverages to fill that bag. There is no added labor cost in having a nice selection of grab and go offerings that support your core menu.Too often, delivery menus offer wildly expensive beverages on the menu rather than simple staples like soda. No sale results in no profit. Even an extra dollar makes you more money and improves the guest experience.
Putting Profit into Practice
If you’re curious about where to begin executing these practices, the answer is simple. Educate your staff. The more your staff knows and loves your offerings, the better they will share them with your guests. Yes, there is a cost to giving food and beverages to your staff so they can learn, but doing so is an investment in them as ambassadors to your guests. By helping them be successful, you help yourself succeed. Food tastings can be more exciting than simply placing dishes on a table and having the chef describe them. Deconstruct the dishes, teaching your team what makes those mushrooms special or that brisket premium. Let them have a taste so they can share the joy of food with the guest. What would be better than your staff arriving home after a shift and telling friends about this amazing new dish they tried at work?
“If you’re curious about where to begin executing these practices, the answer is simple. Educate your staff.”
Very simply, whether your profit margin is 10% or 25%, every extra dollar matters. We pay our rent with dollars rather than percentages, so be creative and offer great experiences while growing those check averages. The top line drives the bottom line.