Take 30 seconds and think: what is your top-selling menu item? I’m sure you know, and I’m sure it took you a whole lot less than half a minute to think of it. But do you know why this item is your top-seller? Do you know how to get your other menu items to sell as well as your big money maker? You might have some ideas, but these are trickier questions to answer.
We all have ideas about why products do well and turn a good profit, but to really start boosting your profits you need to get down in the weeds, figure out what’s working, and try to replicate it across the board.
That means looking at customer demand, costs, and pricing. But it also means looking closer at your staff behavior. How do the staff sell your best-sellers? Are they trying to cross-sell or upsell those same customers into complementary products?
There’s often a combination of factors that make your best-selling products a success, and chances are you can take those successes and apply them to your other menu items to see a boost in your profits.
Here are three ways to figure out that winning formula and use it to sell more of all your products.
Work out the exact cost—including the stuff we’d all normally take for granted—that goes into your top-selling products. Shipping costs, storage costs, preparation, time spent—all of this needs to be added up to figure out how much your best-seller actually costs you. You may find that while you sell a ton of this one item, it might actually not be the money maker you thought it was. That’s ok as long as you’re aware of it. Performing this exercise has several concrete benefits:
Once you’ve figured out your costs, you need to take some action. Data collection alone won’t change your restaurant’s profitability, but the actions you take based on that data will. Ask yourself:
1. Can I find a cheaper supplier? Or negotiate better prices on my best-sellers?
2. Is there a way to make the items faster or get customers out the door faster so you can sell more?
3. Does one particular employee sell the heck out of a product? If that’s the case, find out how that employee is presenting the menu item to customers and see how it differs from other employees. You may be able to take that behavior and train your staff to sell menu items the same way, which could lead to higher sales across the board.
4. Are my most valuable customers aware of this product? If your research revealed a sleeper product that brings you high profits, try asking some of your regular customers if they’ve ever tried it. (And if not, why not a free sampler as a thank-you for their loyal patronage?)
5. Would marketing this product bring me more sales? For example, if your soups are extremely profitable, but no one tries them, does it make sense to offer a small cup of soup with every entrée for a month so more people taste your mother’s Minestrone recipe?
6. Are there times of the day when sales are low? If so, are there new markets who could re-energize the sales during these slow periods like early morning construction crews, senior citizens, the after-school crowd, or late-night revelers?
7. Are there times of the day when there’s a lot of foot traffic outside your restaurant, but few people coming in? Would offering a free sample entice more visitors during these periods?
8. What products could be sold together? Is there a natural complement to your most profitable items? Will taking a loss on one by bundling them together lead to higher profits?
9. How can you capitalize on the popularity of best-sellers to spread the word? Can you create a word-of-mouth campaign via social media that would increase sales?
10. Can you sell your best-sellers in a new way that will increase sales, for example on the sidewalk during peak hours, as takeout, or delivery?
11. Can you sell through partners? For example, if your muffins are killer, can you sell to local schools as part of a school breakfast program or to other restaurants/cafes outside of your local area?
12. Can you sell more efficiently? For example, if 10 people in the same office order lunch from you, would offering them a discount to have them ordered (and delivered) at the same time improve your profitability?
13. Do promotions increase sales or just take away from profitability?
14. Are people only buying your best-seller, or are they also buying other items while they’re in your shop? How can you get them to buy more? Would the smell of freshly baked bread or cookies tempt people in line to buy more than just a cup of coffee?
15. Do you have enticing products around the register to promote impulse buys?
16. Does the cashier automatically ask if they want a hot cinnamon bun with icing to go with their coffee? Note that this is more effective than simply asking if they want anything else. The more descriptive (and tempting) the question is, the harder it is to turn down.
You’re armed with data and you’re ready to act —the next step is to replicate your positive findings throughout your restaurant. This could involve training staff, pairing foods with a particular side dish, making your more profitable items more visible on the menu or changing up your operations. But whatever it is, you’ll want to make sure it’s being done uniformly throughout your restaurant to achieve the best results possible. Want to make this whole process a little easier? Check out Clover Reporting.
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