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How to Increase Restaurant Sales

September 30, 2020
|
Joshua Weatherwax
bar inventory app

Is there any restaurateur who doesn't want to increase restaurant sales?

A restaurant without sales is just a kitchen with too much food. Getting that food in front of customers takes consistent effort and adjustments, but continued work leads to success.

Whether you sell alcohol, offer catering, or just run a dine-in operation, increasing sales is important. Here are some tips and tricks to grow your sales and increase your restaurant or bar profitability.

4 Ways to Increase Restaurant Sales

The four best ways to increase restaurant sales are to increase alcohol sales, food sales, delivery sales, and catering sales. We'll cover each area below, but here are a few general tips.

  • Provide superior service. Being a good restaurant isn't enough to increase sales. You need to be stellar. Happy customers tell their friends, but unhappy customers tell everyone. Showing that you care sets you apart and builds your reputation.
  • Know your customers. Your customers are the key to your success. Don't try to force them to like your offerings, offer what they already like. It's easier to sell more to customers who want what you have.
  • Train staff properly. If your staff doesn't know how to sell your product, keep a clean restaurant, or calm unhappy customers you won't see growth. Training makes your restaurant more professional and capable of giving customers the experience they want.

How to Increase Alcohol Sales in a Restaurant

Alcohol has the highest markup in a restaurant, around 60%-70%. Increasing alcohol sales takes a business from stagnant to profitable.

Here are eleven ways to do that:

  1. Introduce happy hour. Offering drink specials is an easy way to increase sales. Make it even better by adding a theme or other unique aspect to set you apart from your competitors.
  2. Upsell as much as possible. Turning a well drink order into a call drink or a call drink into a top-shelf drink increases profit quickly. The profit margin differences are very noticeable, and all it takes is a charismatic bartender.
  3. Use a bar waiting area. Don't waste the time your customers are waiting for a table. Add a bar to the waiting area to lessen customer frustration and make some extra money off drinks.
  4. Create signature drinks. Anything that sets you apart from your competition is good. Introducing drinks that customers can only get at your place helps drive drink sales. 
  5. Experiment with pricing. You get to set your alcohol pricing, beer pricing, and wine bottle pricing so you can make good money here. Try to find the proper balance that will keep your customers happy and make you the most.
  6. Have live music. Studies show that loud music increases bar sales. Live music also draws in crowds and keeps your customers from going to a competing spot.
  7. Sell local beer. Supporting locally-owned businesses has been a popular trend in recent years. Show your customers you support the area's economy and add a valuable marketing tool.
  8. Add outdoor seating. Though coronavirus has accelerated the push to outdoor dining, it was already on the rise. Outdoor seating increases beverage sales and the length of time customers stay at a venue.
  9. Limit pour cost. Spillage, overpouring, and other waste adds up. Ensuring your bartenders know how to free pour and adhere to the standard liquor pour lowers this cost and increases the liquor available to sell.
  10. Use social media. Restaurant marketing has undergone a major change in the past 20 years. Social media drives more business than any other platform, particularly among the 21-30 market.
  11. Invest in an inventory management system. Inventory tracking is vital to keeping a restaurant profitable. A platform like BinWise makes it easier and quicker—and lets you focus on other, more important things than counting bottles.
how to make a bar profitable ebook

How to Increase Food Sales in a Restaurant

Food has a lower margin than beverages but plays a vital role in the customer experience. A bad dish causes more damage to your reputation than a bad drink.

Here are a few ways to increase your food sales and your bottom line:

  1. Know your market. Don't try to sell expensive, high-end food in an area that prefers casual dining. Avoid concepts that don't align with customer expectations.
  2. Limit food cost. Lower food waste by proper handling of food storage and not purchasing expensive or unnecessary ingredients.
  3. Try menu engineering. Take a look at the dishes that sell the best or have the highest margins. Cut less popular dishes, shrink the menu, and put your effort where it’s most effective.
  4. Go for food specials. Most successful restaurants offer daily or weekly specials to entice their customers. Find what dishes make you stand out and offer them for a limited time. This is also a great way to use up excess ingredients. 
  5. Listen to the customers. Both happy and unhappy customers have opinions that help your business grow. If lots of  customers are unhappy with an offering, remove it. Showing that you listen goes a long way towards pleasing customers and driving sales.

How to Increase Delivery Sales in Restaurant

Food delivery is a fast-growing segment of restaurant sales that matters more than ever. The key to increasing delivery sales is to make it easier for the customers and ensure they're happy with the end result.

Here are a few ways to do that.

  1. Use an app. The modern consumer doesn't want to call in orders, and maintaining an online ordering system can be overwhelming for small businesses. Try partnering with a company like DoorDash or UberEats to get added to their apps and drive more sales.
  2. Maintain quality. Delivery customers are just as important and dine-in. Make the food to the same standards, and they're likely to be repeat customers and spend more.
  3. Keep delivery times low. Customers don't like to wait. Use enough delivery drivers with the correct equipment to ensure customers don't wait too long. An unhappy customer is unlikely to be a return customer.
  4. Make delivery free. Set a minimum order price for free delivery. Customers are more inclined to increase their order value if they get free delivery. The amount of food added is often more than the amount the delivery would cost in the first place.

How to Increase Restaurant Catering Sales

Catering is an overlooked part of restaurant sales that can improve the bottom line. It requires a different skill set than running the average restaurant. Here are a few ways to drive catering sales.

  1. Modify your marketing. Marketing for the catering portion of your business should not be the same as the dine-in. Use local publications that your intended audience will see. Business, wedding, and tourist publications are ideal. Make this marketing unique and memorable.
  2. Go to and host business events. Building personal relationships and getting your offerings in front of local business leaders pays dividends. Corporate lunches and events are the bread and butter of many caterers. These customers are more likely than others to send repeat business your way.
  3. Start a referral program. Offer benefits to customers that bring you new business. It's cheaper than other marketing and builds strong relationships. A customer that feels a personal connection will continue to give you business and be more willing to recommend you.
bar inventory app

Smooth Selling from Here On

Now you have the tools to increase your restaurant's sales. Take the knowledge you've gained and put it to work. The more you increase sales, the more longevity your business has. You also need to keep track of your cost of goods sold and prime cost to ensure profitability.

The biggest takeaway is to listen to your customers and try to meet their needs. It's called the service industry for a reason. Remembering to put them first will help grow your business, and the tips shared above will make you more likely to succeed.