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How to Increase Restaurant Sales: Strategies and Tactics for Success

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Sustaining sales is essential for the growth and success of your business. 

Whether you are a new owner or an operator of an existing establishment, answering how to increase restaurant sales is a right of passage in the restaurant industry — and an ongoing quest. 

In this comprehensive guide, restaurant owners will learn a range of effective marketing strategies, tactics, and metrics to help boost your restaurant sales.

Diving into the data to help understand guest behavior

Toast is the point of sale system built for restaurants — so we conducted research in order to help restaurants understand the evolving preferences, behaviors, and dining habits of their guests across different guest demographic splits.

Here are some of the top takeaways:

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Marketing strategies to help boost restaurant sales

Though word-of-mouth recommendations are listed as the top discovery channel, restaurant operators can still help boost their brand and encourage more sales.

Below are a few restaurant marketing tactics that can help drive guest demand, create happy customers, and encourage customer retention.

For a complete guide on all that it takes to successfully market a restaurant, download our Free Restaurant Marketing Plan Template.

Building a social media presence to help expand your restaurant brand

In today's digital age, having a strong social media presence is crucial for restaurants to connect with potential customers and strengthen their brand. Here are some restaurant social media marketing strategies to consider.

1. Choose the right platforms: Identify which social media platforms your target audience frequents and focus your efforts on creating engaging content for those channels.

2. Consider tapping into user generated content (UCG): Encourage guests to share their experiences by posting pictures, tagging your restaurant, and leaving reviews. You can tack on contests for the best photos of guests engaging with your brand.

3. Showcase your menu and specials: Use high-quality images and videos of your delicious dishes to entice customers. Regularly update your platforms with information about new menu items, seasonal specials, and promotions to keep your audience interested.

Restaurant email marketing strategies to bring guests back

Email marketing continues to be a powerful tool for restaurants to stay connected with their customers and entice them to return. 

Here are some strategies operators can try to help bring guests back through effective restaurant email marketing.

1. Focus on building your email list: Implement strategies to capture guest emails, such as offering incentives like a free appetizer or dessert in exchange for signing up for your newsletter. Place signup forms on your website, in-store, and on social media platforms.

2. Personalize your emails: Segment your email list based on customer preferences, dining habits, or demographics. Tailor your email content to provide relevant offers and promotions that resonate with each segment.

3. Send targeted promotions and offers: Utilize your email list to send exclusive discounts, promotions, and special offers to entice guests to return. Consider offering birthday rewards or anniversary discounts to make customers feel valued.

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Restaurant SEO best practices

A strong search engine presence is essential for restaurant websites to help attract new customers who are actively searching for dining options in their area. 

Here are some restaurant SEO best practices to help improve your restaurant's visibility in search engine results.

1. Optimize your website: Ensure your website is mobile-friendly, fast-loading, and easy to navigate. Optimize your website's meta titles, descriptions, and headers with relevant keywords to improve its search engine ranking.

2. Location-based keywords: Incorporate location-based keywords throughout your website content, including your menu descriptions, blog posts, and landing pages. This will help your restaurant rank higher in local search results.

3. Online directories: Ensure your restaurant is listed accurately on the popular online directories. Consistent and updated information across these directories can improve your search engine visibility and drive more traffic to your website.

Loyalty program strategies to popularity amongst different guest demographics

Developing a customer loyalty program can not only entice your existing customers to continue coming back but also attract new customers. 

Here's how to create a restaurant loyalty program that resonates with different guest demographics.

1. Tiered loyalty programs: Implement a multi-tiered loyalty program that rewards customers based on their level of loyalty. Offer unique benefits and privileges to each tier, such as freebies, exclusive discounts, early access to special events, or personalized experiences.

2. Gamification: Add an element of fun and competition to your loyalty program through games, challenges, or contests. This can help increase participation and engagement across all demographics.

3. Personalized rewards: Tailor rewards based on customer preferences or purchase history. For example, if a customer frequently orders vegetarian dishes, offer them discounts or rewards specific to vegetarian items. This personalized approach makes guests feel valued and understood.

4. Mobile apps and digital platforms: Utilize mobile apps or digital platforms to make your loyalty program easily accessible and convenient for customers. Integrate features like mobile ordering, tracking rewards progress, and personalized offers to enhance the user experience.

5. Partnerships with local businesses: Collaborate with other local businesses, such as movie theaters or fitness studios, to offer joint loyalty programs or cross-promotions. This allows you to tap into new customer demographics while providing extra value to existing loyalty program members.

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Restaurant tactics to make the most of each transaction

Once all those restaurant marketing efforts get kicked into high gear, there are multiple approaches that restaurant businesses can take to capitalize on each customer they earn.

Here are a few of those tactics to boost revenue and restaurant profits from every sale.

Upselling tactics to boost revenue per ticket with add-ons

Upselling is an effective strategy to increase the average check size and revenue per transaction. Here are some tactics to implement restaurant upselling successfully.

1. Train your staff: Provide comprehensive training to your front-of-house staff on upselling techniques. Teach them to suggest complementary items, highlight specials, or recommend premium options to guests.

2. Create enticing add-ons and upgrades: Develop a variety of add-on options that complement your main menu offerings. These can include premium ingredients, additional side dishes, or dessert upgrades. Highlight these options prominently on your menu or as part of your server script.

3. Bundle deals and combos: Create bundled offerings that provide a complete dining experience. This could involve pairing an appetizer with a main course, or offering a discounted combo deal for multiple courses. This encourages guests to spend more while feeling they are getting a good deal.

4. Visual cues and suggestive selling: Utilize visual aids such as mouth-watering images or attractive displays to entice guests to try additional items. Train your staff to suggestively sell by using persuasive language and enthusiasm when describing menu items and their complementary aspects.

5. Special promotions and limited-time offers: Implement limited-time promotions that offer exclusive add-ons or upgrades at a discounted price. This sense of urgency can encourage guests to indulge and try something different.

Online ordering and other digital restaurant sales channels

In today's ecommerce age, offering online ordering and utilizing other digital sales channels is essential for maximizing restaurant sales. Here's how to leverage restaurant online ordering platforms effectively.

1. Invest in a user-friendly online ordering system: Implement a seamless, user-friendly online ordering platform that integrates with your website and social media channels. Ensure it offers convenient features such as customization options, order tracking, and secure payment processing.

2. Optimize your online menu: Create an optimized online menu that showcases your dishes with enticing descriptions and appealing visuals. Organize your menu based on popular categories, and streamline the ordering process to prevent cart abandonment.

3. Partner with third-party delivery services: Collaborate with popular third-party delivery platforms to expand your reach and attract new customers. Explore partnerships with platforms such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, or DoorDash to tap into their existing customer base.

4. Implement contactless dining options: Offer services such as contactless food delivery or curbside pickup to cater to customers' changing preferences. Ensure that your online ordering system and delivery processes are seamless and efficient for a positive customer experience.

5. Optimize your website for mobile devices: As the number of customers using mobile devices to browse and order food continues to grow, it's crucial to have a mobile-responsive website. Ensure your website is optimized for mobile viewing and ordering to capture this market segment effectively.

Achieving operational optimizations for your takeout processes

Takeout and delivery have become increasingly popular, and streamlining your processes is essential for efficient operations. Consider the following strategies.

1. Streamlined packaging and branding: Invest in packaging that keeps food fresh, presentable, and spill-proof during transit. Incorporate your restaurant's branding to create a consistent and memorable experience.

2. Dedicated takeout staff: Assign dedicated staff members to manage takeout orders and streamline the process. This ensures timely delivery or pickup, order accuracy, and excellent customer service.

3. Efficient order management systems: Implement robust order management systems to streamline the takeout process from order placement to production and delivery. Utilize technology to automate tasks such as order tracking and communication with customers.

4. Online order tracking and notifications: Provide real-time order tracking and notifications to keep customers informed about the status of their orders. This helps manage expectations, reduces customer inquiries, and enhances the overall experience.

5. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities: Include prompts or suggestions for additional purchases during the online ordering process to increase order value. Offer complementary items, discounted bundles, or promotions to encourage customers to indulge in more than just their main dishes

Happy hour, menu item pricing variations, and other successful restaurant management strategies

Implementing effective restaurant management strategies can have a direct impact on your dine-in sales performance. Consider the following tactics.

1. Happy hour promotions: Offer discounted food and drink specials during traditionally slow hours to attract customers and boost sales. Craft creative and enticing happy hour menus to generate excitement and encourage repeat visits.

2. Dynamic menu pricing: Consider strategic variations in menu item pricing depending on factors like ingredient costs, popularity, and profitability. Adjust prices accordingly to maximize revenue without sacrificing customer satisfaction.

3. Menu engineering: Utilize menu engineering techniques to highlight high-profit margin items, promote specials, and strategically position items that drive profitability. Use design elements such as boxes, borders, or images to draw attention to these items.

4. Prix fixe menus: Depending on your type of restaurant and ideal customer, a prix fixe menu can be a great way to dial in profit margins per service restaurants can depend on. That’s because the limited selection — if any — of the menu design can help lock in food costs for every dish that goes out. This allows operators to set prices accordingly, from appetizer to entree and dessert.

5. Customer feedback and surveys: Regularly solicit customer feedback through surveys or comment cards to gain insights into customer preferences, identify areas for improvement, and gauge overall satisfaction. Use this feedback to refine your offerings and enhance the overall dining experience.

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Important restaurant metrics to monitor sales performance

Measuring metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential for any business. Restaurant owners can take advantage of reporting tools in their POS system and accounting software to glean actionable insights that can help inform decisions.

Here are a few restaurant metrics and how restaurant operators and managers can monitor them.

Understanding sales, revenue, and profit margin

To effectively monitor sales performance, it is crucial to track and understand key metrics such as sales, revenue, and profit margin. Here's a breakdown of each metric.

1. Sales: Sales refers to the total monetary value of goods and services sold during a specific period. This metric gives an overall view of your restaurant's performance and helps you evaluate revenue generation.

2. Revenue: Revenue represents the total income generated by your restaurant, including sales, minus any discounts, refunds, or allowances. Monitoring revenue helps you understand the volume of money coming into your business.

3. Profit margin: Profit margin measures the profitability of your operations by calculating the percentage of revenue that is left after deducting all expenses. A healthy profit margin indicates that your restaurant is generating sufficient income to cover costs and generate profits.

Measuring and tracking these metrics regularly provides insights into your restaurant's financial performance, helps identify strengths and weaknesses, and guides decision-making to optimize profitability.

Measuring and improving guest throughput, or table turnover

Guest throughput, or table turnover, is a vital metric that measures the efficiency and speed at which your restaurant moves customers through their dining experience. Improving and maximizing guest throughput can significantly increase revenue. 

Here are some strategies to consider.

1. Streamline operations: Be intentional with your steps of service to optimize guest interactions — everything from seating guests promptly to taking orders, preparing food, and delivering it to the table. Minimize wait times and strive for quick, quality service.

2. Table management: Implement effective table management strategies to ensure optimal use of seating capacity. This includes properly organizing reservations, accurately estimating wait times, and using technology to streamline seating assignments.

3. Training staff: Train your front-of-house and back-of-house staff to work cohesively and efficiently. Provide them with the tools and knowledge to handle high volumes of guests while maintaining quality service.

By measuring and monitoring guest throughput, you can identify areas for improvement, reduce wait times, and increase the number of guests served, ultimately maximizing your restaurant's revenue potential.

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Restaurant Cost Control Guide

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Restaurant technology and its potential impact on increasing restaurant sales

Restaurant technology can help operators make the most of every transaction — while also streamlining operations.

Here are a few front-of-house and guest-facing technologies that can help you increase restaurant sales.

Building your foundation around the restaurant point of sale (POS)

When it comes to front-of-house software, everything starts with the point of sale. It’s the foundation of your restaurant tech stack. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a POS for your new restaurant — or when switch from one POS to another. 

One thing to keep in mind is whether the system is built for the unique needs of your restaurant. Choosing a restaurant-specific POS system, can help streamline multiple aspects of the set up, implementation, and day-to-day usage. Take Toast’s New Steps of Service for example.

The New Steps of Service is the strategic implementation of Toast products that gives guests the power to order and pay as they please — while increasing the efficiency of your front-of-house staff by freeing them from terminals.

Implementing online sales to capitalize on evolving sales channels

Whether it’s takeout, delivery by your operation, or delivery from another provider, guests want the ability to order online.

For your owned online sales, you may want to consider a restaurant online ordering system that makes it easy for guests to find you, order, and re-order. The ability to program search engine optimized menus can help with discovery. And customizable promotions can help boost sales and encourage customers to order again and again. 

For third-party sales, common online ordering apps can serve as a great marketing tool because they expand your reach to customers within their apps who may have never heard of your restaurant's brand. And if you aren’t able to shoulder the cost of starting your own food delivery service, the cost of doing business with a third-party vendor might be worth it.

Regardless of the channel, it’s important to consider your processes for online orders. How do they flow into your in-house tickets? How do you know when to fire them based on the time quoted for pickup or delivery? Who owns the separate expediting needs for packing online orders? Where do you store orders once they’re ready?

These are a few of the questions operators may want to consider when launching or revamping online sales processes.

Boost guest demand and retention with restaurant marketing tech

Restaurant marketing technology can help bring guests into your business and keep them coming back.

Email marketing tools can offer ways for restaurants to send marketing or informational emails out regularly to large groups of recipients, along with analytics and design features to ramp up your efforts. 

Operators may want to consider restaurant email marketing software that can accommodate your email list size, design expertise (look for templates), and works with your other restaurant software or website platform.

Restaurant loyalty programs can be a great way to help bring guests back to your restaurant — encouraging them to order more and more often.

Operators may want to consider a loyalty program that’s linked to guests’ cards. This way, guests can simply opt in to the program at the point of purchase and begin seamlessly accrue points with each swipe of their card — no need to carry a loyalty card or sign-in on every visit.

Toast is here to help

There’s no one right answer when asking how to increase restaurant sales and boost your bottom line. It depends completely on your unique restaurant operation, including the maturity of your business, your goals, your target market demographics, and your existing restaurant tech stack.

Toast is here to help you along your journey. 

Toast is the point of sale system built for restaurants — for ease, for speed, for reliability, for more sales, and most of all, for you. And also with Toast, point of sale is just the beginning.

The entire Toast system — from handhelds and display screens, to food cost control via invoice automation, to employee scheduling and team management, and SMS and email marketing — works together to make over 93,000* restaurants even better.

Reach out today to learn more about Toast’s point of sale and suite of products.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.

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