Here are several ideas I have used in the past to increase my restaurant sales. Many of these ideas also involved my staff in events that brought them together as a team. I gained a better, more loyal staff as well as increasing either the restaurants standing in the community or its sales. Give them a try, measure your results and have fun.
Easter Egg Hunt – Restaurant provided prizes and candy for a traditional egg hunt at a local park. A visit and photo op with the Easter Bunny made this a special event for the 50 plus children in foster care. The local newspaper printed a small story with a photo giving us additional exposure in the community.
Christmas Party – This event involved the staff of the restaurant providing a small Christmas gift for underprivileged children. Similar to the “Angel Trees” that are so prevalent today with one exception. We also provided a Christmas party for the children and of course a visit with Santa to present the gifts. The staff was able to serve and interact with the children during the party. These events brought the staff closer together as a team. Again local news was on hand to provide a human interest story associated with the restaurant.
Mother’s Day Candle light dinner – This event held in a fast food restaurant, found the staff turning the dining room into a fine dining establishment complete with candles, flowers and linens. Rather than having the guest place orders at the counter the staff took orders table side and of course delivered the food as well. This event was talked about for weeks both by guests and staff. Sunday nights typically are the slowest of all nights for a fast food restaurant, let alone a Mother’s Day where for some reason moms don’t want fast food fare. This Mothers Day exceed previous Sundays by 18% and the previous Mothers Day by 31%.
Daily Specials – Nothing new about a daily special or a rotating special, however, in 1983 this concept was something unheard of. Most restaurants at the time were running print ads with coupons. Customers became accustomed to the ads and anticipated the next coupon run, often demanding to know why an expected run was delayed or missed. Wanting to reduce the dependency on couponing for guest counts, I began running a listed daily special all 7 days of the week. Using only the reader board and in store posters for advertisement we began running combination specials rather than the “buy one get one free” mantra of the print ads. While not getting the instant “pop” of a print ad, the specials did build over time to eclipse the BOGO and replace it as an effective way to increase sales and protect profitability.
Fund Raising Events – These were a variety of events designed to accomplish 3 objectives. First as a fund raiser for a worthy cause or organization. Second as a team building exercise and thirdly and most importantly promote the restaurant. We designed a series of carnival like games that involved restaurant food as a minor prize and for a major prize restaurant logo items such as t-shirts and coffee mugs. We would take and man these games at school fall or spring festivals, or local city wide events and donate proceeds to the school or charity.
Parade team – At every parade we passed out restaurant coupons, logo items and sold hot chocolate and drinks. Again donating the proceeds to charity.
Barker – This was something I used while in St Thomas working at Wendy’s. Many businesses at the time used a carnival style barker to draw attention to a particular establishment. Our location was at the end of the main cruise ship dock and as such was often passed by as the ship’s guests were too eager to sample local fare rather than the recognizable Wendy’s menu. Our barker was given 100 coupons a day to pass out and was paid on the number returned to the restaurant.
School reading program – A simple program allowing teachers to reward children with restaurant prizes for reading a certain number of books. Starting with small food prizes and progressing up to a family meal for 4 as the child read more and more books. This program was extremely successful and ran for years.
Interviewing skills presentations – I would go the high schools on job fare days and offer a class on preparing for interviews and getting the first job. I also offered general business and employee tips for the participants. Here I would start a relationship with potential new employee as well as offer some coupons and logo items to further promote the restaurant.
Cross Promotion – In a tourist area it is vital to court locals as well as tourist crowds. Understanding guest traffic is one key element to business survival. Actively engaging non competitors such as hotels without an attached restaurant is a way of ‘borrowing’ their credibility and linking it to your restaurant. Giving the hotel staff discounts and print items to give to guests as well as frequent visits with food or deserts keeps the staff taking about your restaurant to the hotel guests.
Set a goal for each promotion and record results. Spend time working to improve the next event and above all have fun.
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