Make these small changes to give your business a big boost
If you run a café or restaurant, you probably already know how hard it is to keep fresh with new and enticing ideas. Coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, it’s now even harder for business owners to spend money they may not have on attracting customers.
But did you know there are a few easy alterations you can make to see big changes fast? Changing up your menu, upselling, offering discounts and leasing out your premises on slow days are all ways to help make your business more money. Read on for more great tips.
Offer a unique and personalised service
The first tip we have for boosting sales is to make the most of your menu and offer a culinary experience rather than just a service.
Have a real think about your business - what is its unique selling point? What do you offer that other businesses don’t? Are you a café that sells 60 different types of tea? A juice bar that encourages customers to create their own concoctions? Or is your USP that you’re the go-to for popular local beers?
Have a look at your menu and see what makes your business special. Then try to adapt and offer experiences that revolve around the uniqueness of your business to really wow customers. This will ensure you’re standing out from the crowd.
Let’s say you own the juice bar we just mentioned, why not have a competition for the best customer juice combination? Or create a twist on the bottomless brunch by offering a non-alcoholic, juice infused version (you might want to test the water with customers first, as there may not be the same appetite for mocktails). Running competitions can help create interest around your business and encourage customers to spend more.
What about entertainment? You could run an open mic night, give local bands a platform, or have a themed music night, like jazz or pop. Remember that you may need specific licences to host live music and even play pre-recorded music at your venue. But creating the right atmosphere can make you stand out in the local community and earn you more revenue.
Food and drink masterclasses
If you have a chef or drinks expert on the premises, make the most of their skills with a masterclass. This could be a hands-on class where your chef helps customers make some of his or her best dishes. But it could also be a lot more simple than that. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – people may appreciate good advice on the basics like how to boil or poach an egg or make a specific sandwich which is always a bestseller.
But if drinks are your thing, you could host a whole cocktail crafting experience, where customers pay an entry fee to have an hour with your bar staff for a hands-on lesson in how to make their own cocktails. A wine-tasting night can also bring in some extra revenue, so think about what you can offer.
Find out what customers want
Another easy yet cheap tip to make the most out of your menu is to ask customers what they think about the options you currently offer.
You can craft a quick customer questionnaire or even just ask them what their thoughts are when they pop in. By learning firsthand what your most and least popular dishes are, you can get rid of those that aren’t doing so well and replace them with others. When running a restaurant or café, sometimes it’s all about trial and error, you have to see where demand is and work your menu around that.
Try offering specials
Having specials of the day/week can really work to increase customer interest. Also, you could develop your seasonal menus, making them extra special and different from your norm. For example, if you ran a tearoom and had the capacity, why not make little easter cupcakes for Easter, cut sandwiches into heart shapes during Valentine’s week or put mini spooky biscuits on the side of tea and coffee orders at Halloween?
Little yet inexpensive things like this can often make all the difference in making the customer feel valued and as though their experience is unique.
Seasonal menus always drum up more interest, just look at the popularity of Christmas coffees and pumpkin spiced lattes, so maybe adapt this and see what else you can offer to mix up your menu.
Get savvy on social media
You could also try using social media to your advantage to boost sales during quieter times. Post a photo of dishes you offer but really think about the time you’re interacting with followers.
For example, post a mouth-watering sandwich in the morning to reel in customers who might then think of visiting your café for lunch. Try posting a fruity cocktail on a hot day or a delicious-looking roast on a Sunday. Use hashtags to optimise your post too and hopefully it will be seen by even more potential customers. For more tips on how to navigate social media, check out our guides on how to build your business on Instagram or TikTok.
You could also try nudging current customers with a ‘welcome’ or ‘update’ email telling them about new options on your menu or any exciting events you have planned.
Make the most of your space
The next tip is to make the most out of what you already have. Do you have an upstairs area you could hire out for private functions? Is your space big enough to offer wedding receptions in? Or do you have an outdoor area that you could deck out and provide outdoor seating in the summer?
Adapt to customer needs
Try to make sure every part of your premises looks appealing and inviting whilst moving with the seasons. Customers’ needs change during the summer and winter months, so try to pay attention to this and change with them.
It helps to be as versatile as possible; for example, you may wonder if spending all that money decking out outdoor space is necessary when it will only be used a couple of months of the year. But actually, if you’re able to spend the cash, then the outdoor space could be used in winter too if you had some outdoor heaters or igloos to heat and put tables in. It’s all about considering your own customers, what they like and what you want to be known for as a business.
Weigh up how much you want to spend
If you can justify spending a little more to reap long term benefits, then great. However, if there’s not really a demand then it’s important to weigh up if it will actually bring in more revenue.
Look for budget ways to get the look you want
If you’re looking to spice things up on a tighter budget, you can also make the most out of your space without spending too much. Moving some of your tables outside and putting up a few solar lights could really revamp any outside space and ease you into the summer market.
Rent out your premises
Another thing you can think about if you have the capacity is leasing out your space (maybe a room in your café or restaurant or a select area) for business meetings or private functions. You could offer a set menu and have attendees pre-order food and drinks as enforcing a minimum spend.
You could also think about outsourcing your culinary skills too, could you offer catering services on quieter days or help with customer events for a fee?
Weigh up local vs wholesale
Being a business owner can be expensive, so it’s often a good idea to make the smallest changes first, you might be surprised at how much of a difference they can make.
For example, you could look into where you source your stock and ingredients from. Maybe compare local vs wholesaler produce prices. Supporting local suppliers is great, but it can be more expensive, so as an alternative, you could buy a few key ingredients from local sellers and get the bulk items (like bread) from a wholesaler. Do your research and always look around to see where you can get the same or better quality for less.
Position your dishes well
A totally free way to boost revenue is to investigate how you position your menu. Although you can consider putting on deals at different times of the year, did you know that certain colours actually promote hunger? So, even revamping your customer menus can help them potentially order more. Red and yellow are apparently the go to colours to use on menus as they are both stimulating colours that have been proven to increase appetite. Think about McDonalds for example, their main brand colours are red and yellow.
Using colours is a clever yet free way to position your bestselling dishes. You could also make your menu aesthetically pleasing with mouth-watering photos and detailed descriptions of each dish. According to studies, vague, unproved descriptions like ‘world’s best burger’ can make customers skip over the choice, whereas using very in-depth descriptions like ‘slow roasted’, ‘sun-dried’, ‘freshly caught’ will capture and keep their interest.
Another thing you could try is upselling. This means encouraging customers to purchase extra or more expensive products and can work really well if done subtly.
Always be careful though, you don’t want to come across too pushy, but you could recommend a certain (more gourmet or expensive) dish or bottle of wine to customers as a ‘chef’s special’ or ‘chef’s recommendation’.
You could also experiment with psychology when working on your menu.
Use the ‘Golden Triangle’ method
For example, try positioning food choices using ‘The Golden Triangle’ concept. This means putting your most popular dishes in the middle of the menu, as this is where the customer’s eyes go first and they’re more likely to consider ordering those items. Also, think about the way you’re writing prices, some restaurants get rid of the ‘£’ sign as it subconsciously makes the customer think they’re spending less. The same goes for pricing an item at £9.95, rather than £10, it sounds a lot lower although there is only a 5p difference.
Space out your options
Be mindful of spacing and the overall aesthetics of your menu, if it’s crammed with too much text, customers may have difficulty picking out the options you ideally want them to order. Make sure that your menus are well readable and easy on the eye.
Little changes like this cost nothing, at the end of the day it’s just clever placement, but they can go a long way to boosting your orders or encouraging customers to opt for more expensive food choices.
Mix up your menu
Another completely free thing to try is to mix up your menu so customers feel like they’re getting something ‘special’ each time they visit. You could have ‘Meatball Mondays’ or ‘Fish Fridays’ and offer different options for them to try on alternating days. Have a real think about which dishes you want to be encouraging the customer to get a taste for, they might be more inclined to spend more money that way.
It might also help to work out what your quieter days are and position your most ‘expensive’ bestsellers as the selling point on those days. According to research Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be the quietest days for restaurants, so maybe you could spice up your menu and write a quirky hook on a chalkboard outside your restaurant to entice people in?
Try chalkboard adverts
Speaking of advertising boards, they are a great addition to promote. Plus, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on one and can reuse it again and again. You can put your daily menu on it, write any deals you have going on or even get a little more creative.
Think about your ‘business voice’
Have a think of your unique business ‘voice’. Building your brand is important and can often attract more customers. Some pubs write a joke or clever pun on message boards outside their premises and it really helps them stick in the mind of a passerby. So have a think if there are any unique angles you can work on to be memorable in the community.
Additionally, you could look into creating a loyalty programme, for example, if a customer visits ten times, they get a free slice of cake or a hot beverage. If customers think they are getting something extra out of visiting you so much, it might help sales skyrocket.
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