6 Useful Tips To Increase Your Restaurant’s Average Check
You have the stellar service, a delicious menu, and the customers to enjoy it all, but your average check seems to fall short. How do you get people to spend more? We compiled a list of useful tips and tricks that could help you pull it off.
Average Check Formula
But before we dive in, let's talk quickly about average check.
Average check is the average amount each customer spends during a visit. The average check serves as important metrics for your restaurant's performance and profitability and provides insight into parts of your operation that you can improve.
To calculate the average check of your restaurant, simply divide the total sales for a selected period for analysis by the number of customers that visited your restaurant over that period. You can choose a short duration such as lunch service or a full day, week, or month depending on the type of data you want to obtain.
If the result is lower than your goal, consider applying the useful tips and techniques below to raise that number.
6 Ways to Increase Average Check Sizes
Useful Tip #1 Master the art of upselling and cross-selling
One of the main efforts in increasing your restaurant average check should be directed towards training your staff. They are essentially the ambassadors of your restaurant who represent your business to your customers. They are an asset to your business, and investing in their growth will help you improve your restaurant in massive ways.
It is easy to lose confidence in a server who is unable to describe an item or present promotions properly. Your staff should know your menu inside out so they will be fully capable of selling it. They can provide helpful answers to questions and make outstanding recommendations that suit the customer.
A skilled server is also able to tap into the power of suggestion and the innate indecisiveness we as humans have, to make the decisions much easier for them. This is the same effect of labeling some menu items as “flavor of the day”, “bestseller”, or “most popular”. Here are some more ways a knowledgeable server can help increase your average check:
- When your staff knows the menu by heart, they can also take customers to the most profitable items and identify which items complement one another, so they can successfully “cross-sell” a dessert, side dish, or a drink. Not only will they be able to increase the check, but they will also be able to make recommendations that customers will actually love and appreciate.
- Your staff can skillfully “upsell” and persuade customers to get specials or upgrade their orders with a smart explanation at the ready to hammer the point home.
- Before releasing a new menu item, take the time to have your staff become familiar with it. You can do so with a simple taste test where they can taste each dish so they can develop more vivid, no-fluff descriptions that truly capture the experience for your customers in a much more enticing way.
The right approach
While your staff should upsell and cross-sell whenever possible and appropriate, some customers may be put off by expensive recommendations especially when they are pitched to them poorly. They might interpret it as being tricked or pushed into spending more.
Try recommending items on your menu that have average prices, but are very inexpensive to make. Whether it is upgrading to a flavored drink or adding an extra ingredient to their order, suggest add-ons to customers that won’t cost them too much while playing up the benefit. This will come across as genuine.
Make sure your staff uses affirmative language to communicate products to customers and successfully influence their actions. Instead of asking them if they would like an appetizer, for example, they might approach this by incorporating their recommendation in their question. “Would you like a glass of wine with your appetizer?” or “We have this brand new [item] that customers really enjoy.”
A knowledgeable and thoughtful server can make a difference in the overall experience of your customers. For your part, motivate your staff by giving them bonuses or rewards and bonuses when they reach specific goals. Inject a sense of healthy competition by maintaining a scoreboard of the number of food items sold.
Useful Tip #2 Set up a mobile or online ordering system
Most restaurants are using online ordering through apps or a website to meet changing customer demand. Customers love having quick, one-tap access to a litany of foods from their smartphone and having it delivered to their doorstep. Many operators have seen a significant increase in off-site and delivery sales through mobile and online ordering systems as a result. In fact, sales are projected to go higher in the coming years. This is a good reason to revisit your mobile marketing. See if there are any components that should be revised or updated to tap into this rich market effectively.
You can use online ordering as a means to cultivate customer loyalty by personalizing offers and rewarding redeemable points for online exclusives, which could lead them to purchase more than they originally intended to qualify for promotions. You can also offer free delivery by setting a minimum amount to spend, which helps increase their cart value. To learn more about mobile marketing strategies and how it can help increase your average check, we have a bunch of useful tips you can check out here.
Depending on your budget, you can assemble your own delivery staff, hire a third-party delivery company, or designate a pick-up destination. The third option offers you the opportunity to entice customers into buying more by merchandising smaller food items such as snacks or desserts at the counter that they might not be able to resist.
Useful Tip #3 Re-engineer your menu
Menu engineering is one of the most common ways to increase your average check. This process entails identifying items that are doing well and those that aren’t and adjusting their placement on the menu accordingly. The success of menu reengineering hinges on your knowledge of your menu and the amount of effort you are willing to put in.
The first step is to cost your menu, which involves creating a detailed breakdown of the individual ingredients and the cost to make each menu item. Make sure that the individual who “costs” your menu will also take the lead in engineering it as they will most likely have extensive knowledge about the actual food costs. This also prevents the risk of inconsistent costing that might come from having multiple people working on the same menu.
The next step is to categorize your menu per course (appetizers, breakfast, lunch, dinner) or type (drinks, desserts) and those categories into sections. After that, organize your menu items into four groups by popularity and profitability both at the category and the section level. The results will determine their placement on the menu:
- high popularity and high profitability- should be highlighted to grab attention
- low profitability and high popularity - can be used as specials or bundles
- high profitability and low popularity- should be promoted more but also reassessed if there are improvements that can be made; price could be lowered to increase the sales volume
- low profitability and low popularity- relegate to a more inconspicuous part of your menu or possibly purge them altogether
While a lot of what you determine above will influence where each item ends up, the interest and behavior of your customer base will take precedence. Find out what type of items your customers order, what attracts them to your establishment in the first place, and whether or not they read your menu thoroughly before making a selection. Here are some useful tips to optimize your menu for profitability:
- Draw the customer’s eye to your target items by writing them in bold or italic text or placing them inside the box or next to a picture, if it fits your concept or restaurant type.
- The center, top right, and top left make up the “golden triangle” where your high-profit items should be. The first items and the last item will grab the most attention while the items just above the last will be barely noticed.
- Keep visual cues to a minimum. The more visual cues, the less it is able to make an impact. If possible, highlight only one item or section in each category. The idea is to make your high-profit items and specials more noticeable to the customer. If everything is highlighted, nothing really is and your menu just ends up looking cluttered.
- Even with the visual adjustments for highlighted items, your layout should remain clean with proper spacing for the rest of the products.
- NEVER list your prices in a separate column on the right side of your menu as this only emphasizes them, especially when you put a dollar sign next to them. Menu Cover Depot suggests relocating the pricing info to just a couple of spaces after the end of the item description and writing it using the same font size and style. You don’t want your customers to think about money and pricing although there are times that you can leverage it to influence your customer’s choice, which we discuss in entry #4.
- Write colorful descriptions for the items you wish to highlight especially the more expensive offerings on your menu. If a specific dish has a story behind it that could pique the interest of your customers, make sure to mention that in your description. If you use trusted brands on your dishes that you know will improve their perceived quality, add that to the text as well.
- Keep the menu sections short and easy to navigate. The sweet spot is five items with a maximum of seven items. This way, customers will be able to go through each one more easily without information overload, which usually causes them to default to the most common item, which might not be profitable for you. A shorter list is also more effective in boosting your profitability because they are more likely to purchase add-ons and higher profit items.
- Determine the right number of panels for your menu cover based on the number of menu items. According to Menu Cover Depot, a one-panel menu usually generates lower profits per customer because it is perceived to offer an incomplete dining experience. This “gap” is accomplished by a two-panel menu, which makes it the sweet spot for most menu covers. Three panels or more will be best if you have many items on the menu. If you start to hit the many-panel territory, you might start losing control over your menu, and in turn, become less able to influence your customer’s actions.
- Take note of customer reviews and feedback in reorganizing your menu. Perhaps they want a specific dish to be improved.
Useful Tip #4 Tactfully influence customer perception of cheap and expensive
Most of us may have been convinced to buy an item on sale. We saw the original price on the tag slashed and replaced by a much lower number, and we can’t help but think we’re getting a great deal. This is price anchoring at work. Customers rely on an “anchor price” as a point of reference to determine what is expensive and what is cheap, which will ultimately inform how much they are willing to spend. By anticipating the thought process of your customer, you are able to lead them exactly where you want them to go.
When it comes to increasing your restaurant average check, one effective practice is very much like the example we described above, which is using a higher anchor that props up your ideal options as greater deals. One useful tip is placing your high-profit items in your golden triangle next to a much more expensive offering so they seem cheaper by comparison. Conversely, you can raise the price of the cheaper items relative to your high-end products that cost more than the average of your menu to increase overall perceived value for the entire menu, including those in the lowest tier.
Another price anchoring technique is avoiding extremes. Use a pricing tier where your ideal item is offered with a higher-tier option and a lower-tier option, which will both act as the anchor prices. This will push your main group of customers to go with the “middle” option.
Useful Tip #5 Offer bundles and limited items
Consider combining high-margin and expensive items into a bundle or any group or family meals at a discounted price. The lower cost of the bundle compared to the total of items bought separately will reel people in. It creates a perception of higher value and makes it easier to order for the whole group. Family bundles can be a great hit because not only are you providing good food, but you are also saving them precious time and money from preparing an entire meal on their own. Since your goal is to increase average check, consider promoting the deals during your busiest times.
Additionally, some customers may not find much value in buying an expensive dish for one, so a shared order might seem a more sensible purchase. On the other hand, some guests might decide on buying a single meal if they feel a starter and dessert in addition to the main dish will be too much.
What about combo meals? While common in fast-food restaurants, they can be tailored to fit your business by letting customers build their own bundle. In an upscale restaurant, you might want to offer a selection of high-end items such as seafood or wine.
When it comes to limited items, these dishes not only message of premium quality but also a sense of urgency. The idea is to market them as transient can’t-miss offerings that will not always be available. This could lead customers to buy it so as to not lose the opportunity to do so.
Useful Tip #6 Get your customers more to drink
For most restaurants, the focus is on the food. But Don't forget beverages can boost your average check significantly too. It can be as simple as offering drinks just as the customers are seated or when waiting for orders that will take longer to arrive. That way, they are more likely to order a second round when they start eating their meals.
Alcoholic drinks generate high profits due to the high markup and offer tons of opportunities for bartenders or servers to upsell. Develop an excellent cocktail program that incorporates popular but inexpensive drinks such as vodka. If wine is on the menu, recommend a bottle to the table first, or a split if they decline.
Offering shareable plates can also encourage more beverage orders as it creates a fun and comfortable atmosphere that encourages social interaction. Add in a “suggested drink” section under food items or have your staff recommend it to them.
Keeping your beverage costs in check and at the same time getting higher sales volume can do wonders on your bottom line. It might be better to shop in bulk and research economical options.
Bumping up your average restaurant check is no easy feat, but with a thorough understanding of your client base, proper planning, and good old hard work, you are bound to see amazing results. As part of your efforts, keep track of your progress to see what works and what doesn’t.
And when you’re armed and ready to boost your average check, make sure you also have reliable kitchen equipment that won’t slow your staff down. If you are looking for more useful tips on all things foodservice, don't forget to check out CKitchen blog.