During this time of year the competition for the customer is tougher than at any other period. When your customer count is down, the future may look bleak. But it isn’t. It is now imperative to fine tune three segments of your business.
Make sure your menu inventory is in order- nothing is worse than going to a restaurant and hearing they are out of a portion of the menu items Keep your staff enthused- coach them on up-selling appetizers, desserts, and bottles of wine. And, analyze your food cost closer than ever before to squeeze out every ounce of profit in that entree that sells better than anything else on your menu.
I have two very close restaurateur friends. One in California is a food costing genius. He prices his menu on actual value, plus, plus. He knows the cost of an ounce of mayonnaise, and all the other ingredients in the menu item. He runs a cost sheet, figures his profit, adds a bit, and determines the price of the item. He is constantly searching for new food items, and when he goes to a restaurant he not only pans the operation like an owl at dusk, but he analyzes the menu with the eye of an eagle.
My other friend, in Minneapolis, had a very successful restaurant and had a fairly good run at it. He didn’t pay that much attention to food cost. He operated on the perceived value system. If he thought an item would sell for $23.00, and he could make some money, that would be the price. He was constantly at the food cost dice table. And, because he didn’t pay much attention to his costs, he frequently lost money on menu items in the hopes of making the money back on specials.
Perceived value pricing is risky and seldom leads to success. Food cost analysis is the foundation of the business and although the task is grueling, especially if you have a problem with ounces, dollars and cents, it is the only way to make any money. There are now a plethora of food costing programs on the market. But the system is simple math. And, it is important when the house isn’t packed.
It is also important to design your specials for slow times and encourage your wait staff to sell those desserts, cappucinos, and after dinner drinks to the customers that are in the dining room.
On a weekend night, have a contest with the wait staff. The highest average ticket gets a prize- it could be a selection from the menu as a pre-shift meal the next time they work. The most desserts sold gets a prize- it could be a dessert.
Make it fun and competitive. You will see that most staff members like the challenge. It unifies them in a strange way and keeps their mind off being slow. ANd, it sets a goal other than just giving good service.
And finally, now is the time to be more hospitable to the customer than ever before. Service and personality are the two things separating successful restaurants from close-to-closing eateries.
Never let on to your customers or your vendors that things are looking bleak, because they really aren’t. Its just that time of year. Keep a smile on your face. A handshake goes a long way when welcoming a customer you have not seen in a while. And, don’t wear out your welcome at any one table.
Are these tips the save all? No, of course not. But, if you initiate them, with some strong marketing ideas and a bit of menu creativity you and your staff will feel as though your working towards a more successful business. And that is half the battle to winning the war of competition.