Appetizers, those pre entree profit centers allowing for conversation and small talk before dinner arrives are on the decline.
According to an article in Nation’s Restaurant News all of the pre-entr?e categories, appetizers, soup and salad, have dropped considerably over the past two years.
The report states consumers once thought to be active purchasers of salads dropped from 51 percent in 2007 to 33 percent in 2009. The appetizer category saw sales decrease in the same group from 40 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2009, and heavy purchasers of soups dropped from 25 percent to 15 percent in the same time period.
Unfortunately, the unappetizing economy is the partially the villain here but it isn’t the trimming of the disposable income budget alone that has hurt these categories. Some of the reason behind the decline is the stagnation of the variety and allure of the left side of the menu.
Of the 4500 consumers interviewed for the survey byTechmonics, fifty-eight percent said they are not satisfied with the appetizer selections. That number increased to 62 percent for customers between 18 and 34.
While Applebee’s, The Cheesecake Factory and TGIFriday’s along with other national chains were each offering or readying o offer special appetizer pricing, the problem may not be price embedded. Variety has always been the allure of restaurants and that is one of the most valuable assets of small non-chain operator.
Another loss owners experience due to decreased appetizer, salad and soup sales is the extra cocktail or glass of wine the consumer hesitates to order. Cross selling is an important factor is any sales process, including food.
There are a few things that can be done to keep appetizer and first course sales from disappearing but it will take more than printing brightly colored menus.
Here are ten tips on increasing appetizer, soup and salad sales.
1). Develop a series of appetizers that are not on your regular menu and rotate them as specials throughout the week. You don’t need a lot of selection, just enough creative diversification to show the consumer you care.
2). Make the special appetizer less expensive than the apps on the menu. This will sent the message that your customer’s wallets are in mind and may entice them to look for the appetizer special the next time they are in.
3). Use the freshest ingredients for your special appetizers, soups and salads. Don’t put chicken wings on the menu or the famed SYSCO Chicken Satay Skewers and call it a special.
4). Make your specials, special. Use creativity. Think out of the box and develop a flavor and style that may be completely different from everything else on the menu.
5). Create and appetizer and wine pairing that allow the customer to sample a wine they may not usually order because of price. Do not over pour the flight sized glass and par it with your evenings special. Make the appetizer course an event.
6). Offer a portion of soup that is smaller than a cup just to stimulate the palate. Cold soups are a great item in summer and easy to make. Gazpacho, Cantaloupe, Strawberry or Watermelon soup with a savory profile is an invigorating way to stimulate your guest’s palate.
7). Bring the staff into the equation. Make sure that the entire staff knows what you are attempting to accomplish. Include them in your plan and explain the importance of up selling, suggesting and pairing menu items. This may take some training, especially with new waiters. However, the time spent in training will come back to you in profits.
8). Develop a plan and a menu. Do not think that one night your specials will save you. You need to have a four week plan detailed and have a list of appetizers; soups and salads already decided on otherwise the program will be short lived.
9). Knowledge is the key to any sale. Let the staff know the ingredients, flavor profile and price of every special on the menu. And, make sure that they have tasted the selections. It will help them talk about and sell them.
10). Contests. Make sure that you create a weekly contest involving the waiters. Run it for a week and offer a few prices- a bottle of wine, dinner for two, a gift certificate to another restaurant that you did trade with, for the waiter that sold the highest percentage of their customers a special soup, salad or entr?e. By using the percentage method this will allow every waiter, no matter how many shifts they worked to get involved.
Remember: The best product will sit on a shelf if nobody sells it.