5 clever ways to increase customer spend at restaurants

Has the budget speech got your customers scaling down their orders? Here are five clever ways to keep your turnover turning over – even when economic circumstances are slamming on the breaks.

1. Offer smaller portions

Got great morning coffee trade? Customers popping in for a takeaway coffee aren’t likely to buy a whole slice of cheesecake, but they might just spring for a mini cupcake or a rusk if they’re easily accessible, and less expensive than the larger slice. “They sell really well,” says Giulio Loreggian of Giulio’s, in reference to his mini tarts and cakes. “It’s how I prefer to eat too – I don’t want a whole big cake.” The same goes for bar flies – those patrons who come for after-work drinks are more likely to order something to eat if it’s smaller or cheaper than a main meal. Try making mini versions and see if you can convert coffee drinkers to cake eaters and beer drinkers to tapas eaters.

Mini meringues at Giulio's. The cafe often has tiny tartlets on offer, too.

Mini meringues at Giulio’s. The cafe often has tiny tartlets on offer, too.

2. Try down-selling

You’ve probably trained your staff in the art of the up-sell and the cross-sell, but have you considered down-selling? If a customer refuses an expensive option, consider training staff to offer something a little cheaper. No dessert? Maybe just a coffee? Today’s special is too pricey? Would they like to order it in a starter portion? The bonus of down-selling is that the customer may still spend something – even if it’s not much. Like up-selling and cross-selling, down-selling is a subtle art, and it’s still important to ensure that staff aren’t pushy.

3. Offer takeaway lunch options

Aside from offering the cheapest or the most delicious option, one sure-fire way to seduce customers is to be the most convenient option. At Lunchworks in Cape Town’s city bowl, the ready-to-go options form a large part of the turnover. If you’re situated close to office workers, chances are your customers will also appreciate some ready-made and -packaged options – especially if they’re affordable, and slightly more special than what’s for sale at local supermarkets.

A portion of the display fridge at Lunchworks.

A portion of the display fridge at Lunchworks.

4. Offer discounts for specific companies

The office workers from directly across the road are likely to choose you, but what about the big building two blocks down? Consider offering a discount on lunches, breakfasts or coffees for members of a particular company. Word will spread like wildfire within the company, and you might just find that 50 people are now more inclined to walk an extra block for coffee or an off-site meeting.

5. What’s in a name?

Take a leaf out of the fast-food book and build your own brand with a signature dish with a quirky name. We all witnessed the mania that followed Dominque Ansel’s patenting of the Cronut™, and the chaos that ensued when that Aussie café started serving obscene milkshakes called Freakshakes. Melrose Arch cafe, The Grind witnessed similar enthusiasm when images of their coffee in a cone went viral. There’s something a little more enticing about ordering a Smashburger (Rocomamas’s name for its entire burger range) than a simple cheeseburger. Perhaps its time to rebrand that incredible but seldom ordered brownie, or create your own Big Mac equivalent.

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