Expanding your business beyond the seats in your establishment

Everyone in our industry is looking for ways to increase sales in a way that makes those sales highly profitable. If you can increase sales without increasing overhead costs then profitability on those incremental sales will be substantial. The trick is to find ways to generate those sales at times when you are experiencing low sales volume or on items with high profit margins.

Although take out would seem an easy way to increase sales without expanding your operation, most take out sales are generated during peak business periods and therefore put a strain on the operation. We are looking for ways to expand our business outside of those parameters. Here are a few suggestions that can help you expand your business beyond the seats in your restaurant.

Catering to customers

Off site catering can create a very lucrative source of income without increasing overheads. You do not need to establish a full scale catering operation to take advantage of this opportunity. Quite often when your customers are entertaining guests or they are planning an office party, they will require your services. You can provide the entire meal or just some of the components and the customer can do the rest. If you provide an incentive for them such as a volume discount they will be more likely to order from you rather than prepare it themselves. Generally these parties are planned well in advance. Getting the order in advance gives you a chance to achieve savings in labor by utilizing down time in your restaurant. It can be helpful to develop a mini catering menu that tells your customers which of your menu items are available for this purpose. You should also select menu items that lend themselves to this type of service. It can be as simple as a platter of vegetables and dip or a cheese platter to something as elaborate as your house specialty. Remember to package it well and emphasize presentation. For larger orders, consider complimentary delivery or a discount for pick up. Not only is this a great way to generate revenue, but it also allows you to expose your establishment to many potential new customers.

Successful souvenirs

People love to take home a souvenir from their favorite restaurant, especially if it is a food specialty that they particularly enjoy. Do you have a secret sauce or seasoning mix that your customers are always asking about? Then package it attractively and sell it to them. Many steakhouses sell their steak seasoning in small jars for as much as $5.00 for 4 ounces of product. The margins are substantial and the effort is minimal. Some have even started to market their seasoning mix in retail stores. Imagine the impact of your restaurant’s name being front and center every time that customer opens the cupboard.

Do you make a spectacular product that everyone raves about? Maybe it is a house made burger. Can you package it for retail sale by putting them in a refrigerated display case at the front of the restaurant? Many restaurants are baking their own breads and rolls. If you have the facilities then look at this to increase revenues. Baking is usually done early in the morning or late at night so empty ovens and underutilized mixers and work tables can be put to good use. Create a clever package and sell them. You can do the same thing with pies and cakes. These are all very high profit margin items.

Many people are looking for restaurant quality meals for their freezers. If you make fantastic lasagna, chicken pot pie, shepherd's pie or other casserole type item that can be packaged and frozen, then you have the potential to increase sales without increasing overhead.

Cooking with class

With the current interest in cooking and all things about food, cooking classes are becoming increasingly popular. Being able to attend a cooking class in a working restaurant is very exciting. Do you have the capability to offer a Saturday morning cooking class or a mixology class? This is a great way to give your chef or bartender not only some glory and attention but also some additional income. If you are closed on Mondays then why not offer a once a month hands-on cooking and dinner evening for a select number of your best customers and members of the media. Not only does this increase revenue but it can create some great PR buzz about you.

No matter what you do always remember that everything that you put your name to is a reflection of your establishment. Always keep the quality of your offerings at the highest possible level.