The clear answer is to simply serve better food today than you did yesterday to excite guests with a strong intent to return and purchase. Which is easier said than done!
You should have a robust action plan or tactics to drive “new” and “incremental” food sales. While alcohol beverages will always be a necessary component to an outstanding full service approach, your guests usually visit your restaurant to eat.
Therefore, let’s examine those key tactics that will support and drive food sales:
1. Continuous Innovation: Due to changing trends and new product introduction, you want to have a solid innovation strategy. Your strategy should include testing of new dishes and recipes with criteria on what it takes to add new and exciting features. If you have multiple “menu implementations” yearly, determine both a new feature discipline and a deletion strategy of those items that have lost their luster and no longer are relevant to your customers.
2. Product Replacement: As well as testing new features or recipes, a key tactic is to test and replace specific products which can help drive your objective as well. You cannot continue using the same bacon, chicken breasts and hamburger patties as example if those products do not move the needle with guests. Replacing one product for another that meets your cost objective while also tasting better will insure you are following up with your strategic objectives. A strong product replacement initiative can be a key contributor to rolling out better features.
3. Role of Testing and Promotions: Testing as mentioned is critical prior to removing an item or adding new features. Menus designed with new features with a method to gain valuable feedback is critically important for a successful menu implementation. A well balanced and planned LTO (limited time offer) can also provide the opportunity to introduce new items for shorter time frames, generally 4-6 weeks.
4. Plate Appearance: We hear the term “guests eat with their eyes” for a couple reasons. Awesome looking dishes will excite and drive trial much more that a dish that is not as exciting or flat. Center of plate focus should be top of mind, and while side dishes, garnishes and secondary products are important, nothing trumps a great looking sizzling steak, rack of ribs, or salmon that have not only been prepared expertly but placed on the plate correctly - driving trial. Fanatical execution (first time, every time) with recipe preparation also resonates with your customers.
5. Menu Design / Layout: Your menu will assist in your goal to drive food sales. Best in class menus are simplistic in approach (more is not always better). If you utilize pictures and detailed descriptions of food features, spend the appropriate amount of time customizing how features line up on your menu, whether one page or multiple. Well thought out and planned descriptions will add to calling out features. Pairing beer, cocktails and wine with food items is trendy today as well. This can be accomplished with ease and be an added benefit to driving sales.
6. Fastballs Down the Middle: While every item or feature on your menu may not be the best in the industry, determine what key items are most important to you. Build a “best in class” discipline with a focus on key products that will drive sales with very strong intent to return. Best in class dishes can set you apart from your competitors. If your “Chicken with Couscous” or “Baby Back Ribs” are renown, you should build upon those to drive sales. Fastballs down the middle (clear winners) and best in class dishes once again can be simplified. Priced correctly, an awesome “Chicken with Couscous” is all you need. Just check with Houston’s, they rock with this dish.
If your strategy is sound, fits your brand, tested when appropriate and you don’t take any unnecessary steps while executing every dish correctly, you are on the way to driving food sales.