Success in your restaurant or cafe business can sometimes be a difficult thing to grasp but in general, success is defined simply as more customers = more success for your restaurant business. As a retail coach I have seen too many situations where restaurant and café owners do not focus on this basic fundamental question, How do I bring in more customers into my business? I have seen owners focus on just the Interior design or retail store design for their outlet as if having a great looking store is the end all and be all of a successful store. Please note, that I am not in any way taking away the importance of having a well thought out retail store design but rather just drawing from my experience working with clients, they (i.e. store owners) may be too overtly focused on only the shop interior design aspect of the store. If you want to know how to run a build a profitable food & beverage business, here is a great article which can guide you on the process.
Which brings me to the subject I want to talk about today. I want to share with you 3 simple steps to bring in more customers into your restaurant / cafe which I believe will help bring your more success and ultimately more money into your pocket.
Step 1 (One): Hand out FREE SAMPLES of your food
This one simple step is commonly overlooked by virtually all restaurant owners whose business lacks customers. Why? This is something that unfortunately with my years being in the retail coaching industry I still cannot understand why this simple step is overlooked. But here are a few things to look into when you decide to hand out free samples of your food:
1. Make sure the samples you are handing out is your star attraction / dish.
This would be the dish you honestly believe is your best seller, the item which your potential customer will taste and will not hesitate to walk into your space. I have seen too many times restaurant owners sample their cheapest dishes because they fear that giving out their best dish would mean a very high cost for them. Here’s a thought, would you rather spend a little bit more to bring in customers or let customers sample not your best offering and decide not to walk in anyway.
2. Make sure the samples are easy for the customer to try.
What I mean here is to put the sample into a cup or a small dish so customers can easily pick up the item to sample. Too many times have I seen samples just cut up and placed on plate with a toothpick stuck to it. It is so unappetizing and that’s probably why your no one wants to try your samples. Also, someone needs to be encouraging customers to try the samples. I have actually seen restaurant owners give out samples, put them on a platter on a table expecting potential customers to try it without anyone serving them or engaging them to try their product. What a wasted opportunity!
First off the customer is not going to pick your sample up because they naturally wonder if the platter is for sampling or something else. Next your customer is also probably wondering how long that sample has been there. Also, don’t put 10 samples on your platter when you sample put a smaller number, it will feel fresher to your customers when there are less samples on your platter as it gives the perception that plenty of others have tried it and your samples are just great!
3. Sample at the right time
What really would be the best time? Right before lunch or dinner rush. I know it may sound very obvious and a no-brainer to some but I am just putting it out there, if you are running a restaurant do not sample your products after your lunch or dinner rush as your customers would be too filled up to try your samples. Simple I know but it needs saying.
Step 2 (Two): Action up your store and light up your store front appropriately
In case your wondering, to me the food business has always been a show business! Customers are always curious & fascinated to see the inner workings of a restaurant hence you should always look at opportunities to take certain portions of your kitchen operations out of the kitchen and move them up to the front of the store.
When we work with our clients, we start by creating a small show kitchen area which will allow customers to see a part of your food making process. What is important here is to allow customers to see a part of the kitchen operation which looks impressive and is full of action which would excite the customer. Nothing is more appetizing than having fresh food made in front of you. A great example of what I mean would be the front portion of a pizzeria where customers can see the chefs and cooks kneading the dough for the pizza or even assembling the pizza right in front of the customer which gives the impression that your food is being made fresh.
What is the purpose of doing something like this? Well as I mentioned when I started this paragraph the food business is first and foremost show business. People see food with their eyes at the same time, their other senses come into play as well. Further to that, by having a functional show kitchen in the front of the store allows us to draw attention to the show kitchen area when the rest of the restaurant is empty during non-busy periods. Finally, having a show kitchen in front of the store also brings a sense of energy and excitement to the space which will entice passerby’s to stop and take a look. During that time, its important for your staff to quickly engage, engage, engage with the customer.
Step 3 (Three): Create Time Sensitive Promotions
How many times have you seen this boring promotion at the front of any retail store. Drop us your business card for a 10% off your bill? Am I right? The key to running a great Food & Beverage business is to always have interesting and time sensitive promotions which would entice customers to visit you. For example, Domino’s once ran a promotion where customers could bid for the price to pay for a pizza during lunch hour. It was fun because Domino’s engaged with its customers and inserted a certain level of gamification into the process. Talk about engagement!
The purpose of promotions such as these is to encourage customers to respond to them. As such, those promotions must have a sense of urgency and creativity to the them. Another aspect of these time sensitive promotions are to make them limited in number or a shorter duration; thus, a promotion which runs 2 hours during lunch hour will always be more effective then a promotion which is available all day long everyday. Hence, time sensitive types of promotions are the ones I usually recommend my coaching students to try to create to engage their customers.
Also, having those promotions in limited quantity also taxes your imagination to push you to develop ever more interesting promotions which would engage the customer even more. So, don’t be afraid to try new and different things. You never know which type of promotions customers will potentially respond very well to.
I am sure these 3 steps are not the only way you can bring in more customers into your store, and if you have other methods I would like to engage with you to share them with me, so drop me a note. They represent a good place to start if you find that your sales are stagnant and not increasing. Remember customers are busy in their day to day commute and are always rushing from one place to the next. Its your job to stop and engage them correctly. If your offer is good, they will surely be interested. So go out there and try these methods. You owe it to yourself to make your business the best it can possibly be.
Connect with me in the comments section if you have more questions about this article or even your thoughts on this piece. Please feel free to share this piece with your friends who are in the retail business. For more questions about how a retail coach can help in your business, connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org #VisCreative #DesignProfitableSpaces #Retail #Business #Money