If you own or run a restaurant, you know all about the disruption in the industry. Digital technologies are opening up new avenues for customers to purchase food, and shifting consumer tastes are leading to demand for more varied menu items. While this kind of change can bring uncertainty, it also creates possibilities. Regardless of how much you want your business to evolve in the coming year, boosting restaurant sales is a priority for everyone. Whether you’re looking to revolutionize your menu, open a new location, or increase local awareness, here’s a look at 15 tried-and-true strategies to help you grow your restaurant. 1. Attract new customers to your restaurant. The best marketing options for many restaurants involve hyperlocal promotions that bring nearby residents through the doors. Digital advertising via the web, email, and social media is also critical in broadening your audience. When it comes to boosting sales, blending email marketing, classic options like direct mail, and online relationship-building through social media can drive brand awareness and help get the attention of the locals. Building your Yelp community by engaging with reviewers and venturing into similar online sites can also help you gain recognition from locals and also attract visitors from out of town, boosting restaurant sales in the long run. While these tactics are powerful, they also come with costs. Strategic small business loans can give you the jolt of funding necessary to get off the ground in this area. Online lenders can offer short term financing options that let you launch new projects without risking significant debt. 2. Use retention strategies to build loyalty. Retaining existing customers is often less expensive than attracting new ones. Launching a customer loyalty program that rewards regulars can help you keep customers coming back. You may also want to consider giving customers an opportunity to voice their opinions about your menu or ambiance through online surveys or similar feedback tools. 3. Offer diverse purchasing options. Technological advances have made it possible to give restaurant customers a choice in who and how they patronize. Boosting restaurant sales is easier if your patrons can make purchases however they prefer. Digital sales platforms, however, come with a caveat. Many online food ordering apps are popular among consumers, but they also take a cut of sales. Building your own online ordering system and mobile app lets you provide convenience without losing a portion of the sales. A small business loan can help you upgrade your web systems and build a smartphone app. In addition to enhancing your digital offering, keep in mind that delivery, prepared dishes, and similar services can also diversify customer ordering options, boosting restaurant sales. A small business loan can provide funding for you to hire delivery drivers or purchase in bulk from suppliers to create those ready-to-go meals. 4. Maximize table turnover rate. Moving more customers through the restaurant—without adversely affecting their experience by making them feel rushed—is a great way to increase revenue. A few options to improve efficiency include: Deploying self-service kiosks at tables. Implementing fully integrated kitchen management and point-of-sale solutions to ensure that kitchen workers get orders as quickly as possible and simplify operations for servers. Hiring more front-of-house staff to ensure prompt, efficient service. Whether you’re making equipment investments or trying to cover salaries while you try new things, small business funding can position you to improve your table turnover rate. 5. Train your staff. Ensure your staff is well-trained and knowledgeable about your menu items. Customers appreciate recommendations, and good service can create loyal patrons. Offering ongoing training can also keep your staff motivated. Happy employees make for happy customers and ultimately result in increased sales. To maintain high-quality service and keep your team well-informed and motivated, consider implementing one or more of these restaurant staff training programs: Product knowledge training - This program focuses on educating staff about the details of your menu items, including ingredients, preparation methods, and ideal pairings. It helps waitstaff offer informed recommendations and answer customer queries with confidence. Customer service training - This training focuses on enhancing communication skills, managing customer expectations, and resolving complaints effectively. It can help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Health and safety training - Essential for all staff, this program teaches hygiene practices, safe food handling and preparation, and emergency procedures. Certification programs - These can include ServSafe Certification for food handling or Sommelier courses for wine knowledge. They provide professional growth opportunities for staff and improve the dining experience for your customers. Leadership training - For staff who are either in or moving into management roles, this program focuses on team management, conflict resolution, and leadership skills. It can help maintain a positive and productive work environment. Remember, investing in staff training can lead to better customer experiences and increased restaurant sales in the long run. 6. Leverage social media. Social media is not just a platform for social interaction, it's a powerful marketing tool. Properly utilized, it can be an effective element in your strategy to increase restaurant sales. Promote user-generated content Encourage your customers to share their dining experiences on their social media platforms. You can run contests where customers post pictures of their favorite dishes with a unique hashtag related to your restaurant. User-generated content not only increases your online presence but also builds trust and authenticity. Collaborate with influencers Consider partnering with food bloggers, influencers, or local celebrities who can promote your restaurant to their followers. This kind of promotion can dramatically boost your restaurant's visibility, especially if the influencer's audience aligns with your target demographic. Share behind-the-scenes content Customers appreciate transparency, and providing behind-the-scenes content can help humanize your brand. Share images or videos of your kitchen staff in action, the journey of your dishes from prep to plate, or even your team's fun moments. This gives your audience a glimpse into your restaurant's operations and showcases your commitment to quality and service. Utilize Instagram stories and highlights Use Instagram's Stories feature to promote daily specials, events, or limited-time offers. You can also showcase customer testimonials or positive reviews in your stories. Further, make use of the Highlights feature to permanently showcase important stories like your menu, special events, and customer experiences. This helps new followers quickly understand what your restaurant has to offer. 7. Offer special promotions. Regularly run special offers or promotions to encourage more visits. This could be a happy hour, a discount on certain days of the week, or a seasonal offer. Here are some steps to create an effective promotion: Identify your goals Firstly, define what you hope to achieve with the promotion. Do you want to attract new customers, encourage repeat visits, or perhaps generate more sales during a particular time slot? Understanding your objectives will guide you in creating a promotion that yields the desired results. Know your audience Understand who your customers are. What kind of deals would attract them? Are they more likely to respond to a discount on a specific meal or a 'buy one get one free' offer? Your promotion should be tailored to appeal to your target demographic. Design your promotion Craft your offer to be tempting to customers and profitable for your business. The design of your promotion should also be aligned with your brand. Keep the offer simple and ensure the terms are clear and easy to understand. Promote your promotion Spread the word about your promotion using various channels. Send emails to your mailing list, post them on your social media platforms, and display them prominently on your website. Consider using local advertising or even word of mouth to reach people in your community. Analyze the results After running the promotion, evaluate its effectiveness. Was there an increase in sales? Did you attract new customers or increase repeat visits? Analyzing the results will help you understand what worked and what didn't, and this information can be used to improve future promotions. Remember, the goal is not just to increase restaurant sales, but to also provide value to your customers and foster loyalty. 8. Optimize your menu. Your menu is a critical marketing tool. Make sure it's well-designed and highlights your special dishes. You can also use upselling techniques on your menu to increase the average spend per customer. Use strategic pricing Strategic pricing can greatly influence a customer's decision to order a particular dish. Place your higher-profit items near cheaper ones to make them seem like a better value. Consider using bundle deals or "meal deals" to encourage customers to spend more. Highlight seasonal items Customers appreciate variety and are often drawn to limited-time offerings. Promote seasonal dishes or drinks to create a sense of urgency and entice customers to order them before they're gone. Offer health-conscious options With the growing trend towards health and wellness, offering healthy menu items can attract a new demographic of customers. Clearly mark these items on your menu to make it easy for health-conscious individuals to find them. Create a well-organized menu Group related items together and use clear, readable fonts. A well-organized menu improves the customer experience and makes it easier for them to make a decision. Use mouth-watering descriptions Good food descriptions can make a dish more appealing. Use evocative language to make your menu items sound irresistible. Remember, your menu is often the first point of contact between your customers and your food. Making it as appealing and easy to navigate as possible can go a long way in boosting your restaurant sales. 9. Host events Hosting events such as trivia nights, live music, or cooking classes can attract new customers and create a vibrant atmosphere. How to host an event at your restaurant 1. Understand your customer base Before planning the event, take a moment to understand your customers. What interests them? What type of events are they likely to attend? Use this information to decide on the type of event that would resonate most with your target audience. 2. Plan the event Once you have decided on the type of event, it's time to plan. What will be the theme? How will you decorate the restaurant? What food and drink specials will you offer? Remember to consider the logistics, such as the date, time, and number of staff needed. 3. Promote the event Start promoting your event well in advance. Use all available channels—your website, social media, newsletters, in-house posters, local newspapers, and even word of mouth. Provide clear information about the event—date, time, cost, special offers, and what attendees can expect. 4. Prepare your staff Make sure your staff is well-prepared. They should understand the timeline of the event, their responsibilities, the menu changes, and to expect a higher-than-usual volume of customers. This preparation can help ensure smooth operations on the event day. 5. Create a festive atmosphere On the day of the event, make your restaurant feel special. Decorations, music, and lighting can all contribute to the atmosphere and make your guests feel excited and welcomed. 6. Capture the moments Consider hiring a professional photographer or encouraging your staff to take photos. These images can be used later for promotional purposes and to share on social media, creating anticipation for future events. 7. Gather feedback After the event, take the time to gather feedback from your customers and staff. This will help you understand what worked well and what could be improved for future events. Hosting events in your restaurant is a great way to bring in new customers, delight existing ones, and create a vibrant, community-oriented atmosphere. With careful planning and execution, these events can significantly boost your restaurant's reputation and sales. 10. Partner with local businesses. Collaborate with local businesses to cross-promote each other. This can be a great way to reach new potential customers in your area. Consider partnerships like hosting a joint event with a local business that complements your services—such as a wine tasting with a local vineyard or a dessert pairing with a local bakery. You might also consider partnering with nearby hotels or tourism companies to offer special deals or packages for travelers. Additionally, cross-promotion can be as simple as trading promotional materials—leaving your menus or coupons at a local retailer, while displaying their flyers or products in your restaurant. Engaging in community events, such as local festivals or markets, can also facilitate beneficial partnerships and increase visibility. Lastly, consider a loyalty program that integrates rewards from other local businesses, motivating customers to support not just your restaurant, but your local business community as a whole. 11. Upselling and cross-selling. One way to increase restaurant sales is through the techniques of upselling and cross-selling. Upselling involves suggesting higher-priced items or add-ons to customers to increase the overall value of their orders. For example, offering premium sides, encouraging a move from a regular to a large size, or suggesting superior-quality beverages can enhance the customers' dining experience while increasing your sales. Cross-selling is the practice of suggesting related but different items. For instance, if a customer orders a steak, suggest a suitable wine pairing or recommend a complementary dessert. However, it's essential to train your staff appropriately so that upselling and cross-selling feel like excellent customer service, rather than pushy sales tactics. These strategies not only boost your sales, but also allow customers to discover new favorite items on your menu. 12. Provide excellent customer service. Excellent customer service can turn first-time visitors into loyal customers. Ensure your staff is attentive, friendly, and professional. Train your staff for personalized service: Get to know regular customers, remember their preferences, or even their names. Build a strong customer service culture to significantly boost customer satisfaction and increase sales. Implement a comprehensive employee training program to enhance skills in dealing with different customers and situations. Empower staff to make customer-centric decisions for improved satisfaction and loyalty. Assess and improve service quality: Consider conducting customer surveys to assess service quality and identify areas for improvement. Handle customer complaints promptly and professionally. 13. Update your décor. The ambiance of your restaurant can contribute to your customer's overall dining experience. Consider updating your décor to make your restaurant more appealing. Lighting This includes considering the lighting, which should enhance the mood of the restaurant. Soft, warm lighting can create a cozy and intimate atmosphere, while bright, cool lighting can make the space feel energetic and lively. Music The choice of music can also significantly impact the ambiance of the restaurant. Choose music that matches the theme of your restaurant and the preferences of your clientele. Seating Comfortable seating arrangements and high-quality furnishings also add to the overall experience. Decor Consider showcasing local art or cultural elements to give your restaurant a unique character and a local touch. 14. Implement a reservation system. If you don't already have a reservation system in place, consider implementing one. A reservation system provides numerous benefits that can increase restaurant sales. Firstly, it allows for efficient table management, ensuring that you can maximize occupancy and serve as many customers as possible. Secondly, it provides a convenient way for customers to ensure they have a table, increasing their likelihood of choosing your restaurant over others. Thirdly, having advanced knowledge of reservations can help with staff scheduling and inventory planning, reducing operational costs and waste. Finally, a reservation system can also provide valuable customer data, allowing you to understand peak times and customer preferences, and enabling personalized marketing. 15. Offer catering services. Expanding your business to offer catering services can significantly boost your restaurant's revenue. Catering allows you to serve large groups at once and exposes your food to new potential customers. However, successful catering requires careful planning and execution. Consider investing in high-quality equipment and training staff to handle larger orders efficiently. Additionally, be sure to market your catering services through various channels such as social media and word-of-mouth advertising. Catering can also lead to repeat business as satisfied customers may choose to host more events with your restaurant's food. Funding holds the key to boosting restaurant sales. Boosting restaurant sales is easier when you have capital on hand to support operations. The good news is that small business lending is changing. Restaurant owners today have more options than ever to seek a variety of loan types, so their financing strategies align with their growth strategies. Learn more about restaurant business loans.