How to Increase the Average Spend Per Customer in Restaurants

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One of the quickest ways to increase your sales is to get your customers to spend more by increasing their average spend per head when they come in.

Sounds easy but if you are reading this article you probably aren’t thinking about it. What it comes down to is training your servers or cashiers and a little creativity on your end.

Cookie contest

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OK I know you are thinking, how the hell is a cookie contest going to increase my average spend per customer in my restaurant? Well let me tell you we did this for an entire month at each of our locations and it added almost $3,000 in sales at each location!

Of course, we had incentives for the stores so they were competing against each other. I don’t always recommend doing this but turning it into a game engaged all the employees.

It not only engaged front of house staff but the back as well because we had penalties setup for over cooking or mishandling the cookies.

Our regular customers even got into it. Some would come in and buy 5 or more cookies because they wanted the employees at “their” store to win it. This surprised me when I started hearing about it.

Of course, some of them got a little annoyed after the first week or two when they heard the same request over and over. Just make sure your staff is using common sense as well as to not offend your guests.

This doesn’t have to be cookies; you could use any of your menu items:

  • Appetizers
  • Cocktails
  • Desserts
  • Etc.

Pre-shift meetings

Another way to increase the average spend of your customers when they come into the restaurant is to get your staff engaged during pre-shift meetings. If you are not performing pre-shift meeting I highly recommend it.

It is a chance to set the tone and energy level for the day. You can talk about specials, issues you are having or anything else you want to for the upcoming shift.

If you have specials, ask your servers how many they think they can each sell. You will quickly find them competing with each other. Then you can maybe offer some kind of incentive like a movie ticket to the person who sells the most.

Just a little bit of direction in the beginning of the shift goes along way.

Suggestive selling (Sullivan Nod)

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Part of your training should include suggestive selling. If you have never heard of it, check out the Sullivan Nod and get your staff used to it.

We have all been victims of suggestive selling, “you want fries with that?” It won’t work every time but it will work some of the time which will add up over long periods of time.

We had an employee who received training from a big movie theater. They weren’t allowed to say “is that all?” they had to continue offering other products until the customers said they didn’t want anything else.

  • Would you like to try our XX appetizer?
  • Did you want a salad with your burger?
  • Did you want a beer tonight?

You could ask as many times as menu items you have. The employee with this training made a game out of it every night asking many customers when they walked in if they wanted to try a Jumbo Rib Plate which was our most expensive menu item.

He would hit about 2 out of 10!

Perfect Tickets

This technique to increase your customers average spend requires a little homework on your end. It is well worth it though.

If you already have your menu costed out, then it won’t take that much time. We use Excel to host a master file that will update our menu costs as we update our current prices from our suppliers.

You will want to find 1-3 items that have the highest gross margin, or the most profit in terms of dollars and not percentage. Often this will have the lowest food cots but they still had more dollars to your register.

For example, for us it was our large pork plate, which has a higher food costs than many other items but still adds the most profit dollars to the bottom line.

So, we have a running contest where if any of our cashiers sell one with a drink and a dessert that is considered a perfect ticket. We have small gift cards and other prizes that we hand out whenever they sell one of these.

Menu Design (Offer add-ons)

This goes along with suggestive selling to increase your customer’s average sale. Before you can get your staff to excel, make sure your menu gives them a chance to succeed.

I’m sure you have seen these before but some of ours include items like

  • Up-charge for larger drink
  • Charge for premium sides
  • Discounted price for additional sides
  • Adding a discounted salad to an entrée

These items don’t have to have low food costs, since you already have the sale, these just add incremental dollars to the register which add up over many transactions and 360 days a year!

Start increasing the average spend of your customer’s now

I hope you take action with at least one of these ideas. The quicker you get started the sooner you will see your average sale per customer start to rise.

We use these techniques with much success.

Give them a shot and let me know how it goes in the comments below!

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