12 ways to increase restaurant sales through better marketing

Emma Woodward
Freelance Blogger

Boosting restaurant revenue remains a common struggle for restaurant owners. The average profit margin for restaurants is only 3-8%. Restaurants have notoriously high overhead costs. And the COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of stress on an already precarious profit margin. 

Figuring out how to increase restaurant sales may seem like an impossible challenge, but don’t overcomplicate it. Increasing your restaurant sales by even a small percentage will bolster profit margins and keep you on a pathway to success.

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Tackle your restaurant revenue with some strategic planning and a few new ideas for your marketing strategy. Let’s explore how to boost restaurant sales. 

Know your brand

Socrates once said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” The philosopher gave us some helpful branding advice (outside of a cliche caption for cheesy Instagram posts). Know your brand. Know what your brand isn’t. Strategize accordingly. 

McDonald’s doesn’t try to offer table service. A local, high-end steakhouse may not offer takeout. These decisions wouldn’t be on-brand for them. 

As you make a plan to increase restaurant revenue, consider your brand. Don’t try to be a brand that you’re not. Don’t try to appeal to every potential customer. Think about your brand and your audience. Then, make a killer marketing strategy to fit you and your ideal customer.

Harness the strengths of your team

Next, consider where your team thrives. Start by outlining who’s on your team. Who has the capacity to help with your marketing? Is it just you? Do you have a marketing team? Do you have staff members who are tech pros or social media mavens? 

Take time to outline the strengths of your team and any capacity you have to hire outside help for marketing. If it’s just you, great. If you have a whole team for marketing, that’s great, too. Knowing the capacity and strengths of your team will help you capitalize on your team’s time and increase your restaurant sales efficiently.

Plan accordingly

Once you’ve considered your brand and your team's strengths, you can make a plan to meet your restaurant revenue goals. Taking even a few minutes to consider what makes the most sense for your business will streamline the process for boosting your restaurant sales. 

Remember to think about three factors when deciding on new marketing strategies:

  • Your brand personality
  • The strengths of your team
  • Your marketing goals (i.e. boosting restaurant revenue)

With your plan in mind, determine which methods for increasing restaurant sales will serve your business best.

12 ways to increase restaurant sales

As you craft a master marketing plan to increase your restaurant revenue, think about how you want to do it. We’ve gathered our best ideas to put some juice in your plan and divided them into three main categories:

  • Bring in new customers
  • Retain current customers
  • Increase spending

Take a look and decide on a few ideas that work best for you and your business right now. Remember, you don’t have to do all of these. Try to focus on what you think will get you the best return on investment of time and money.

How to boost restaurant sales by bringing in new customers

Marketing to convert potential customers into actual customers is called acquisition marketing. And gaining new customers infuses more spending power into your customer pool. Here are a few ideas on how to win the hearts (and pockets) of new customers. 

  1. Partner with delivery and reservation services. Food delivery app usage has seen incredible upward growth in the past few years, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Of the people who use these apps, 46% reported hopping on the app to look for ideas, not knowing what they would order. Getting your restaurant on these apps is an awesome marketing strategy for food delivery services because almost half of users are open to trying new places.
  2. Host events. There are many ways you can leverage events to win new customers. Partner with another local business for an event to connect with their customers. Make it a theme night. Use a private space in your restaurant to book parties and celebrations. 
  3. Use social media to reach new customers. Encourage your followers to share your posts by hosting giveaways. Or invite local foodie accounts to give you a try for free in exchange for a feature. Keep your feed consistent and appealing, so it encourages potential customers to give your business a try. 
  4. Make your Google business listing shine. There are over one billion restaurant searches on Google every month. Optimize your Google business listing so that you can win customers through relevant searches. Make sure all of your business info is current, like hours, website, and phone number. This extra info will help potential customers find your restaurant and know when to try it. 
  5. Encourage returning customers to write reviews. Customers can write reviews on sites like Facebook, Google, or Yelp. Invite current customers to post a review with photos by offering a discount. Reviews can encourage consumers to try a new place when they might not otherwise.
Screen grab of a positive review for a great software company.
Real life example: when we launched our own review campaign on G2, we saw a boost in sales.

How to boost restaurant sales by retaining current customers

Focusing on retaining your existing customers takes less out of your bottom line than acquiring new customers. In fact, as little as a 5% increase in customer retention can boost your profits by 25-95%. So, what can you do to retain current customers? We’ve got a few ideas for you.

  1. Increase speed of service and table turnover. Your table turnover rate is the number of parties you serve divided by the number of tables you have (example: 30 parties/10 tables = turnover rate of 3). Training your staff on how to turn over tables quicker and introducing technology that can help with speed of service is a great way to keep customers happy and serve more people. Using digital ordering technology, like Bbot, can help. 
  2. Implement new ordering methods. Here’s the deal, as of January 2021, there has been about a 66% year-on-year decline in customers dining in restaurants, according to Statista. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how customers engage with restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose customers. Try offering multiple different ways for the customer to enjoy your food. Consider implementing mobile ordering, curbside pickup, delivery, or takeout services, if you haven’t already. 
  3. Create a loyalty program. Introduce a digital loyalty program or use a system with a physical punch card. Either way, most consumers (71%) who use them find loyalty programs to be a valuable part of their relationship with a business, according to Bond. 
  4. Use social media to engage with current customers. Whether you’ve mastered social media marketing for restaurants already or not, finding new ways to engage customers through social media platforms keeps your customers excited about your brand — post about your specials. Create polls for new menu additions. Introduce your staff. You don’t have to do everything, but find out where your customers spend the most time and pick a few consistent ways to engage them there. 
  5. Send out a newsletter. You can send email newsletters or kick it old school and send out a snail mail newsletter. Either way, you will keep current customers updated on what’s going on and remind them to keep coming back. Want to see an example? Try signing up for our newsletter to get inspired.

How to boost restaurant sales by increasing spending

If you already have customers coming in the door, one of the simplest ways to increase restaurant revenue is by encouraging customers to spend more. Consider ways you can invite customers coming in the door to spend a few extra bucks, like these:

  1. Incorporate upselling into the ordering process. Train staff in upselling without overselling. By anticipating customers' needs, staff can master an upsell that skews more expert customer service than pesky sales pitch. 
  2. Sell branded products. Shake Shack offers customers several branded apparel options, and Dunkin’ Donuts just did a collab with Carter’s baby clothing. Branded tees aren’t for every restaurant, but there are a ton of items you could sell that might be on-brand. If you roast your own coffee, try selling that. Or you could offer a branded handcrafted item, like a wine bottle opener.
Merchandise from a Dunkin' Donuts and Carter clothing line collaboration.
Dunkin' and Carter's collab

Next steps

Knowing how to increase restaurant sales takes planning. Consider your brand and your team's capacity as you craft a plan. 

Start by gathering info on your brand and your customers. Then, grab a few ideas and try them out. A successful strategy takes some experimentation. Be open to trying a few things if one idea isn’t working. Now, go tackle your restaurant sale like a pro.

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