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  • Writer's picturePhilip Marchant

The Restaurant road to recovery

The Restaurant Road to recovery

As restaurants get ready to reopen during this crazy time. The emphasis must be on maximising the customer spend and creating a unique but safe and comforting experience to build customer trust and confidence.

Upselling is often seen as a bad word but used correctly it can not only increase customer spend but also enhance the customer experience and enjoyment. It can also provide great marketing opportunity.

Upselling is a strategy you should embrace and not avoid out of fear of sounding badgering or ‘salesy’. If done smartly and professionally, by well trained and motivated staff, upselling boosts your restaurant’s profits, impresses your customers, and enhances their dining experience.

Provide the best service.

Subtle, appropriate informed and enthusiastic suggestions at an opportune moment comes across as genuine attentiveness to a customer’s needs. It demonstrates that your staff are knowledgeable about the menu and interested in providing a great service. As a result, guests will respond positively to your recommendations and will enhance their experience.

Done well, you will start seeing customers become a voice of promotion for your restaurant.

· It begins with the Standard operating Procedures:

All restaurants should have one. This book details all the processes in your restaurant from recipes to presentation, answering the phone to engaging with customers. Done properly it will enhance your guests experience, increase your sales, improve your reviews and reputation, and boost your bottom-line profit.

· Next is your online presence:

Not only your website with all relevant information clearly displayed and easy to find on both computers and mobiles in a professional and engaging design.

· The first contact:

Whether this is online enquiry, phone or in person make sure your staff are well trained, professional, and enthusiastic. Follow a script for the initial contact and then provide a list of frequently asked questions with answers for your staff to follow.

· The welcome:

A great host will be able to plant a seed of interest with a customer whilst seating them.

The way your staff act and engage with different demographics of customers is equally important. Staff can act livelier and more outgoing with a younger group, whereas an elderly couple may prefer to receive a reserved warmth from your waiters.

The time of day and occasion for your guests also makes a difference to the upselling technique.

For example, A group of colleagues out for lunch probably don’t have enough time for tons of add-ons. Your best bet in that situation is to upsell quality dishes or push the daily specials, whereas a group of friends on a night out who take their time to eat and chat usually like the idea of a cheeky cocktail or a sharing platter and of course that naughty dessert.

· The menu:

The menu itself can encourage guests to upgrade or buy additional dishes or sides if designed and laid out well.

Placing items in cost order and including a cheap, mid-range and expensive options will encourage guests to subconsciously spend more on a mid-range item which you normally make the most profit on. This works equally well on all types of menus from coffee to desserts, cocktails, and wine menus.

Pairing dishes with drinks or sides either as a suggestion or as a combo deal also encourages increased spending whilst adding to the experience.

Remember to use emotional words in the descriptions such as – “Grandmas secret recipe apple pie” sounds so much better than “Apple pie”

· The personal touch:

People respond well to sincerity, as it makes them listen to their own emotions and decide to treat themselves. They also like to follow what is popular. Popularity is a sign of quality and makes the person feel included in a wider sense of enjoyment.

Great extras to upsell include chips, garlic bread, salads, extra sauces, and toppings. Teach staff about what goes well with what type of meal, and ensure they tell guests this.

Use their own experiences such as “oh I like to order mozzarella dippers with my tacos and pop a couple in the taco, it’s great when you bite in and the smooth cheesiness oozes over the spicy beef!” is much more personal and engaging and sounds so much better than “any side orders?”

Well trained staff can suggest drinks parings when customers are ordering food if properly informed. For example – “Medium rare fillet steak, oh we have a great red wine on offer this week called …… that goes perfectly with that, or if you prefer a beer then ……. Is a great choice.”

· Know your stuff!

Staff need to know the menu inside and out: what dishes complement each other, which ones guests like at certain times of day, and which make a higher gross profit. To truly win over diners, staff cannot simply mull over a few options and eventually land on an unconvincing answer. They need to give confident recommendations that show they know what they are talking about. If you are unsure about drinks pairings ask your suppliers, a good supplier will be able to offer advice and even staff training as this will also help them increase their sales.

As well as teaching staff what dishes and drinks pair well, you should get them to try as much of the menu as you can. With first-hand experience of the dish, they can give a genuine review of its taste, texture, portion size, and everything else a diner wants to know about their order.

When recommendations come from a place of honesty, guests feel excited to place their order and feel more responsive to suggestions. They will trust the waiter’s judgement and sense that they genuinely know what they will enjoy.

· The offering

With reduced customer numbers you will need to upgrade your offering, premium spirits and cocktails are a great but simply way to achieve this.

With fewer customers it will be even more important to watch your costs. It will be vital to keep a critical eye on your stock levels and wastage. It will be a great idea to reduce your menu size and focus on quality local produce done well. Focus on your core items and make sure the quality is top notch. This will not only increase your quality but will also reduce your costs and stock holding and will help with cash flow and support your local community which will support you back.

Local drinks both beers and soft drinks are also a great way to support local businesses and helps you jump on their bandwagon of customers which will in turn support your business. It can also help with your stock holding, as you can order less more often and even pick up some extra if you are busy.

Strategies for cutting costs are easy to implement, provided everyone follows them.

  • Ensure staff members update tabs. Staff should enter products as they are ordered and should double-check everything is accounted for before issuing the bill at the end.

  • Use proper food safety systems (like HACCP). Follow guidelines on labelling, preparing, and covering food in the fridge. Careful preparation and proper storage can help minimise wastage and decrease your food costs. Using the same ingredients in multiple dishes can further help reduce your stock holding and wastage. Make sure stock rotation is implemented to decrease wastage from out of date products.

  • Keep up-to-date inventories so you are never carrying too few or too many products. Regular stocktakes and monitoring of sales, means your can adjust your ordering or even remove poor sellers and replace them with more popular and profitable items.

  • Using a good EPOS system can help with the monitor process and ordering. Used properly it can be a wealth of information and will help maximise sales, reduce costs and increase profits.

  • If you have too much food going out the front door in doggy bags or out the back door in garbage cans, you are literally throwing away money and need to check your portion sizing and inventory levels. Offering smaller dishes can increase your sales, so instead of ordering one entrée at £9.95 they can order 3 or four smaller dishes for £3.95 instead this not only increases your sales, but encourages a more Instagram-able experience.

  • Use cheaper ingredients. Instead of baby vegetables offer a roasted vegetable medley. Steak strips in a sauce means you can charge for steak but use cheaper off cuts to help reduce cost.


  • With the covid rules and bookings only it will be easier to staff correctly. Make sure rotas correspond with bookings, i.e. you should have the right number of staff working for the nature of the shift.

  • Ensure staff carry out regular routine maintenance and cleaning on fridges, ovens, hobs, and cellar equipment to keep running costs down. Don’t forget to check fridge door seals and to clean their fans and grilles. Turn burners and ovens off after use to save gas and electric costs. If your capacity is reduced can you turn off fridges etc to reduce running costs.


  • Create a budget and targets, monitor and adjust monthly.

  • Set gross profit targets and monitor the GP you bring in carefully. Make sure you cost your items properly to ensure you meet your targets. Don’t forget to include all items including garnishes.

· One of the most basic expenses that everyone running a restaurant needs to track diligently is food cost. As it is, the food and beverage industry operates on some of the slimmest profit margins of any business type, which on average, are just 6.1 percent.

  • Check the costs from suppliers. Check your invoices carefully and adjust pricing accordingly. Shop around with alternative suppliers to get the best price possible.


Colours have been scientifically found to have a profound effect on eating habits and mood in general.

Beige tones give a feeling of relaxation, to encourage guests to stay longer, but orange causes anxiety and could help you turn over your tables faster. Meanwhile Reds, whites, and greens encourage overindulging and cause people to eat more and are typically used in fast food restaurants, so they could increase your ticket sizes. Blues act as an appetite suppressant.

Depending on your overall goals a change in colour scheme could help improve your operational efficiency and sales.

Declutter and keep it simple. The more items you have the more you will have to clean. It can also free up space for guests maybe even an extra table worth!?

Seek Help

For many, this is the hardest suggestion to follow. But the simple truth though is that no one can be an expert at every possible aspect of any business much less one as complex as food service.

Being honest with yourself and seeking out the advice of experts can help to maximize your profits, minimize your expenses, significantly improve the efficiency of your business and produce the vision you dreamed of.

This is not a complete list of suggestions on how to improve your restaurant operations. The sheer variety of restaurant types and possible formats would require a massive library of huge books. However, these little bits of advice are a good starting point to illustrate possible ways to improve your business.

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