How to Increase Check Average
Interacting with a friendly, knowledgeable server is one of the pleasures of dining out. We’re happy to take their advice on the restaurant’s signature dishes, the evening’s specials, what wine pairs perfectly with our choices and the most delicious dessert. If they also happen to be well-trained in selling, they can easily bump up a table’s check average, resulting in a bigger tip and higher profits. The good news is that any restaurateur, from quick-service to fine dining, can use these tried-and-true strategies to boost their bottom line.
Step 1: Know your average check size
Tracking your restaurant’s check average is the first step to improving your bottom line. To calculate, simply divide total sales by the number of covers during a service in a particular time period (day/week/month, etc). If your operation offers lunch, dinner and evening service, remember to calculate the covers of each day part separately. Once you know where you stand, you can start working with staff to gradually increase this important benchmark.
Step 2: Upsell vs Cross-sell
To upsell is to convince customers to upgrade their order to a more expensive item. If a guest orders a beer, for example, recommend a more expensive craft beer or a larger size. If they’re considering the cheapest steak, sing the praises of the pricier rib-eye.
To cross-sell means extending the order by selling additional, complementary items. Suggest ordering snacks with beer, fries with the cheeseburger, guac with the nachos or topping a salad with steak, chicken or salmon.
Step 3: Menu tips to increase check averages
Educate staff: Knowing the food and beverage menu inside out will help servers increase their tips. Staff should be able to provide detailed menu descriptions, explain unfamiliar words and know which beverages complement each dish. To do this well they need to taste the food and learn about wine.
Staff also need to know the most profitable items on the menu so they can (gently) steer diners toward them. These may contain premium ingredients or be a cheaper item with a low food cost.
A well-designed menu is your secret weapon. A diner’s eyes typically go first to the centre of the menu, then the top right, then top left. Known as the Golden Triangle, this is the place for dishes with high profit margins. Use bold or italic to make specific high-margin items stand out even more. By placing a more expensive dish in the middle of the Golden Triangle, surrounding dishes look like a better deal.
Limit the number of menu items. Too many options can overwhelm diners and lead them to order the cheapest item. The ideal number in each menu category is seven, however many categories your menu contains.
Let diners customize their meal. Offer a list of vegetable sides or sauces, additional pizza toppings or protein powder for smoothies. Every extra dollar counts.
Boost sales by adding modifiers to every menu item in your POS system. This will automatically remind staff to cross-sell and upsell.
Step 4: Winning sales strategies
Customers don’t mind paying more for “special” (high profit) items when they come with a detailed, enthusiastic explanation and maybe even a personal (but not pushy) recommendation. A “This just in!” shout-out for new items also encourages sales.
Adding on a side salad or upselling to a larger size (perfect to share!) both help increase check averages. If guests seem reluctant to order appetizers or desserts, recommend ordering one to share. Since they’re splitting the cost, it will feel like a better deal. If they’re too full for dessert, suggest ordering one to take home.
Combo meals aren’t just for McDonald’s. Customers in any restaurant can build their own meal by choosing from a list of appetizers, entrées and desserts for a fixed price. Guests may eat more than they’d planned but they’ll leave feeling they got a great deal. Save families money and time by offering value-priced platters and kid-friendly options.
When guests drink wine, suggest a bottle first. For a celebration recommend a glass or a bottle of Prosecco depending on the number of customers. For those who don’t drink suggest a cocktail made from a new non-alcoholic spirit. Offer to refill wine glasses while guests are just finishing them. Extra drinks quickly bump up the check.
When possible, offer online ordering through your website. With tempting food photos and lots of extras to click on, studies show you can increase average check size by more than 20 percent.
Boosting check averages without raising prices won’t happen overnight, but training servers and bartenders on sales and service is well worth the effort. As staff become more confident in suggesting items and promotions, they’ll soon see the benefits of their extra work. It’s then up to management to monitor sales and encourage and reward staff for their efforts.
Written by Cynthia David