Product Strategies for Restaurants
Restaurant owners can increase sales, profits or both by modifying their product mix. An effective product strategy involves more than simply adding new items to your menu. Looking at the benefits your customers seek when dining out, the profit margins of various items and how certain offerings affect your image are all important components of developing an optimal product line.
To attract a wider variety of diners, segment your menu to appeal to different demographic characteristics. Add a list of healthy menu items if you sell mostly comfort food to allow your regular customers to bring health- or weight-conscious friends. Add a children’s menu so customers with kids can visit you more often. If you offer a health-conscious menu, highlight two or three “bad” menu items so your regulars can bring co-workers or friends who don’t care to eat low-fat, low-sodium or low-cal.
Not every meal has to make you money to help you grow your business. Add upscale specials for both regulars and new customers, even if you lose some money on the sale, to expand your menu and position you as an eatery that appeals to a more all-encompassing crowd. You can limit the number of these dishes you offer, letting your servers know when you run out. You still get the benefit of having this type of food on your menu, which can encourage customers to continue coming in the future. If you don't want to lose money on specialty dishes, offer them at very low profit margins; they can stimulate more sales overall.
Instead of only offering a la carte options, bundle appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts to create value meals. You don’t have to offer a five-course meal, but letting diners choose three items for one price, or two items and a beverage, can encourage more spending. Virtually every national fast-food sandwich chain offers a sandwich, fries or chips and a drink; bundling works.
Diners don’t always have the time for a sit-down breakfast or lunch. Expand your product line with new to-go items or items from your regular menu customers can take with them. During your breakfast hours, offer both breakfast and lunch items workers can take back to the office and eat later.
Develop a catering side business and market it to your loyal customer base. This takes research and planning, because catering uses a different business model than running a sit-down restaurant. If you aren’t open for breakfast or dinner, use your kitchen down time to run your catering business.
Anytime you add a new product or product line, analyze how it will affect your brand. If you are an Italian restaurant and decide to start a Mexican catering side business, you may send the message to your customers that you are not a specialty restaurant; however, a pizzeria can add a pasta catering business if it wants to expand without confusing its brand. If you are an upscale restaurant, avoid selling cheap to-go items or offering a value menu.