Capturing the attention of restaurant-goers is difficult in a crowded market, but keeping that attention and building a loyal customer base is even more of a challenge.
We spoke to the founder of online hospitality support hub Profitable Hospitality, Ken Burgin, who stressed that restaurant owners often overthink the changes they need to make to inspire loyalty and attract new customers.
“While you shouldn’t be afraid of spending money on new items at your venue, there are a few easy marketing tricks that can attract customers just as well for a fraction of the price,” Mr Burgin said. “For example, take a look at the menu – it’s what lures people in, keeps them interested, and markets your business to would-be customers. If you are willing to put in a little bit of effort, you will be amazed at what a refreshed menu will do for your venue.”
To show you just how simple some of these changes can be, Ken has shared five easy tips that will help transform your menu:
1. Separate the luxury from the standard
This theory works on every venue from a takeaway fish and chip shop to an upmarket CBD bar: always have a ‘fancy’ section to your menu. People love to know that there is a luxe option to take if they wish to – maybe they’re showing off in front of a date or are in the mood to spoil themselves.
Separate these high-end items under a new category and raise the prices. If you are a cafe, for example, keep your ‘Gourmet Italian Paninis’ separated from your standard sandwiches. Or, if you are a local pub owner, have your ‘Favourites’ menu and then ‘Specials’. Don’t be afraid to point out that this section is something fancy – that’s what some customers will be seeking out!
2. Highlight the popular items
When arranging your menu, don’t be shy about giving your highest gross profit items a prominent position. It is good business to drive your customer’s attention towards menu items that will cost you little to make, but will make you a great profit due to mark-ups.
You can split these out from the rest of your menu by highlighting them in a different font, a pull-out box or even in a separate list such as ‘House Specials’. If nothing else, make sure they feature at the top of your menu.
3. Review your language
Do you describe your food on the menu? If you do, how does it sound? Be liberal with adjectives that will get your customer’s imagination running. Instead of describing a simple margarita pizza as ‘mozzarella, tomato, and basil’, why not try – “Melted buffalo mozzarella on a hand-spun crispy pizza base, spread with rich Italian tomato sauce and topped with fresh basil.”
Using descriptive language is going to make your customer emotionally involved with the dish and also feel more confident in their choice. A menu item that’s confusing to understand is not going to do well – people don’t like to look stupid when asking what an ingredient is.
4. Add photography
In the age of smartphone ordering apps like Uber Eats and Foodora, millennials are becoming more and more used to seeing their food before they order it. Invest in a good food photographer to come out and take some pictures of your hero dishes.
It will give your customer a better idea of serving size and meal type – you’ll have less disappointed customers and less leftover food as people can order accurately. Besides, great food photography really gets a stomach rumbling! You will use this imagery a million times over across your social media marketing, so don’t be shy to outlay the cash.
5. Create meal deals
Look at what menu items might lend themselves to a meal deal. If you often have a lunch rush, why not advertise at the top of your menu a selection of specially-priced lunchtime meals that include a side and a drink? Or, if you are a family takeaway venue, put together five or six different take-home packs.
The best thing about meal deals is that it only needs to be a little bit cheaper ($1 or so) than if they bought all the items separately, and a great way to upsell. People always feel as though they are getting a great deal if it’s advertised as such!