Maintaining Restaurant Success: Exploring New Sales Avenues and Ways to Increase Traffic

It is never an easy task to open a new restaurant, build a steady customer base, and achieve profitability. Reaching a restaurant’s peak performance can take years, while a downturn can sometimes seem like it occurs overnight. Successful restaurants must constantly re-evaluate themselves by exploring new avenues for sales and increased traffic in order to stay one step ahead of competition.  Although there are many trends and strategies to consider, restaurants need to identify and implement those that will fit best with their business model.

Catering to a Younger Crowd: According to the National Restaurant Association, people under the age of 25 spend nearly 48% of their food budgets eating away from home.  As the baby boom population ages, recognizing preferences of the younger generation is critical for restaurants, and may even be an untapped source of customers for some upscale establishments. Restaurants looking to attract the younger demographic must first update their look and feel to be more casual with a clean and simple setting. Additional considerations are broadening menu selections to include some lower priced items that meet the budgets of the younger demographic and having more dishes that can be shared with others. Variety in menu selections is also key because the younger crowd is often eager to try new flavors and dishes.

Building a Morning and/or Late Night Customer Base: A growing number of restaurants, particularly those in the fast-food industry, are adopting breakfast menus, while some are staying open for 24 hours.  For restaurants not looking to open for breakfast or stay open 24 hours, staying open later is another option. In many locations, restaurants close by 9 or 10 pm.  With more people cooking less, especially the younger demographic, staying open later—even if it is with a limited menu—to become a late night destination is proving to be a draw. Another tactic is further increasing convenience by opening drive-thru windows.  Drive-thru orders are not just for fast-food hamburger restaurants any more. Many coffee sellers and other food retailers are doing the same. Seattle’s Best Coffee launched its drive-thru concept earlier this year, and just last month Hot Dog on a Stick opened its first drive-thru.

Healthy Menu Options: With more health awareness campaigns and some locales requiring calorie counts on menus, customers are becoming more aware of what they eat. Providing healthy alternatives has increased in importance for restaurants given this greater awareness. Customers are also more concerned with understanding where their food is coming from. Many want to know the answers to questions such as whether ingredients are local or organic. Restaurants need to take a close look at their supply chain and ensure they can respond to these questions and continue to meet the demands of customers.

Embracing Technology and Social Media: With more customers turning to sites like OpenTable to make reservations, or to Yelp for restaurant reviews, restaurants must also embrace these tools to communicate with and get feedback from customers. Many restaurants are using social media sites as a means to differentiate themselves, build brand awareness, and market promotions. Free Wi-Fi has also become a standard for many restaurants.

What tips do you have for restaurants looking to explore new avenues for sales and increased traffic?