Are You Cannibalizing Your Restaurant's Own Sales?

A friend took me out to dinner recently to celebrate my birthday. It’s a good Mexican-themed restaurant with amazing margaritas, delicious meals, a casual atmosphere, and generous sized plates. It’s one of my favorite places to go when I’m back in my hometown.

Our waiter was super friendly, checking in early and often. We placed our orders, ate, talked, drank. We had a grand ol’ time. The amount of rice, beans and chimichangas on my plate were well beyond what my stomach could handle (as tasty as it all was). Our waiter walked over when we were done with dinner and asked if we wanted any dessert.

“Oh, god, no,” I said. “I don’t think I can eat anymore at this point.”

“I don’t blame you,” he replied. “The plates are so big here. Once in a while we have a little powwow in the back and talk about pushing dessert sales, but it never works. Our plates are too big. Who can eat dessert after this unless you’ve been starving for a week?”

The potshot at his employer aside, he makes a valid point. The restaurant wants to push dessert items to their guests, which is a sure-easy way of boosting their average check totals. But if their plates are so big and so filling, then no one’s going to order dessert. They’re losing out on bigger checks.

In short: they’re cannibalizing their own sales.

At main courses being between $10-$14, their meals are as generously priced as they are sized. If they want to boost their average check total they have two main options – increase menu prices or make plates smaller.

Now, we know just the idea of suggesting price increase probably has you recoiling in your seat. We might as well be dragging our fingernails across a chalkboard. You hate it because your guests hate it.

So your other main option is making plates smaller while keeping the prices the same. In general, US restaurant plate servings are enormous since restaurants want their guests to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. This is doubly so for the restaurant in our story.

Suggestive sales can help… to a point

While it makes your guests super happy to bring home extras, this is cutting into your profit and keeping a lot of your guests from even thinking of the idea of ordering dessert. A one-two punch to help with your profits is to make your plates smaller (how small is really up to you) while also pushing suggestive sales of items like dessert.

You can go a step further by gamifying your suggestive sales with staff. Gamifying your staff’s sales has been a proven way to supercharge revenue as it gives your team an incentive to push additional items while making it fun.

We’ve talked a lot about getting your staff to engage more in suggestive selling, and we completely stand behind the idea as we’ve seen it work. But it’ll only work so much if you’re menu isn’t priced and sized properly. You can’t make full guests eat more (unless they’re Mr. Creosote).

So take a look at your menu and plates and see where you can make adjustments. After that, start implementing a strong suggestive sales program with your staff and you’re well on your way to greatness.