These days, the more sales opportunities an operator can have, the better. Leveraging existing capabilities—staff, production space, inventory—into additional venues and dayparts makes more sense than ever. Fixed costs like facilities and equipment are already paid for. Employees and ingredients can be cross-utilized to build additional revenues. Those revenues can be created off-premise or on.
Special Events and Catering
Do you have front-of-the-house square footage that isn’t always in use for regular service? Many new food service facilities are designed with flexible, smaller spaces that can be closed off or otherwise separated from the main dining room. These are more conducive for large parties and special events during slower times, or can be pressed into service for overflow when it’s busy.
A location that’s closed on a Sunday night or during lunch can be promoted as event space for family parties or business meetings. Or create a special event of your own, such as a wine tasting or theme dinner. These events can keep a business going during the slow season, such as the summertime in a college-town operation.
But you don’t need event space to sell special events. One of the most lucrative areas of off-premise business is self-service catering. Selling platters, casseroles and other bulk foods for either delivery or customer pick-up builds sales and more effectively utilizes production capacity and inventory.
Complete meals, including disposables and items such as tablecloths, can be sold as a package at a per-person price. Busy customers also appreciate being able to buy hors d’oeuvres or a main course such as lasagna for their own parties. Some operators even allow patrons to bring in their own serving pieces to be filled with menu specialties.
Carts, kiosks and other mobile units can be used as a source of additional sales in a satellite location. Set up a coffee kiosk in the lobby of the building in which the kitchen is located, or roll a cart out to the courtyard during sunny weather to sell prepared sandwiches, prepackaged salads or desserts.
Adorned with bright logo’d signage and equipped with take-home copies of the menu, a satellite can bring your brand to new places. It will not only build sales, but also serve as an introduction to potential new customers.
With the proper permits, a larger mobile unit such as a truck can be parked at sporting events, fairs and other venues. Even renting a table or selling space at a local “Taste of” event can build sales and help promote the parent establishment.
Additional Dayparts and Mini-Menus
There’s more to making money than breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many operators encourage patrons to dine at the bar with a limited menu of easy-to-serve specialties, perhaps even outfitting the lounge with casual high-top tables where snacks and finger foods are served.
Bar menus and other light-food selections build sales in several ways. They create additional visits, on occasions when the patron doesn’t want a full meal. They allow friends to meet and have a quick bite before going in to dinner. They encourage casual dining in a more formal atmosphere.
A number of chains are experimenting with the so-called fourth meal. This generally encompasses late-night service but can also include the period between lunch and dinner. Once again, a limited menu that can be easily prepared by a reduced kitchen staff and served by a short crew works wonders for sales.
Even inviting customers to come in for dessert can build sales. Some establishments allow customers to have dinner and return for the final course after a movie or sporting event (keep the check open with a credit card).