We rarely dine at restaurants and when we do it’s usually for a special occasion. Restaurants are always looking for ways to gain new customers and have some creative ways to boost their sales that don’t necessarily involve increasing prices.
We went out for dinner not long ago and I noticed a couple subtle ways the restaurant was able to increase customer spending.
The Waiting Game
When we arrived at the restaurant it wasn’t too busy and I noticed there were a few empty tables scattered around the dining area. When we requested a table for two we were told we would have to wait – even though there were empty tables in sight.
We waited and after a few minutes we were seated. The couple beside us didn’t wait – they went straight for the lounge which had plenty of available seats. I overheard the server say they could order drinks and appetizers in the lounge and then transfer their bill over to their table. Rather than waiting, that couple decided to order drinks first – and likely spent more than planned before they even had their dinner.
When we arrived at our table we were given a basket of regular potato chips to munch on right away. A couple minutes later the drinks menu came. Since we were now full of salt from the chips, we ordered drinks to quench our thirst – which we weren’t planning on doing.
I used to work in a restaurant and when we had something on special it usually meant it was excess that needed to be sold. If a restaurant puts a main dish on special for a small savings, they get rid of (likely) excess product and increase the chances the customer will order a drink or two – where the profit margins are usually higher. Daily specials can be a win-win for restaurants – they get rid of excess product and since the customer is saving on the main dish they’re more likely to order a drink or two along with their meal.
Free Meals for Kids
Most family restaurants either give free meals for kids or discounted meals. Some will run promotions that offer free meals for kids, who of course need to be accompanied by an adult. The meal then turns into a family event with mom, dad and a sibling going out to join him/her – along with an increased bill.
Timing of Meals
When I worked in the restaurant industry I noticed that the large majority of people came during the busy dinnertime hours of 5-7PM. The restaurant would frequently offer specials to entice diners to come earlier – happy hour specials including two-for-one drinks, half price appetizers and other daily specials.
Some people caught on and would arrive earlier – they would order discounted drinks/appetizers, while ordering their main dish later on. Those types of specials usually aren’t available during peak hours when demand is high, so you’d end up spending more for dining during regular meal times.
Conclusion: these are just a few ways I noticed restaurants are able to get customers to spend more without raising their prices. I don’t dine out often but when I do I always try to avoid extras like drinks, desserts, etc.
What other ways have you noticed that restaurants use to increase customer spending?