From weathering a pandemic that completely transformed the dining experience to sticking it out through record inflation, the restaurant industry has remained incredibly resilient in recent years. But even without lockdown mandates, it may feel like your restaurant is still operating in survival mode these days. To overcome the challenges of our nearly post-pandemic world, learn eight creative strategies for how to increase restaurant sales.
Learn how to increase restaurant sales with 8 tips
Restaurants across the globe have been able to maintain or even increase sales by adapting to consumer and industry trends — from online delivery to menu engineering to building a strong social media presence.
Ready to learn how to boost restaurant sales this year? Follow these tips:
1. Drive repeat business with a loyalty program
Making the effort to turn first-time customers into regulars pays off — according to Antavo’s 2023 Global Customer Loyalty Report, “80% of companies that measure the ROI of their loyalty programs reported a positive ROI, with an average of 4.9X more revenue than their expenses.” Start building up your list of repeat customers by creating a loyalty program that offers rewards for making purchases or referrals. It’s a win-win for you and your customers.
First, determine what type of loyalty program makes the most sense for your business. You may choose to use a tool that integrates a points program into your point of sale system, or email exclusive discounts to existing customers — say, $5 off after they spend $100.
You can also offer loyalty incentives through your delivery platform. For example, DoorDash partners can use Promotions to incentivize customers to place delivery orders with a discount, free delivery, or a free item. Incentives like these let your customers know you appreciate them and keep them coming back for more.
There are myriad ways to structure restaurant discounts and promotions, but whatever route you choose, make sure your program is easy for customers to understand and take advantage of.
2. Analyze your menu profitability
Restaurant owners can increase profit margins through menu engineering — a strategy to analyze the profitability and popularity of menu items. Start by breaking down costs for your dishes, including all ingredients, to determine the exact cost of each menu item (not including labor). Then, categorize menu items by profit and popularity levels. Breaking down costs will help you understand which items you should remove or give extra attention to, and then you can adjust your offerings accordingly.
Now, here’s a tip on how to increase restaurant sales through the art of menu design. Once you’ve determined your most profitable items, optimize your menu design with these insights in mind. Use visual cues, compelling descriptions, and clear categories to highlight your most profitable and popular items. Thoughtfully designed menus will get customers excited to order your top dishes.
3. Focus on search engine optimization (SEO)
Today's diners will visit restaurant websites before choosing where to eat. In fact, according to Google Trends, "restaurants near me" searches have increased 1,325% over the past ten years, rising to record levels after a dip in early 2020.
Your website is one of your best marketing tools — but it only works if people can easily find it while searching online. By focusing on a few basic search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, you can increase your chances of appearing in highly ranked Google search results:
Make sure your website is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly.
Take steps to update and optimize your Google Maps listing, which serves as a sort of homepage for consumers to learn more about your business, cuisine, location, and reviews.
Use Google Keyword Planner or other SEO tools to find the most relevant keywords for your business (e.g., "BBQ restaurants near Houston"). Then, incorporate those keywords throughout your website and online content.
Creating and maintaining an SEO strategy can vastly improve your online visibility. The easier it is for people to find you online, the more new customers you can attract.
4. Offer online delivery
Now more than ever, offering delivery is a great way to increase restaurant sales. In 2022, DoorDash generated over $38 billion in sales for local businesses, including restaurants, grocers, and retailers.
But online ordering isn’t just about spurring business by increasing convenience, it’s also about connecting with a wide network of diners in your area. Partnering with a technology platform like DoorDash can help restaurants expand their reach to a whole different demographic — in fact, 58% of restaurants agree that DoorDash has allowed them to reach new customers.
5. Adjust your menu to consumer trends
As customer needs and preferences evolve, make sure you adapt to offer what they want. For example, many restaurant guests are looking for healthy options — and if you don’t cater to this crowd, they might look elsewhere. Research from the National Restaurant Association found that in 2023, nearly half of restaurants plan to add new healthy or nutritious menu items.
You can also appeal to conscientious consumers by offering dishes made with organic and locally sourced ingredients. The same report found that 56% of restaurants plan to add new organic or environmentally-friendly food items to their menu.
Stay up to date on dining trends and seek out insights from sources like the National Restaurant Association, Nation's Restaurant News, and DoorDash's Restaurant Online Ordering Trends report. By monitoring the latest dining trends, you can help your restaurant evolve with the times and stay competitive.
6. Boost your social media presence
Social media enables restaurants and customers alike to share mouthwatering food photos that increase sales — in fact, #food is one of the top 50 most-used hashtags on Instagram. Capitalize on popular hashtags by posting them alongside high-quality photos of your signature dishes, new menu additions, or items that could use a little extra attention.
But a successful social media strategy includes more than food photos. Here’s how to increase restaurant business through social media marketing:
Make news announcements. Keep customers in the loop when you update operating hours, hire a new chef, or host events. Is your restaurant launching Trivia Tuesdays in hopes of increasing the dinner crowd? Let the community know so you can fill every table.
Draw attention to deals. Post about any specials or discounts you’re offering, whether it's celebrating Negroni Week this fall or offering free toppings on National Ice Cream Day in July. Our 2023 Restaurant Marketing Calendar & Toolkit provides creative promotional ideas to inspire your marketing all year long.
Link to your delivery service. If you're on DoorDash, post about it on social media and add an Order Now button or link. You might reach customers who are thinking about their next meal, helping to boost your delivery and pickup sales.
7. Set up online ordering
Consumers today expect an Amazon-like experience from restaurants — and a smooth online ordering experience will keep them coming back. Not only does online ordering free up your staff from taking phone orders, but it helps you increase restaurant sales in a cost-effective way.
You can set up your own ordering platform on your website in-house, or partner with a trusted third party like DoorDash. We offer Storefront, a commission-free online ordering system that restaurant operators can set up in minutes and customize with their own branding. With Storefront, customers can easily order pickup or delivery directly from your website — adding up to an average of 26% more incremental sales for your restaurant.
8. Find upsell opportunities
Whether you're catering to dine-in customers or fulfilling online orders, give customers the chance to add on. Coach your staff on upselling best practices, so they learn how to increase restaurant sales with tact. For example, when asked for recommendations, your servers can suggest items with higher profit margins or can highlight their own preferences by saying, "Can I offer you dessert tonight? Our crème brûlée is my personal favorite."
When DoorDash customers are finalizing their orders, our app automatically suggests additional sides and beverages in a "People also ordered" carousel, which is a simple way to increase the overall order size.
You can also increase order sizes by offering alcohol delivery through DoorDash, which ensures compliance with local regulations. 70% of Gen Z adults and 62% of millennials say the option of including alcohol with a takeout or delivery order would make them more likely to choose one restaurant over another.
Fuel restaurant business growth with DoorDash
Now that you’ve learned strategies for how to increase restaurant sales, it's time to get started. Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to growing your business. That's why DoorDash offers a wide range of products to support your unique business goals — whether you're trying to grow online, attract new customers, increase orders, optimize your operations, or all of the above.