February 20, 2018 |

Profit Off the Customers You Already Have

By Tony Gemignani


For years, I have been trying to make our slower times busier. Of course this makes sense to any restaurant owner — so let’s have a meeting with management and come up with some ideas.

Direct mailers, promotions, and specials to get people in the door between 2pm-5pm sometimes work and often times do not. There’s a reason that time slot is a dead period.

Tony Gemignani
World-champion Pizzaiolo and Pizzeria Owner

I’ve done promotions like “Happy Hour”, “Buy One, Get One Free” and have even limited the number of a specific pizza I will make in order to drive customers in early and create demand. I have done promotions, like beat the clock —the earlier the customer orders, the cheaper the price will be. Sometimes, no matter what you do, your store may just be flat for a period of time.

So, what do you do?

Find ways to make more off the customers you already have.

My partners and I had this problem at one specific location. We hit a plateau and no matter what we did to drive in more business during our slow times, it just didn’t work out. We were extremely busy during our peak hours. Even with delivery and takeout added we still couldn’t drive in more business during the slower dayparts. We were getting frustrated, and so were our investors. We felt like we could not and should not raise our prices because we had already done that twice in the past 16 months. And our food costs were in line.

So were we going to settle for making the same amount of business every week for another year until we could do another price increase?  Heck no. We had to make more money from the customers we already had. So we added several up-charges to the menu.

Did we borrow from McDonald’s and “Super Size” some items a little? Perhaps.

We looked into our soft drinks first. We kept our regular to-go drink at 20 ounces and added a large 30-ounce to-go drink for a dollar more.

Next we added a chocolate chip cookie, bag of chips, and a side salad for an additional $1 or $1.50.

As we worked on these up-sells and additions with the customers, our per-check average raised dramatically.

It seems easy looking back. The customers were right in front of us … we just needed to add a few more options that were fast and cheap.

Suggestive selling can be an important key to increasing sales. It should be a routine part of your service. But sometimes we don’t realize just how important it can be.

Not all operations work the same, and I get that. But implementing this to our fast-casual concept really increased our sales. Give it a try and see if YOU can increase sales with the customers you already have.

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