Covid-19 Resources

Reopening Successfully, Part 3: Optimizing Revenue and Operations

May 4, 2020

Reopening Successfully, Part 3: Optimizing Revenue and Operations


As states begin to relax shelter-in-place orders, operators are trying to figure out how to reopen safely and generate revenue at a time of uncertain demand. In this three-part series, Simplot representative Patrick O’Brien, a former restaurant owner, shares important strategies for labor management, menuing, revenue generation, and operations, to help you make more money and keep your customers happy.

In Part 1, we discussed ways to improve the way you attract, train and manage labor as you restart operations. Part 2 covered the steps you can take to streamline and optimize your menu for profit. This article offers you some promotional and operational strategies to maximize your traffic and profitability.

The days of encouraging customers to linger over their meals is over—at least for now. As a matter of survival, limited seating necessitated by social distancing will force you to make the most of your reduced capacity.

How high can you get your checks without monopolizing tables for any longer than necessary? Here are a few suggestions:

Bundle deals on site for items to take with them. Halfway through the meal, offer a “Takeaway” discount on dessert or additional food items (the babysitter has to eat!)—but only if they take it to go. The goal is to capture additional revenue without tying up the table for longer than necessary. The discount you give away is more than made up for by the potential for an additional seating. Discounted gift cards ($20 card for $17) are another smart offer that helps to guarantee a return visit for a 15% discount, with potential for additional full margin purchases.

Turn a wait list into sales. Take orders for beer, wine and cocktails from those in your waiting area. (Make sure your waiting area is marked clearly to provide social distancing.) Put merchandize like t-shirts, hats, sauces and gift cards are prominently on display. Train your host staff to become “sellers.”

Maximize seating at every table. If you have a 4 top, don’t seat any less than 3-4 people there (from the same party, not strangers). Social distancing will cut down party sizes, so lay out a smart floor plan to accommodate 2 Tops and smaller groups while maximizing seat covers. Wait until the entire party has arrived before seating (or at least the minimum requirement for the table).

Preset tables with glasses and carafes of water to expedite service. You’re not making money serving water, so make it less time-consuming for staff. Keep the carafes in your cooler until service time.

Eliminate daily specials where possible. Specials can slow down execution in the kitchen during times of high volume. Instead, focus selling your well-thought-out menu. Daily specials should only be used to reduce inventory when necessary.

Offer a call-ahead waiting list. Include everyone on the same wait list, whether they’re there in person or on the way. If their name comes up before they arrive, call the next name on the list. Keep calling their name as tables become available. Once they arrive, they can be seated as the next in line.

Train servers to suggest your most profitable items when asked for recommendations. You want them selling your highest margin, highest revenue, lowest cost items, should a patron ask what they would recommend.

Find a reason to celebrate. Did you know May 1 is National Chocolate Parfait Day as well as School Principal’s Day? Considering allowing school principals to offer their entire school a free chocolate parfait that day (with purchase of regularly priced entrée). Be fun and creative. Use social media to get the word out.

Cross promote with Schools for Dining Dash Days. Have a day where a percentage of takeout business goes back to the school in support of their school lunch program.

Sell some of your items frozen in bulk to local food trucks. Think of food trucks as another potential channel for sales. Make a deal. Tamales, burritos, lasagna, meatloaf, desserts, etc. all hold up well to freezing and thawing/reheating.

Update to a modern POS system. During this break in the action, now is a good time to consider updating your POS system before you reopen. While food is what we sell, customer information is fast becoming the lifeblood of our business. Knowing what your customers like to order, how often they come in, and how to reach them is now possible thanks to new POS systems that integrate traditional POS tasks with online ordering platforms, digital marketing tools and customer loyalty programs. These systems open up a multitude of ways to communicate with and market to your customers in a personalized fashion.

Restarting your restaurant successful is going to take the best efforts of everyone on your staff. Take time to train your people about the importance of efficiency and profitability. Look for opportunities increase your average check and delight your guests—without drawing out their time at the table. The bottom line is we have to be profitable to continue serving our communities.

If there’s any way we can make your reopening easier, please reach out to your Simplot sales representative. We’re here to help!