Step 1: Maximizing Sales Per Guest
The first step in the Taffer Guaranteed Revenue Growth Plan is the easiest. It’s also the only marketing initiative you’ll
ever make that has a guaranteed result. It will increase your sales
every time. Its crazy that almost no one really does it. Instead, we
often skip this critical step (with guaranteed results) and move right
into expensive and risky external marketing programs, promotions or
discounting to drive business. So, my goal here is to change the way
you market forever by teaching you the value of marketing from within,
first, and then marketing outside.
A bar’s food program must be driven by a prevailing logic. Why does
it exist? What should it be? What should it sell? The first step to
maximizing food sales in a bar is to understand its purpose.
In a bar or nightclub environment, a food program exists for one of the following four reasons.
a. Convenience Dining: Provides quick, inexpensive food as a
convenience to guests while they are drinking and partying. With this
food program objective, your menu, products and pricing must fit into
To be successful, the food program must be convenient, easy and
inexpensive. Table or server service typically does not work for
convenience dining. This is fast “grab and go” style merchandising.
b. Cooperative Bar Dining: To provide food products that
“co-operate” a bar or nightclub’s experience. This approach is most
successful in lower energy bar and lounge environments. When this
objective is identified, food products are sold in the bar for
consumption in the bar. With this objective, food merchandising, menus
and service occurs in the bar or nightclub environment.
This approach is totally different from Convenience Dining in every
way. This food program survives only when guests are compelled to
choose to order food spontaneously. If the program is not set up to
stimulate spontaneous buying, it will fail every time.
c. Interactive Dining: This food program objective is very
different from the above two. It must provide a separate environment
and experience to capture couples or groups seeking a more intimate,
less energetic “break” from the noise and energy of a higher energy bar
or nightclub. In this case, the environment is the initial attraction.
The environment, music, service, lighting and other aspects of the
area and products must cause appeal through an intimate environment. A
guest chooses to visit this area/operation to be in the environment.
Then, frequency is driven by food/service quality.
d. Signature Dining: This bar or nightclub dining objective has a
total focus upon the culinary experience. It is very different from the
three objectives identified above. Examples include a prime steakhouse,
sushi operation, a raw bar and even amazing gourmet pizza. A guest’s
buying decision to visit this operation is based upon a curiosity or
desire to try the food offerings.
Like Interactive Dining, a Signature Dining objective requires a separate dining room experience.
Menu Engineering is the greatest single Four Walls Marketing
opportunity for any restaurant. It’s also a huge opportunity for food
operations in a bar or nightclub environment. But, few operators really
Rather than steer guests to buy more profitable items, most
restaurants give the guest a “free for all, or, worse, unknowingly
steer guest menu selections to their lower revenue, less profitable
items. Consider this:
Boxing an item on a menu will increase the sales of that item by
20 percent! After all, don’t we all want to order a restaurant’s best
or most famous item? How do guests know which item that is? We box it.
Shadowing an item on a menu will increase the sales of the item by 14 percent.
Adding titles such as “Chef’s Special,” “House Specialty” can increase the sales of that item by 12 percent.
The Listing Order of items also matters. Guests have a
propensity to order the top one and bottom two on a list of items
(entrees, appetizers, etc.).
Price Points also provide opportunity. For example, a food item
priced at $5.50 has the same value perception as an item at $5.95 does.
So, you can pick up an extra $.45 cents every time the item is sold,
with little or no negative guest reaction. This will add up to a lot of
money. Conversely, increasing an item’s price from $5.95 to $6.00 will
likely cause a significant change in perceived value — for only a
nickel! Far more often than not, menus leave a lot of money on the
Menu Options that Sell also make a huge impact upon your sales. Here are some quick ideas:
Entrée Add-Ons: If you sell steaks, implement a “surf and turf”
upgrade. You can use pre-skewered shrimps and other easy items. If you
sell lots of fish, do the opposite.
Two Sized Appetizers: We have had lots of success with two sized
appetizers. For example, rather than just a 6-piece shrimp cocktail,
why not offer the “king” cocktail” with eight pieces of shrimp too?
About 30 percent of guests ordering the shrimp will order it, and now
you’ve increased your check by $3-4 a couple of hundred times a week.
The Big Beef Motivation: If you sell steak, feature a big one —
a 24-ounce porterhouse or similar. About 30 percent of male guests
ordering steaks will order it, raising your check by $8 or more. It
works with burgers too.
Smaller Desserts: We feature “The World’s Smallest Hot Fudge
Sundae” and sell the heck out of it. Guests who normally do not order
dessert get it because it’s only a few bites. And, we add $3 to lots of
checks because of it.
Special, Unique Items: If Outback Steakhouse’s “Blooming Onion”
was simple onion rings, would they sell as many? Of course not. Yet, we
take the simple approach all the time, especially in bar food programs.
Seek out new presentations for old things and fun names to create
interest. Don’t accept mediocrity. Make your program and items stand
When TDI works with restaurant clients (national, regional or
independent), we always begin with Menu Engineering. In short, here is
the process we follow;
Identify the highest profit contributors for each menu category
(appetizers, entrée groups, desserts, etc.) in dollars, not percentages
— in other words, the items that make the most money.
Next, developing your menu using all the sales increasing ideas above and others to maximize your potential.
Then, once you know how many items you will have, select the
proper sized menu format (one panel, two panels or three panels). Make
sure your font is not too small or your menu too large.
With the knowledge of which of your menu items are the most
profitable in dollars, design your menu using boxes, shadows and
adjectives placed in just the right (visual) places.
Remember, every menu format has a visual sweet spot — the spot that
gets the most attention by the human eye. Those sweet spots are where
you want your most profitable boxes.
Using the above techniques will steer your guest selections to profitability.
Using this TDI process, we typically increase client food revenue
by 8 percent. And remember, because you are increasing the sales of
your most profitable items, your food cost goes down too. Together, the
combined impact is very significant.
There is no more absolute way to increase your food revenue every
time. And, it will work just as well with your beverage/cocktail menu.
Beverage and Cocktail Merchandising
Like food sales, maximizing your beverage sales per guest also
requires special techniques. With bars, nightclubs and entertainment
venues, the programs identified below are very powerful. Often they can
have a combined effect that increases beverage revenue per guest by
over 11 percent. In a restaurant environment, increasing beverage sales
always increases bottom line profits because beverages have a lower
cost than food.
Martini Board: Hang a 4-by-5-foot “Martini” or Special Beverages
Board over your bar. Guests will respond to great names, interesting
items and special beverages that are prominently displayed (not table
Signature Drinks in Special Glassware: In nightclub environments
Tooters work. So do shot glasses with “hooks” that hang on other
glasses or beer bottles. But it should not stop there.
Drinks that are made important become important. Name your house
drinks well; get them noticed. Names can be risqué, downright vulgar,
cute or elegant depending on your market.
Special Garnishes: Great garnishes and toppings can go a long way.
Up-Selling by Size and Price:
Wine by the Glass: We often feature a 2-size wine by the glass
program. With two sized wine glasses, you can feature a standard
6-ounce and a 9-ounce wine pour. TDI research shows that approximately
30 percent of all guests who order wine by the glass will order the
large glass, significantly increasing wine by the glass sales results.
Draft Beer: Like wine, if you are not offering and selling a large glass of beer, you are missing opportunity.
Premium Soft Drinks: We hate iced tea. We hate refillable soda. We love premium soft drinks in bottles.
In our Client restaurants, we often implement a display of popular
bottled soft drinks including SoBe, Snapple, Jones, diet flavored colas
and a few waters. These beverages add appeal, command a far higher
price and do not get refills.
Effective language programs work. For example, what would happen if
a restaurant answered the phone by saying, “Thanks for calling Jon’s
restaurant, home of America’s best prime rib.” Then, the hostess
mentioned that the prime rib was amazing. Then, the server mentioned it
too. Would they sell more prime rib?
A nightclub, bar, entertainment venue or hotel can implement
similar language programs to steer knowledge and spending preferences.
Involve your staff. Involve your management. Want to sell lots of
Jamaican rum? Send the sales winner to Jamaica. Want to sell lots of
Cabo Wabo? Send your sales winner to Cabo.
Length of Stay
The longer a guest stays, the more they spend. There are five
elements that are critical to maximizing Length of Stay in nightclubs
and bars. These are:
Music and Entertainment Programming: The targeting, energy flow,
music type use, presentation and selection of music is a huge
contributor to Length of Stay. If your music is not perfectly flowing
during the night, fixing it should be a major priority. Even live
entertainment can be boring.
We never allow more than 30 seconds between songs and make sure our
live bands keep their energy properly positioned as the evening
Sound System: A weak, poorly designed or improperly used sound
system will greatly shorten your Length of Stay. Too much bass,
improper equalization, too few speakers and other factors will cause
strain on guest ear drums and cause premature guest fatigue. So, they
leave sooner. Inexpensive sound systems are never a good idea.
Room Lighting: Room lighting is also very important. Too bright
will lower Length of Stay. Conversely, too dark will lower guest
interaction and reduce your overall guest experience.
Guest Flow and Comfort: Obviously temperature, room smoke, fresh
air flow and seating/standing comfort all will impact your length of
stay. Overcrowding will also have a negative impact upon Length of
Overcrowding rarely increases revenue. Find your proper fill level
to maximize your revenue. Typically holding back a bit will create a
better sales per guest result.
Room Dynamics: Room Dynamics can add greatly to Length of Stay.
Various types of dynamics exercises can be featured including slams of
great music, special sets, special shot merchandising, staff activities
and other efforts to add to the experience, excitement or appeal of the
If you effectively implement the programs I identified above, I
promise you a sales increase of 8 percent or more. And, we haven’t
increased your guest traffic yet. Hurry up, go to work!
Courtesy of Night Club & Bar Magazine
Article by: Jon Taffer. Jon is chairman of Taffer Dynamics Inc., one of the hospitality
industry’s most acclaimed restaurant and bar consulting and development