The following article is a guest post by Tim Sunderland and our friends over at NetWaiter. Raising prices isn’t the only way for a restaurant to increase sales. There are plenty of strategies you can take to reduce costs and attract more customers. Read on for six things you can do to increase restaurant sales without charging your customers more.

1. Balance your food costs.

Are you continuously monitoring the cost of food? You’d be surprised how many owners let the ball drop until they realize their costs have crept over 40%. Find a system that allows you to track your food costs so that you’re not blindsided down the road. Ideally you want to keep your number around 30%, without sacrificing value or your menu. Each restaurant is unique, and you need to determine a balance that keeps your costs low enough for you to make money but reasonable enough that you’re not compromising the quality of your dishes.

2. Schedule regular staff meetings.

You are only as good as your team and running a tight ship is a vital part of keeping sales where they need to be. Making staff meetings a daily occurrence helps to ensure your servers, hosts, and cooks are all on the same page as you. Take a few minutes before each shift to let your staff voice any concerns and prep them for the day ahead. Let them know which menu items are being featured, how many reservations are on the books and update them on daily, weekly and monthly sales goals.

3. Update your business plan.

It’s unlikely your business is in the exact condition you predicted when you wrote up your business and/or marketing plan. Now that you have a better idea of who your customer is, what menu items work and which don’t, where you’re succeeding and where you’re failing, you can strum up a new plan that more accurately reflects your current state. Set your sights on making changes, whether it’s a new marketing campaign or an updated happy hour menu, and put those plans on paper. Good ideas are much easier to execute when they’re mapped out in front of you.

4. Make your restaurant more unique.

The best way to stand out from the competition is to showcase what you have that others don’t. Find ways to let your customer know how you uniquely meet their needs. For example, does your customer prefer healthier food options? Create “light” versions of your top five menu items so that your customer can still eat the food they love without the guilt. There are tons of different ways you can respond to the needs of your customers, and by fulfilling a demand you’ll see an increase in sales in return.

5. Share your restaurant’s story.

What holds more value? A dingy delivery pizza made by some guy in some franchise with some ingredients that arrived in some truck, or a hand tossed wood fire pizza dosed in Aunt Maria’s special sauce that was house made by her niece who bought the tomatoes and basil from the farmer’s market down the street? In today’s market fresh is better and the consumer wants to know where their ingredients came from. We are moving away from the mass chains and putting a preference on the individual. Right now it’s all about the details. Sharing yours opens up your story to your customer and lets them discover your value firsthand. Here are some great examples of restaurants that incorporated their story into their brand.

6. Use social media to create personal bonds.

Building brand loyalty doesn’t happen overnight but by starting a stream of constant communication between you and your customers you can form relationships that will last. Bonding through social media is an easy and effective way to show you have a genuine interest in the people that dine at your restaurant. Sharing content allows people to view your business on a more personal level, and your interaction with your followers validates their feedback and praise.

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Matt Thompson

CEO of ShiftNote
Matt has let his lifelong passion of food and people lead him to 15 amazing years as a restaurant manager and another 9 years working as a Director with a major food service distributor. He has channeled this passion to help create and run ShiftNote. When he's not dominating the food service industry, he's spending time with his 4 children and cheering on the Tigers as a Mizzou Alumni.