10 Ways to increase Spend per Head using desserts

How to turn your dessert menu into profit

It’s obvious right? Sell more desserts, you will increase spend per head and increase your profits. You will have read in my previous blog post (and if not please pop back and take a look) that there’s a direct correlation between great desserts and great reviews. More great reviews will get you more customers and if you sell them more desserts too you make even more money and everybody’s happy. But how will you do this, and how much difference will it make?

How many of your diners currently have a dessert? 15%? 20%? Do you know? If not measure it for a few weeks. Calculate that percentage, and how it changes by day part and day of the week.

Let’s say 15% of your diners currently have a dessert, and that your average dessert price is £6 and that today you will serve 100 covers. That’s 15 desserts totalling £90 income. What’s your GP on desserts, desserts are generally the highest margin food item on your menu and are almost always incremental sales – the diners are with you anyway, let’s sell more to them. At a 70% GP that’s £63 profit you’re currently making from your 15 dessert sales.

Now let’s imagine you doubling that sales percentage, suddenly 30% of your diners are eating desserts. Your income has doubled to £180 and suddenly your profit from desserts has doubled, without you really having to do very much more at all. The diners are there, the menus are ready, you’ve got the staff and the stock. In all but very quick service restaurants, selling more desserts is a no brainer.

So how do you do it?

1 – Offer desserts in a timely manner. Not whilst they’re still chewing their main course, and certainly not when they’re bored and ready to leave. 8-10 minutes after they have finished their main course and you have cleared the table, return with the dessert menus, put one in front of each guest saying words like ‘a little something to tempt you’, offer them another drink, leave them to look for a further 5 minutes and then return to take their order. Don’t ask ‘would you like to see the dessert menu?’ how do they know? They haven’t seen it! You know it’s full of tempting little morsels to compliment their meal, and once they’ve looked, they’re under no obligation to order. But give them the opportunity!

2 – Ensure you’re set up for making desserts, staff are trained appropriately, stock items are arranged sensibly, necessary utensils are to hand. You don’t want your team to dread the dessert orders because they’re a pain to prepare or they don’t want to go out the back in the dark to the walk in freezer that’s badly in need of re-organisation. Make it simple, if your team want to sell more, they will!

3 – Make sure the menu is interesting with some variety for everyone; light items and heavier items, something fruity and something chocolatey, cheese and biscuits (not everyone has a sweet tooth) and how about a couple of sharing desserts? How many people ask for a dessert with 2 spoons? What if they could order something just slightly more expensive to share? ‘Your choice of 4 delicious flavours of our delicious home made ice cream.’

4 – Bundle a deal. ‘Not sure you can manage a whole dessert? How about a freshly brewed coffee with your choice of bite sized home made dessert, only £x’

5 – don’t be too cheap, you need to ensure you’re giving the perception of quality. But not too expensive, desserts should be an easy sell and appear to be great value for money. Include one or two extra special items for those who really want to indulge.

6 – create a weekly dessert sales challenge – everyone loves a challenge! Keep it simple, easy for team members to record their sales and for everyone to see who is in the lead. Maybe a small magnetic whiteboard on a freezer? Whoever sells the most desserts this week wins a bottle of fizz/ doesn’t have to do the bottling up etc.

7 – don’t arrange your dessert menu in price order, the first 2, and the last item in any section get read most – put your highest margin items here. The top right corner of your menu is your prime sales spot – choose the one item you’d like to sell most of and place it here.

8 – use imaginative descriptions and highlight provenance. If you use a local producer/ supplier, mention it, customers are placing increasing value on traceability, sustainability and local sourcing. Does your local supplier offer point of sale materials? If so, consider using them.

9 – include a small range of after dinner drinks on your menu – specialist coffees, port to go with cheese, a dessert wine.

10 – offer take home desserts. They might not be ready for dessert now, but may well fancy one with a coffee when they get home. Offer the option of desserts to go, packaged in practical, responsibly sourced packaging.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post then please share it with other chefs and food business owners you know. Why not also download my FREE guide, 10 ways to increase profits in your food business.

And look out for my next blog post which will explain why artisan ice cream costs a little more than other ice creams.

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