4 stealable ideas from restaurants

Consumers today have a wide variety of choices when dining out, from grocery stores or restaurants to on-campus dining options or healthcare cafeterias. Thus, it’s just as important for noncommercial operators across segments to incentivize customers as it is for restaurant operators to lure in diners.

students snacking

Commercial operations often are on the forefront of trends and customer desires, and can provide inspiration to non-commercial operations. Check out these four stealable ideas from today’s restaurants.

Add snacking opportunities

Approximately 50% of consumers don’t have a set schedule for their meals, according to Kellogg’s Demand Chain, 2015, meaning the opportunities are right to add grab-and-go snacks to the menu. Guests are often on the go at both at colleges and in health care settings and need something pre-packed that can be taken on their way.

Within the snacking landscape, around half of customers focus on indulgence, while one-third focus on nutrition and the remainder focus on the value, according to Kellogg Snacking Demand Landscape/TCG Analysis, 2015. While menus often already include items that could be considered “snackable,” operators don’t often take the opportunity to call them out as such—so customers miss those items, and operators miss a revenue opportunity.

According to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking report, 37% of consumers say that any food can be a snack if the portion is small. Some operators that have taken advantage of this include McDonalds, which offers a line of snack wraps, and Au Bon Pain, which launched its successful Petit Plates line in late 2014 and has seen traffic and demand increase as a result.

Creative promotions

One of the top ways commercial operators drive customers into the restaurant is through topical, fun promos, such as football games or major awards shows. It’s an easy way to bring customers into your operation. Consider some of these promo ideas:

  • Upcoming major movie openings: Recognizable characters are returning to the theatre, offering an opportunity to capitalize on customers favorites.
  • National Days: Every day of the year celebrates something, whether wacky or serious. Create promos surrounding National Linguine Day (September 15), National Waffle Day (August 24), National Pickle Day (November 14) or any of the other myriad fun holidays out there.
  • Sports: The Big Game, Local Teams, U.S. Open, MLS —the options are endless.

Promote LTOs

Everyone loves a good deal. Tap into the creativity of the staff to create new menu items that are promoted as limited time offers at a special price—think the daily specials at restaurants or seasonal menu items that are going, going, gone. Customers might clamor to have the item return if it’s a hit, which is sure to draw repeat customers.

At restaurants, 39% of consumers say that LTOs make them likely or extremely likely to visit a foodservice location—and even more (49%) say so if the LTOs are offered at a discounted price, according to Technomic’s 2017 Value & Pricing report. In noncommercial settings, seasonal flavors can help boost interest, as can unique preparations or over-the-top desserts. LTO scarcity drives the value of these choices, so operators should be sure to call out when the promotion starts and when it will be ending.

Offer off-premise options

With the expansion of UberEats, GrubHub, BeyondMenu and other online ordering and delivery apps, restaurant customers want an option to send in their order in advance for quick pick-up and/or the ability to have it delivered straight to them, no effort required.

To start, offer prepackaged foods that are easy to deliver or require little prep, and expand as necessary. These types of easy-to-travel foods extend foodservice operations to the home.

For noncommercial operators interested in boosting business, it’s as simple as stealing strategy from commercial foodservice. Snack-ifying entree sizes to appeal to those who want a quick pick-me-up, planning promotions around current events and fun holidays, introducing LTOs and ensuring delivery and off-premise aren’t being ignored are all effective ways to get more customers in the door.

This post is sponsored by W.K. Kelloggs Co.