I’ve been noticing some trends in the feedback I hear from both food and beverage operators and the customers they serve. The operators know what works, and the customers know what they like. If you’re involved in the food and beverage business, I encourage you to review and consider the following best practices:
1. In addition to your traditional serving sizes, offer and price individual two- or three-ounce servings of beer, wine, and liquor (local and state laws permitting). Customers enjoy sampling different brands while also consuming alcohol responsibly.
2. Serve and price sampler-size desserts. Again, customers want variety, but also need to feel as though they are making a semi-healthy choice.
3. Write down your daily/weekly specials in a location visible from the table (or leave a printed version at the table), and don’t forget to include the prices. A server’s description of specials can be helpful if executed correctly, but that doesn’t happen as often as you would think. Customers have trouble remembering the descriptions—including the prices—which often discourages them from selecting a special. Bottom line: If you want a special to sell, write it down and price it.
4. Make it a policy that customers must guarantee reservations with a credit card. When people with reservations neither cancel nor show up, this causes a severe disruption in the reservation process and significant inconvenience for other customers. Create a clear cancellation policy and establish a fair price if a reservation is not cancelled in accordance with the policy; variables to consider when choosing an amount might include contribution margin, size of the reservation party, etc. In the spirit of aboveboard business practices, only charge if you cannot fill the reservation after making a sincere attempt to replace the cancellation. If operators adopt this approach, reservation processes will become much more efficient and wait lists will become more useful and popular.