7 Ways to Maximize Employee Sales

In tough economic times, owners and operators are sometimes hard-pressed to find ways to increase revenue, and turn to outlandish and costly promotions in the hope that they will somehow resurrect the dying business.  Or, as some managers of large operations often do, they over-staff; believing that they’ll be able to squeeze every last penny from their customer bases by opening up as many revenue centers as possible.

Instead of spending extra money on dubious promoters, wasted advertising, and loss-leader promotions that bring in only the cheapest clientele, implement and use these seven tools to maximize what you are getting out of your existing restaurant and staff.

1. Identity: Many on-premise accounts have found success when they allow employees to feel as though they have more “buy-in” with the business.  One way to do this is to train staff to treat your bar or restaurant like the professional business that it is, and sometimes this means business cards.  Staff business cards are great for three reasons: first, they empower the employee to be the promoter of the business, instead of hiring an outside company to advertise and pass out flyers.  Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, the passing of a business card also comes with the most important advertising of all—word of mouth.  Business cards also function as a constant reminder to the holder that your establishment exists, but—more importantly—that he/she “knows” someone there, and thus is more likely to stop by.  This encourages repeat business, regular customers, and increases the likelihood of off-night visits (Sun-Thu). 

Servers and bartenders are notorious at self-promoting, but will also promote your restaurant in the process.  Not to mention that business cards also help your service staff view their job as a career, and not just a side-job.  This increases the chances of them maintaining a professional demeanor and relationship with their workplace, and helps them take pride in their every day work.

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2. Education: The more that staff members know about the products on your shelves, the easier it will be for them to offer a variety to the customer.  This leads directly to the customer trying higher quality spirits and beer—and to higher sales.  Hold daily or weekly tastings with your staff on your highest margin-to-quality ratio items, and any esoteric offerings you might have.  Provide tasting notes and other educational materials on all of your products, especially your food items.  Encourage them to join local and national trade organizations such as The United States Bartenders’ Guild or restaurant associations.  Send members of your staff to regional and national liquor, beer, wine and management conferences.  This will increase their knowledge and their loyalty to your business, and bring them back brimming with new ideas and enthusiasm.

3. Incentives: Nothing encourages hungry bartenders and servers more than cold, hard cash—unless it’s a free weekend in Vegas, of course.  Sometimes large, long-term pay-off incentives can work wonders when it comes to motivating staff to sell.  Pick high-margin, high-profit items and set achievable goals and sales thresholds for your team—as well as a few that might not be.  Here’s the key: don’t skimp on the rewards.  Incentives only truly work if the end result is worth it for the employee.  Awards don’t always have to be trips or money, either; sometimes, honoring a time request for the winner on a day of his/her choosing can be particularly effective, especially if you are willing to honor that request on New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, or St. Patrick’s Day.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will see a revenue spike of up to 15%, especially in locations that generally struggle selling large quantities of spirits.

4. Effective—and Selective—Up-selling: One way to make more money is to sell more expensive items.  At the end of the day, you can’t take percentages to the bank, and though higher ticket items generally have worse percentage margins, their total net profit potential is higher—and thus, you make more money.  But some items are actually better suited for up-selling because of their balance between margin, net profit, speed of service, branding, and perceived value.  Pizza is a great example of this type of item; a high-profit, high-margin item that, even though it doesn’t have the revenue potential of a porterhouse, can be sold quickly, easily, and with a high level of customer satisfaction—while keeping costs low.

5. Scheduling: Getting to know the personality of your staff members is an often overlooked and critical step in the management process.  Who is the most outgoing?  Who is the most cerebral?  Who has the best tableside manner?  Use this knowledge to place the right people into the right shifts.  A loud, gregarious server might be an absolutely perfect fit during a busy happy hour in the bar, but will that translate well into your fine-dining dinner service?  Track individual staff sales, and take an in-depth look at where and how your servers & bartenders get their sales.  Look at your point-of-sale data, look at the product mix for each individual employee over the course of the last six months.  Do their sales come from volume or from high-ticket items?  Are your servers and bartenders strong with appetizers and entrees, but weak in their offering of desserts and after-dinner drinks?  Or are they experts of selling the four-course meal, at the expense of offering wine, beer or spirits?  This will help you identify the areas in which you can most easily improve.

6. Streamlining: Remove any and all obstacles your staff might have that can slow their ability to take, make, execute, and serve orders.  If they have to guess change totals because you have (unwisely) not made your prices tax inclusive at a high volume bar, then make the prices tax-inclusive so they don’t have to deal with pennies, nickels, and dimes.  If your bar serves complex cocktails in high volumes, it might be wise to streamline the creation of your best sellers by batching part or the entire recipe immediately before a busy service.  If your bar or restaurant uses a POS, it has to be correct and free of clutter in order for your staff to be efficient and speedy.  Install “fast payment” options in easily-accessible spots on the POS screen, and arrange your most-ordered items in a convenient “fast bar” on the front screen so that no one has to scroll through.  It is also wise to streamline your menus in the same way, so that customers are able to scan the menus quickly and easily.  Remove confusing verbiage and unnecessary descriptions, reduce the overall number of items offered, and find ways to “feature” your best margin, highest-profit items by making them stand out visually from the rest of the menu.

7. Preparation: Lapses in preparedness cost money, pure and simple.  The more time servers and bartenders spend waiting for kegs and sodas to be changed, items to be restocked, silverware to be rolled, or tables to be bussed, the less time they are actually selling and making money for the house.  Making sure that your entire support staff, from the kitchen line to the bar back crew, are on their “A” games, will work wonders for sales in busy restaurants, bars, and lounges.  As a manager, making sure your supplies and ingredients are in-stock is also crucial. Nothing is worse than having a resourceful server try and sell that $250 bottle of champagne only to find that the house didn’t order any.


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