How to Rejuvenate Flagging Restaurant Lunch Sales

Marketing 6 minute read 5th October 2020

Higher earnings, warmer weather (for some) and an extension to the country’s Brexit deadline saw UK consumer spending improve in the three months to April 2019.

This resulted in more people heading to the high street for some much-needed retail therapy and increased dining out. This is great news for restaurants, because lunch sales are often the key to greater profitability.

Despite this, filling tables during those busy lunchtime periods is becoming increasingly challenging with so much competition from pop-up street food stalls and countless fast-food chains.

If you’re concerned about flagging restaurant lunch sales despite the brief flurry after the Brexit extension, there’s some simple ways to bring more diners in during that crucial shift.

Lunch-ify your menu

You may already have a dedicated lunch menu, but there’s a lot more you can do to fine tune it.

There’s four key elements to consider when planning your lunch menu:

  1. Price. The competition that’s providing low-cost yet high quality lunch food isn’t going anywhere, therefore you’ll need to join them by providing value-driven lunch items.
  2. Speed. We’re a busy lot, us humans - particularly during lunchtimes when we may be taking a brief break from shopping or work. Focus on dishes that have a maximum ticket time of ten minutes.
  3. Portion sizes. Smaller portions will bring in more punters at lunchtime - simple. People eat little and often these days, therefore your lunch menu needs to be light on its feet.
  4. Allergies and diets. Do you clearly offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes that aren’t an afterthought? If not, you’re missing out on a significant amount of lunchtime trade.

Get under the skin of your lunchtime customers

The people who dine with you during lunchtime are considerably different to those who book tables for the evening.

The customer persona you need to take into consideration for lunchtime dining will depend largely on your location. Do you attract more business people or shoppers? Are you located somewhere that attracts stay-at-home parents or carefree millennials?

Depending on who’s most likely to be walking through your doors at midday, you’ll need to plan for people who might be in a rush or those who are looking for a long, relaxed lunchtime experience.

If you’ve never created a customer persona before, it’s really worth doing. Although easily dismissed as marketing mumbo-jumbo, it’s a brilliant way to get to know the people who spend money with you and begin tuning your offer to deliver maximum value for that audience.

All you need to do is create three or four fictional characters and list details about their likes, dislikes, personality traits and lifestyle. The more you know about your lunchtime diners the more you can create menus and an environment that’s perfectly suited to their needs.

Consider online ordering

For traditional restaurateurs, this might feel worryingly big-brand like, but in order to compete against the titans of the industry, you need to learn from them.

Online ordering is no longer the sole domain of takeaways; people are increasingly expecting the ability to order their restaurant meal in advance - particularly if they’re hosting a business lunch or have little time on the day.

Thankfully, there are plenty of online ordering software platforms on the market to make this a relatively easy strategy for your business (including Toast, Square and eatPOS). The addition of such a system will help you tap into the 81% of restaurant customers who now order food online.

Wrapping up

Increasing lunchtime sales doesn’t have to involve complex, expensive marketing campaigns or last minute panic promotions; our tips above are simple to implement and should provide tangible results, quickly.

So, the takeaways (excuse the pun) are:

  • ensure your lunch menu is ready for price-sensitive, portion-wary, short-on-time diners who may have allergies;
  • develop customer personas for your lunchtime diners; and
  • put fears (or a dislike) of online ordering to one side and give it a go.

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