Table service in the hospitality industry has taken on a completely new role over the last 12 months.
Once the sole domain of restaurants and outdoor dining, ‘table service only’ has been implemented by nearly every kind of operator from small independents to large multi-national chains.
Granted, this has been one of the many changes the industry has seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s likely that table service will become a firm fixture for many venues going forward - even if it has never been a consideration previously.
In this guide, we’ll look at how you can boost your venue’s average order venue with some simple but masterfully clever table service techniques.
What types of business is this for?
We’ll primarily be looking at hospitality businesses today, but the same strategies can be applied to service-based operations, too.
For instance, if you run a beauty salon, the upselling techniques, add-ons and bundling ideas we’ll cover can all work brilliantly for your business.
There’s just one thing you need to do before you go any further, and that’s get into the right mindset for upselling.
First things first: don’t be afraid to upsell
Running a restaurant, or any kind of hospitality venue isn’t cheap. Overheads continue to soar, and the competition forces everyone to constantly up their game.
It’s therefore no wonder that 52% of restaurant professionals have noted high food and operating costs as their main challenge.
This is one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t ever be afraid to get more spend out of each and every customer. Sure, you want to provide a great service for a great price and ensure they don’t feel ripped off, but if you can upsell items and services which offer a genuine benefit to them, shout loud and proud about it!
When considering what to upsell, take into account the following types of sales:
- higher cost items; and
- slow-moving stock.
Upselling is far easier than you might think. Offering a party one last opportunity to grab a round of drinks before their table is taken up by the next guests or waxing lyrical about your new chef’s specials are classic examples.
This is how you begin upping the average order value of each table. But why does that matter?
The importance of the average order value
The average order value (AOV) is the average amount of money each guest spends whenever they visit your venue. It’s calculated as follows:
Total revenue / number of orders = AOV
It can have a huge impact on your overall revenue and profitability - if you set yourself some targets.
For instance, if you achieve £10,000 of sales in a week from 500 orders, that means your AOV for the month was £20. So, every customer who enters your doors will spend, on average, £20.
Now, imagine if you set a target to increase that by just £5. For the same number of monthly sales, that would increase your total revenue to £12,500. Two and a half grand extra in one month, just by a simple 25% uplift in your AOV - doesn’t sound unachievable when you put it like, that does it?
So, let’s consider a few ways you can use clever table service techniques to increase that all-important AOV figure.
1. Focus on drinks
How hard do you push your drinks menu? Think about the times you’ve been at a restaurant or somewhere else where the wet menu clearly isn’t at the top of the waiting staff’s minds.
You sit there, glass empty for far longer than necessary. For you, as the guest, it’s a black mark on the venue’s customer service, and for the venue itself, it’s countless lost revenue.
By increasing the frequency of drinks orders, you’ll effortlessly raise your AOV. People don’t need much of an excuse to refill their glasses, after all, and you may even find a few upsell opportunities along the way, too.
2. Suggest add-ons
If you’ve ever bought something from Amazon, you’ll probably be used to the sight of suggested additions to your order.
After all, if you’re ordering a smoothie maker, surely you’ll need some glasses to go with it? Studies have shown that nearly 60% of shoppers will add extra items to their basket if they get something in return (such as free delivery).
This tactic translates brilliantly into the hospitality sector. It’s why you’ll increasingly see recommended sides, wines and additions to your main course. Ordering a burger? Double it up for an extra £1! Fancy the sea bass? Don’t forget to order our brand-new house white which goes perfectly with that dish!
Going back to our target of increasing the AOV by just £5, it doesn’t take many add-ons per order to easily eclipse that.
3. Bundle it up!
Bundles aren’t just for holiday companies - they can be applied to table service in restaurants, too.
It works brilliantly for both you and the customer. By bundling a bunch of items together for less than it would cost to buy them separately, you’ll encourage customers to ‘save’ and opt for the bundle. Thus, they get more value for money and consequently end up spending more with you versus just buying the main dish, for instance.
It’s all psychology and economies of scale, but it is so effective. You need look no further than McDonalds and their Extra Value Meal range as the gold standard of how to do this.
Again, by bundling, you could very easily add that additional £5 to your AOV and give the customer something valuable back in return.
4. Move customers (and staff) efficiently
One of the simplest changes you can make in order to raise your AOV is to increase the efficiency with which people move around the venue.
This applies to both staff and customers. The quicker you can get guests sat at their tables, the quicker you can start serving them, and the longer they’ll be sat there (which means the more they can potentially spend!).
As for your staff, if they’re unable to navigate the floor of the restaurant easily, they’ll miss out on opportunities to serve guests fast and identify upselling opportunities.
So, take a look at the way in which your venue is laid out and make sure there are clear, easy routes to navigate. Spread guest out when seating them, and don’t put any unnecessary obstacles in the way of waiting staff.
5. Perfect your menu design
When you visit a restaurant these days, you’ll probably notice that certain sections of the menu stand out more than others.
This is entirely by design, and it’s a long way from the laminated, bland lists of dishes we’re used to from the past.
Customers are generally time-poor and indecisive. With that in mind, you can tailor the design of your menu to direct their eyes to the higher priced items and upsells. Point out what’s popular, what’s new and what they’re missing out on, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly they’ll opt for the higher-priced dish, simply because you’ve made it look like such an obvious choice on the menu.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) will play a big role here, too. So, make it clear that there are items you sell which they may miss out on if they don’t act quickly, with bold fonts, bright colours and boxed-out sections.
6. Focus on guest satisfaction
Sometimes, it’s the stuff you do that’s seemingly far removed from raising the AOV which can do just that.
For instance, if you work hard to increase guest satisfaction overall, they’re likely to spend more with you - it’s that simple.
So, if your ethos is based around driving higher levels of guest satisfaction already, the likelihood is that you’re already experiencing a marked impact on the AOV. You just need to start measuring it! So, why not look at some historical data and apply the all-important formula to it:
Total revenue / number of orders = AOV
Over time, you’ll quickly see if your AOV has increased or decreased in line with your other guest service efforts.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Just remember that increasing your AOV steadily over time is what it’s all about; there’s no silver bullet.