30 Aug

Turning Tables vs. Desserts: Which is More Profitable?

Is it more beneficial to serve more diners, or encourage those you do have to stay and enjoy some high-profit-margin desserts? Here are some factors to consider when determining which is more profitable. Consider the extraneous costs associated with each transaction. According to Expansion Advance, the average food cost for a restaurant should ideally range from about 29 percent to 32 percent; you’ll typically realize the greatest potential profit margin by pricing menu items between $15 and $25. That said, every order presents costs, including the fees you absorb to accept credit card payments and issue gift cards, the amount of money servers, bar staff and hostesses stand to make from every table based on the diner’s tab (and how that correlates into staff performance, retention, and diner experience) and what you pay for ingredients, food storage, cooking, along with the expense of wasted ingredients that spoil if unused. If you frequently find that you have an overage of fresh ingredients on hand (and cannot eliminate that issue with improved inventory and forecasting practices) serving more customers will likely be more profitable than pushing desserts.


Analyze your demand compared to increased dessert profit potential. First impressions are important; you may not get a second chance to woo a potential customer who is turned off by a long wait time. Evaluate your current demand, compared to lost opportunity when determining whether to prioritize desserts or table turnover time. Analyze the amount of reservations you have on a given night, compared to the average length of time tables wait, and how long they take to complete their meal, with dessert and without. (For example, The Daily Mail reports that diners now spend an average of 1 hour and 55 minutes in a restaurant, compared to just over an hour a decade ago, simply due to engagement with smartphones and mobile devices.)


Instruct your front-of-house staff, including hosts and valets, to capture the lost sales from potential diners who inquire about wait times and then leave if they determine it’s too long. If you’re already losing business because of long wait times, focus on how you can improve your operations to seat the customers who want to dine with you.


Understand how dessert can contribute to overall experience. Whether you should put more effort into “selling” desserts or churning tables also rests on the type of restaurant you have, and the brand experience you want customers to have in it. For example, restaurants that tend to draw a celebratory crowd will likely benefit from encouraging diners to stay for dessert — both for profit and for the potential to establish a lasting memory that will make the customer want to return, and tell others about you.

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