The lack of dessert sales in most restaurants and cafes is positively unAustralian! Considering how profitable they can be, this needs to be fixed immediately – it’s usually the result of unattractive appearance, poor sales skills, the wrong menu placement, or prices that are too high relative to main course items.
Desserts can create a strong first and last impression, and there’s money to be made when you mix sugar, air and water with flavour! Here’s your action list for improving dessert sales and profits:
Create the Right Variety of Desserts
- Improve the range you offer, covering more tastes and cravings: chocolate, fruit, ice cream, citrus, creamy, pudding, non-dairy, pastry, an Asian flavour (like coconut), liqueur, hot, cold or frozen. Plus vegan options that everyone will enjoy.
- Offer smaller options, especially for treats and mid-meal breaks. Many cafes still offer big hunks of cake or hefty muffins, and the result is no sale at all.
- Offer a range of ‘almost healthy’ desserts for those who want treats but have a diet to consider. But they should be interesting enough for everyone to want. Good desserts can be made without gluten and sugar
- Offer cocktail ‘desserts’ when the time is right – Mudslides, Chocolate Martinis and a host of other creamy, sweet beverages. Try offering petit-fours as a dessert option to share for the business lunch trade.
- Add special takeaway and delivery desserts in clear plastic containers – easy to transport and set firm to avoid spills. Chocolate mousse, rice and sago creams, trifles – they all look and taste wonderful. Put them as ‘additionals’ or ‘modifiers’ on your online and QR code menu, not just on a separate tab section – you’re after the maximum in suggestive sales.
Serve and Display for Maximum Sales
- Serve desserts tall instead of flat. It creates more excitement and visual interest. Chocolate mousse in a martini glass looks much better than spread in a traditional bowl, or parfaits in small, thin lager glasses. Serve puddings in individual dishes when possible eg ramekins, and offer the custard, chocolate sauce or caramel in a small jug for the customer to pour themselves. Keep photos in mind – are they looking ‘instagrammable’?
- Use a variety of coloured plates and bowls to add interest – all sorts of shapes can be found at the two-dollar shops and Asian suppliers. Watch garnish costs and avoid clichés – fresh strawberries and mint leaves look great, but how much do they cost? Make your own strawberry coulis with frozen berries, sugar and a blender.
- Remind customers about your treats from the first moment – mentioned on the main menu, on a blackboard, in a display cabinet. Better to have a smaller cabinet that’s full, rather than a large one looking empty. Quality food photography is well worth the investment.
Menu Design and Sales Techniques
- Improve the dessert menu design and layout. If dessert prices are more than 40-50% of the main course price, there will be price resistance and sales will be less. Eg if main meals are $25, don’t price desserts at more than $12.
- Use ‘words that sell’ in descriptions: golden caramel, Grand Marnier cream, dark chocolate, toffee crunch, toasted almonds, flaky pastry, juicy melon, tangy lemon, seven-layer espresso cake – the right words add colour and promote hunger. Create some desserts with your own name eg Café Troppo’s ‘Troppo Trifle’ sounds much more exotic than just trifle. Be careful of terms like ‘bitter’ chocolate or ‘sour’ cherries, and foreign terms that may not be understood. A sable and a tuille are delicious, but do your customers understand French?
- Boost staff selling skills. Staff should have tasted all the desserts and be able to recommend their own favourite and the best-selling item. The more product knowledge they have, the more they will sell – it just works that way! Short training sessions can cover chocolate, gelato and ice-cream making, how a cake rises, meringue etc – the chemistry and wizardry of what the cooks create.
- Sales scripts will help those less confident, offering dessert before suggesting coffee, and having choices ready for people who may be ‘too full’ or feel their friends would not approve. ‘One dessert with three spoons?’ is better than no sale at all.
- Ramp up the Instagram and social media activity – posting 2 photos a day is not too many. Have one or two staff responsible for generating the content – every dessert can be shot in multiple ways: being made, on a plate, being eaten, being held, being shared, and having sauce poured over it. Even a plate with just a few crumbs left!
Track these 5 Dessert Sale Indicators 😀
- Strike Rate: the number of sales compared to the number of customers. Lunch time will be more difficult, but you should be aiming for at least one in three customers ordering dessert or a sweet treat.
- Average Customer Spend on Desserts: related to the strike rate. Your POS or cash register should have a separate Dessert department, then divide total sales by the number of customers.
- Individual Food Cost % and Profit Margin for each Dessert: set a benchmark figure and keep track of it with a recipe card or recipe software. Try to keep the cost percentage for each item and across the range below 20%. This will usually be better if you make them in-house. For a quick figure, work out the total cost of a week’s dessert supplies and divide this by the dessert sales. Ideally, it should be less than the 20% cost target.
- Sales per Employee to see who needs coaching and who has the talent. Consider a bonus scheme offering a reward for the number sold – it really works.
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