The Five Best Ways to Increase Your Profits, Save Money and Keep Your Customers Coming Back


Imagine you had a menu item that was highly profitable, increased your table spend, increased your chances of customers coming back and was a doddle to prepare and serve?

Well, not only does it exist, but you possibly already sell it. We are talking about the often underestimated garlic bread.

Are you making the most of this menu item to improve your sales and profits?

Research shows that a huge part of overall customer satisfaction when eating out is related to how quickly they get something to eat after sitting down. Typically what will happen is that either everyone on the table will order a starter, or nobody will, depending on a few different factors.

Research also clearly shows that customers who do go on to order starters leave with an increased feeling of value and satisfaction. This is for many reasons including…

· Starters actually kick start our appetite and start the digestive processes

· People who are hungry are more likely to be grumpy. Starters shorten the ‘hunger gap’ that can lead to feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction, no matter how good the meal.

· Starters encourage and allow time to socialise before the main meal arrives

· People eating out want an eating out experience and starters/appetisers add to the experience

· Starters that can be shared, like garlic bread, are often popular as a table option where everyone can “dig in”

· They are social and emotional, they distract from waiting for the main course, they build social interaction, they can also show generosity when ordered for the table.

So how can you increase the chances of customers ordering starters and leaving happy?

Focus heavily on upselling garlic bread. Place it prominently on your menu so customer’s eyes are drawn towards it before anything else. Train your serving staff to offer it as a matter of course. Garlic bread is perfect for sharing, so even tables who may not otherwise order starters will more than likely be open to ordering a garlic bread (or 2) to share on the table while they wait for their mains.

The benefits to you?

· Increase revenue per table. Customers are valuable, so get as much out of them as possible while they are in your restaurant

· Sell more drinks. Customers who order a starter are 3 times more likely to order more drinks before their main course arrives. More food makes your more thirsty!

· Increase the customers feeling of satisfaction after leaving your restaurant meaning higher chance of repeat visits and most importantly, better online reviews!

· Sell more of a high GP item

· Very quick and easy to prepare for your chef, reducing strain on your kitchen

Now what if you could guarantee to get a delicious garlic bread on your customers table within no more than 5 minutes?

At Sturdy Foods, we have developed a part baked sourdough pizza base that can be topped within seconds to make an incredible garlic bread which you can then bake to perfection in your oven. By using a prepared base for your garlic bread, chefs time is kept to a minimum meaning reduced pressure on your chef and oven capacity. Your garlic bread needs cooking for just a minute or two, meaning you can get it on your customer’s plate within just a few minutes of taking the order.

Tips for serving a great garlic bread.

· Use a combination of fresh garlic, butter and a little olive oil to spread on your garlic bread

· Consider offering a few different types of garlic bread. Adding options such as Tomato, Mozzarella, fresh Basil or other fresh herbs such as Thyme, Rosemary or Oregano can make spectacular looking garlic breads that will have a wow factor.

· Experiment with different ways to cut and serve your garlic bread to encourage sharing on the table. You can also serve it in different ways such as squares/rectangles etc so it looks different to any pizzas that customers may also have ordered for their mains.

Remember. Aim to WOW your customer, every time.

Successful restaurants always do this.

And you can be one of them.

Garlic Bread


Pizza is and probably always will be one of the most popular menu items any food business can sell. Pizza is the most popular food eaten in restaurants in the UK and is unique in its popularity as well as its ability to be adapted to different tastes and diets. It also just happens to be one of the highest margin products you can sell.

So it would make sense to say you want to be able to serve as much of it as possible, right?

One problem that can occur during busy periods is capacity constraints which can lead to slow service. If you have a peak period, say during high season or particularly busy weekend nights and a lot of diners order pizza at the same time, how can you get them all served quickly and efficiently and avoid upset customers?

Remember that speed of service is a huge factor in the overall customer satisfaction levels that your business needs to ensure repeat custom and good online reviews. The overall picture a customer paints of your business is based as much on speed and quality of service as anything else. Slow or inefficient service makes it far less likely that a customer will return, losing your business vital revenue and profit. The more quickly and efficiently you can make your pizza and get it served, the more profitable your business will be in the long run.

So how can you improve your system, serve more pizza and keep your customers coming back for more?

Here are some ideas about how to review your current kitchen system and where there may be room for improvement.

Cycle Time

Measure your ‘cycle time’ for making a pizza. Time this from the moment a chef starts to prepare the pizza to the moment it has been plated up ready to be served. How long is each pizza taking at each stage? Stretching the dough, putting on toppings and cooking? Are there any parts of this process that can be improved?

Some examples we have seen where improvements have been made include a chef using a ladle that was too small for the amount of sauce that was going on each pizza. He was having to put 2 ladle’s worth of sauce on each pizza, wasting valuable time at busy periods. The solution? Buy a ladle that could fit the amount of sauce required for 1 pizza! Very obvious, but sometimes these things become normal and a fresh perspective can see inefficiencies that a chef hasn’t even considered.

Another example was a restaurant where it was taking a chef nearly 2 minutes to roll out each pizza base using a rolling pin, which not only took too long but was reducing the quality of the dough by knocking all the air out of it. He was also operating the oven and when we timed the total cycle time from him receiving an order to putting on a plate, it was over 7 minutes! Not a good start point for a busy service! By doing some training on how to hand stretch the dough more efficiently as well as increasing the temperature on the oven a little, we helped him get the cycle time down to 4.5 minutes. That’s 35% quicker than previously. During busy periods this means an extra 35% of pizza can be made and sold, not to mention the increased benefits in customer satisfaction through improvements in speed of service.

Observing your chefs preparing and serving pizza is an essential start point to identifying areas for improvement in your system. You are looking for it to be a quick and efficient process that guarantees consistency for the customer. One further suggestion would be to ensure that cheese usage is tightly controlled by using a small cup that fits the correct amount of cheese inside it for the pizza. Allowing chefs to portion cheese by eye will lead to lost profit as well as inconsistency for your customers.

Other suggestions for improving cycle time

· If finding chefs skilled enough to stretch dough properly is an issue, consider a pizza press. These come in a variety of forms including hot and cold presses. Hot presses work by squeezing together 2 plates where you place a dough ball in-between which flattens the dough ball into a disc ready for topping. There can be a small reduction in quality, but other benefits can more than compensate for this including better consistency, less reliance on skilled labour and reducing your cycle time considerably. Remember speed and consistency are huge factors in customer satisfaction. At Sturdy Foods, our dough balls have been extensively tested with various pizza presses and are set up to give great results using a press.

· Using a part-baked pizza base at busy times. At Sturdy Foods, we have developed a part-baked sourdough pizza base designed to cook a perfect pizza in any pizza oven. The benefit here is that you eliminate any requirement for stretching out dough and you do not need any extra equipment. Your cycle time can be massively reduced using this option with a fully topped pizza able to be served within 3-4 minutes. You could even consider having these as a back up, either as a contingency in case your run out of dough or to bring in at peak periods when your capacity comes under pressure.

· Review your menu options. A large unwieldy menu can cause havoc at peak periods. If chefs have too many ingredients and toppings to deal with, it will slow down service, particularly if they are unable to be all kept within reach. Keep things as simple as you can. Overcomplex menus lead to slower service, higher stress in employees and lower overall customer satisfaction.

Remember, the goal is to get your customers coming back for more. Give them the WOW experience they are looking for by being as efficient as you can in your operation.


What’s the difference between a business which is surviving and one that is thriving?

What’s the difference between a business which is surviving and one that is thriving?

The sad truth is that far too many food businesses in the UK are only just getting by. They are run by people who are overworked, stressed out, dealing with too many day to day difficulties and often not showing enough profit to make it worth the effort.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a minority (and unfortunately it is a minority) of food businesses that thrive whatever the circumstances. They have their fair share of problems, but they still manage to generate good levels of profit week in week out.

One of the main differences between a surviving business and a thriving one is a thorough understanding of their revenue model and the communication strategies and marketing they need to do that underpins it.

Running a business comes down to numbers. And to make a business thrive, these numbers have to be clearly understood. For most food businesses, it will come down to this.

Based on the average customer spend, how many customers do you need to visit your business each week to make the profit you want to make?

To calculate this, you’ll need to know your average spend (revenue/number of customers) and your average margin. You’ll also need to know your overhead cost, which is a total of staff wages, electricity, business rates, rent etc.

Say you want to make £1,000 net profit per week.

Your average spend per customer net of VAT is £15.

You operate on a 70% Margin, net of VAT.

This means your average gross profit per customer is £10.50.

Your overheads are £2,000 per week.

Add your desired £1,000 profit to your overheads to make £3,000.

Divide this figure by your average profit per customer (£10.50) and you have the answer. 3000/10.5 = 285.

You need a minimum of 285 customers to come through your door every week to make the profit you want to make.

If on any given week, you serve less than 285 customers, you are not making the money you want to make, and at worst case scenario may end up losing money.

So how can you increase your chances of getting the number of covers you need week in week out and making your business the success you deserve it to be?

Firstly, a reality check. The difference between thriving and surviving businesses is often how much time and attention they give to focussing on marketing and revenue generation each week. A well marketed business that focusses heavily on this will massively outperform one that doesn’t, even if they both have the same standard of food and service. So whatever else is going on in the business,it should be a priority to dedicate some time each week to looking at how to attract new customers and bring existing ones back in more often. Doing this for even an hour each week will pay dividends. No business can survive without enough customers coming through the door, so are you putting enough time and energy into ensuring you have a steady flow of customers coming to your business?

Here are 5 simple things to focus on to attract new customers to your business and keep them coming back.

1. Reviews.

Consumer opinion now travels faster and further than ever before.

88% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

90% of people read business reviews online before they visit a business.

Customers spend 31% more with a business that has a positive review score on Trip Advisor/Google etc.

These days your reviews are the lifeblood of your business and can be the difference between customers choosing to eat with you or a competitor. Bad reviews are inevitable and you can never please everybody, but people understand that bad reviews can often be attributable to specific factors on the night or are just down to certain people being unreasonable so you shouldn’t worry unduly about having a minority of bad reviews. You should concentrate on getting as many reviews as you can and having a strategy to encourage customers to leave you reviews after eating at your business.

One simple way to do this is simply to ask them if they were happy at the end of the meal (which you should do anyway) and then to ask them if they would be willing to leave you a review on TripAdvisor/Google or whatever review site you use most. By asking in person, you make it far more likely that a customer will take action and leave you a review.

You also have the opportunity to discuss any issues with them if it turns out that they weren’t happy. How many times do you see owners responding to negative reviews by saying ‘we wish you had spoken to us at the time.’ But the truth is that people in the UK don’t like to complain and are far more comfortable doing it sat behind a keyboard than they are doing it in person.

So by being open with them at the end of their meal and giving them the opportunity to give you any feedback, you make it far less likely they will post a bad review. If it turns out they are not happy for any reason and you feel they are justified in their complaint, consider knocking something off their bill. In many cases this will avoid them posting a negative review which could cost you more in the long run.

2. Visibility.

How can you attract more customers who drive or walk past your business? Something as simple as a blackboard or A-frame board is a very simple but often neglected strategy to increase your visibility and attract more customers inside to eat. However there are some best practise points when doing this. We have all seen badly written blackboards, scrawled messages

that look unprofessional and barely legible. Ensure your message is written clearly and neatly. First impressions count and you could actually be putting people off coming in if your message looks scruffy.

The next thing to think about is what is the most compelling thing you can communicate to potential customers driving past or walking past your business? Try and avoid being the same as others and think about what can make you stand out and look unique. You could communicate any of the following.

· Free garlic bread for any table of 4 or more customers

· The best pizza/steak/fish and chips (or other menu item you excel in) in town

· 1 FREE kids meal for any family of 4 or more

· Can you come up with something attention seeking and eye catching? Here are some real life examples for some inspiration.

3. Build a database.

It is 6 times cheaper to market to existing customers than new ones. People love familiarity (one reason why big chains are popular) and the more familiar you can make people with your business over time, the ‘stickier’ they will become as customers to you. So ensure you don’t let good customers forget about you. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to build a database of your customers and send them offers or information by email. So have a system in place to ask customers if they would be willing to give you their email address in return for being sent offers or news every now and again. Use an email marketing system such as Mail Chimp to manage your email communications and ensure not to overcommunicate. A frequency of around one email a month should work well and try to keep things exciting by sharing news about new menus/offers/seasonal specials or anything else that could be of interest to them and make them want to come again.

4. Spend an hour on your Google listing.

Google is the only search engine that matters these days. Google allows you to have a free listing that is invaluable as a business. However thousands of businesses haven’t claimed their listings and given this is the first place customers look, it’s vital that this is claimed and up to date. Not only can you input your address and basic details, but you can also add pictures and even videos to your listing to give customers a good idea of what your business can offer. A well populated google listing can make a great first impression so make sure your business has this covered. You only have to do it once and it will work away in the background for you.

5. Direct Mail Leaflet Campaigns. We live in an age where our email inboxes are bombarded with messages from hundreds of different sources. Our attention spans are short and receiving more and more emails over time means we tend to ignore a lot of what comes into our inbox. This used to be the case with our letterboxes years ago. But these days we receive far less physical mail through our doors and this means a good opportunity to use this strategy as a great way to get new customers in your area to know about your business.

Use the tried and tested AIDA formula to write your leaflet.

Attention – Interest – Desire – Action

Here’s an example:

Imagine treating yourself to a delicious pizza in a relaxing environment with friends and family

You’re guaranteed a warm welcome when you visit our restaurant. We’d love to have the opportunity to show you what a great evening we can give you. Our pizzas really are the star of the show and we’ve got a fantastic selection of delicious fresh pizzas to offer you. Great service is at the heart of what we do and we’re sure you expect nothing less. So why not bring your friends and family down to us for an evening to remember.

For a limited time only, we’re offering a FREE sharing garlic bread for every table of 4 or more. Just give us a call now to book your table. But be quick, we book up fast!

Of course as with any marketing strategy, you want to ensure you know what is working and what isn’t. So use offer codes or another system to be able to tell where new bookings are coming from. If a marketing strategy is working, then do more of it! If it isn’t, then stop doing it. Test and measure every strategy. This is only a surface guide to how to improve your business’ marketing. If you want to look at taking your business marketing to another level, we have written another article that contains some great strategies for transforming your business’ marketing.

Sturdy Foods Restaurant

How to to give your customers top quality pizza through better dough management

First things first. Quality matters.

Along with speed of service and consistency, it is part of the balance of things that your customers consciously and subconsciously weigh up whilst eating at your restaurant that determines whether or not they will return.

Repeat business is the holy grail of building a profitable business over time. So giving the customer the quality they expect is essential to the long term viability of any food business.

Pizza is a simple product to prepare and serve, but there are a few ‘critical control points’ to bear in mind when thinking about your system and how to guarantee great quality pizza, every time. Dough management is probably the most important thing to bear in mind, so let’s look at the best way to manage your dough for best results.

Dough Management

Dough contains yeast, which is a living product. How the yeast interacts with the dough is important to the end result. Too little yeast activity and the dough will be flat, hard to use and will lack flavour. Too much yeast activity will eventually blow the dough and make it hard to work with as well as affecting the quality of the finished product.

So we need to find the ‘sweet spot’ where the dough is suitably risen and developed, easy to work with and will make a fantastic pizza. We have done extensive testing with our dough balls and they have been developed to be in optimal condition for as long as possible to give you the best chance at making the best quality pizza.

Our dough balls are supplied frozen and for best results, we recommend they are removed from the freezer and put into dough trays the night before being used and then defrosted in the refrigerator overnight. The following day they should be fully defrosted. At this stage the yeast is still recovering from the freezing process and the dough will not be ready to use. It needs to re-activate and this can be done using 2 methods.

1. Removing the dough from the refrigerator and allowing it to prove in a warmer environment for around 4-5 hours.

2. ‘Retarding’ the dough in the refrigerator at low temperature for up to 3 days before being brought to room temperature and used.

The longer you are able to leave your dough to develop and mature, the better the final result will be. This isn’t always possible of course and storage or space constraints may stop you being able to do this, but if you can find a way to leave your dough for 2/3 days in the fridge before using, it will improve the quality of the final product considerably.

So in summary, for quickest results, defrost your dough balls overnight before bringing to room temperature the following day and using. This will give good results.

For better results, defrost your dough balls overnight before allowing a further 24 hours to develop in the fridge. Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature. This will give very good results.

To go one step further, allow your dough 48/72 hours in the fridge before removing and bringing to room temperature before using. This will give exceptional results.

By the way, if you are wondering whether frozen dough means lower quality, we have tested both fresh and frozen dough balls on a group of expert pizza chefs. Not one of them could tell the difference in a blind test. Our dough is flash frozen within minutes of being made, which prevents ice crystals forming and maintains complete product integrity after defrosting.

How to stretch your dough balls for best results

How to stretch your dough will depend on a few factors and what skill levels you have in your kitchen. There are 3 options for stretching your dough.

1. Use a rolling pin

2. Stretch it by hand

3. Stretch it using a pizza press or dough roller

If you have skilled labour and experienced chefs who are confident and competent at rolling out dough by hand, then stick with it. Rolling by hand gives the best results as it means lighter dough that will rise better in the oven and make a great pizza.

If your chefs don’t have these skills and are currently using a rolling pin, then consider training them to stretch by hand or if this is difficult, consider buying a pizza press. Using a rolling pin takes all the air out of the dough and makes a flat, rather characterless pizza crust after baking. We would not recommend doing it this way. A pizza press can be a good way to produce great pizzas without needing skilled labour. But it does require space and a capital expenditure. If this isn’t feasible, then consider switching to a part-baked pizza base that does not require any stretching at all. Sturdy Foods can provide you with a superb quality part-baked sourdough pizza base that simply requires topping before being baked in your oven. It gives great quality results and is also super quick to prepare and serve. Contact us for more details.

How you best manage your dough and how you serve it is down to your individual operation and its circumstances and constraints. But hopefully the information in this article will help you decide how to give your customers the best quality you possibly can.

Remember, always aim to WOW the customer, and always be looking at ways to increase the chances of them coming back to you in the future.

Dough Sturdy Foods


If there is one simple way that any food business can increase its sales, profits and reduce its costs, it has to be in improving its menu design.

Yet 90% of restaurants or pubs do not put any significant thought or attention into how their menu is designed or how it is perceived by diners. This is a huge lost opportunity and improving your menu design can be an instant quick win in improving your business profits.

What should your goals be when designing your menu?

· To direct the diner towards specific menu items that make you the most profit.

· To enable diners to make their choice as quickly as possible and avoid ‘menu stress’

· To increase your table spend and profit

Your menu should be your best sales tool, and best of all, it is almost free!

There have been many studies done on the psychology of menu design, but the basic principles are simple enough to be used by any food business operator.

Let’s look at these and how they can help your business.

How much choice should I offer on my menu?

Studies have shown that the average length of time diners want to make their choice within is just under 2 minutes. Diners can feel overwhelmed and even anxious when presented with too many choices. Make sure your menu is not flustering your diners by being too large. Another factor here is that the less choice that is offered, the more chance that diners will order starters. So aim not to offer more than is necessary and aim for no more than 5-7 options per menu category. This way you present your diner with enough choice, but not too much that they are overwhelmed and take longer than necessary to order, which puts them under stress and increases your table turnaround time. For example, if one of your menu categories is pizza, try to offer no more than 5-7 pizzas.

Direct your diner’s eyes to the items you want to sell

Understand in detail which of your menu items makes you the most money. If you don’t already know this, then conduct a full costing of every menu item and what you are charging for it to see what your highest GP items really are. And don’t forget to factor in how easy or difficult each item is to prepare and serve. You want to sell the most of the menu items that are the highest GP, but also the easiest and quickest to get onto your diner’s plate, not only keeping your diners happy but also allowing you to serve as much food as quickly as possible, especially at busy periods.

Once you have identified your star performing menu items, think carefully about how these are presented on your menu and where they are placed. Diner’s eyes tend to look at the middle of a page before then drifting up to the top right, the top left and then back to the middle. You can, however, direct them to certain items on the menu with a few simple design techniques.

· Borders. Simply putting a border round any specific menu item can double its sales. By guiding your customer’s eye to any item that has a border round it, you are increasing its visibility and therefore the chance of it being ordered. Think about also trying different fonts, using bold lettering or even different background colour on specific menu items to increase their prominence on the menu. One restaurant we worked with introduced some of these techniques and their garlic bread sales immediately went up 300%. It also just happens to be their highest gross profit item!

· Grouping menu items. Increasing the amount of customers who order starters is one of the most effective ways to increase your table spend and profits. Nearly all diners will order mains, but comparatively fewer will order starters or desserts. What can you do to make your starters stand out on your menu? Consider giving more menu space to them than mains (which diners will likely order anyway) and think of your menu positions as ‘real estate’ so that every item has a hierarchy of where it is positioned. Could your starters be highlighted compared to mains in some way? Or simply just given more space in the middle of the menu, where diners eyes are drawn first?

· Using pictures or illustrations. Putting a picture of your star performing item (ie your most profitable) next to it on the menu is another technique to ensure it sells more frequently. Human beings are visual creatures and using this technique can be very effective in increasing sales of a particular item.

· Use more appetising and sensory language for your star performers. Putting more effort in to the descriptions of your star performing dishes sells them far more effectively. For example, phrases such as ‘house prepared’ or ‘chef’s speciality’ are great ways to make your high profit items stand out. Using sensory language works very effectively too. Words such as ‘succulent, mouth-watering, tender, crunchy or melting’ are words that appeal to your diner’s senses, making these items sound even more appealing and of course more likely to sell. Save your best descriptions for your star performers and watch the sales come in!

How big should your menu be?

By this, we mean how big should it physically be? Overly large and unwieldy menus have been proven to annoy diners. If they are given a large bulky menu that risks them knocking drinks over or even feeling like they are disconnected from their fellow diners, they will likely order less. Don’t allow any sense of anxiety in your diner’s experience as it will lower your sales and profits. If your menu is physically large because you have many sections to it (lunch, dinner, starters, children’s, mains, desserts etc) then consider producing individual menus for each section. Dessert menus should always be presented as a separate list after mains are finished as it prevents diners from having to remember what was on the main menu or your serving staff having to recite a list for them.

How to show pricing on your menu

Some customers are more price sensitive than others, but nobody likes to think about what they are paying for a meal. Paying for a meal is the main ‘pain point’ for customers so aim to design your menu to show the price of each dish without drawing any more attention to it than is necessary. Some techniques for this are as follows.

· Avoid using columns to show pricing. If you have menu items listed at the left-hand side of the page and the corresponding pricing shown directly across from it on the other side in a

column format, change it so that the price is displayed directly after the item’s description. The pricing for different items will then vary in their positioning on the menu according to the length of each item’s description rather than being in the same place and therefore more easily read. Showing pricing in a column format draws the diner’s eye to the pricing and makes them focus on it more heavily.

· Remove £ signs. Rather than putting £10, just put 10. This has been proven to reduce the perception of what a diner is paying for a meal. Simple, but true!

· Use smaller size lettering for pricing than for menu item descriptions. Obviously your diner has to be able to read the pricing, and would get annoyed if they couldn’t. But try making your pricing slightly smaller compared to the wording on your menu. The idea is to give the information, but not draw any more attention to it than necessary.

Pay attention to the look and feel of your menu

Does the design of your menu reflect the impression you want to give of your restaurant? Do the colours and images match the quality and ambience you have worked hard to create in your dining area? Is it printed on suitable material? How does it feel to handle? What impression does it give at the first glance? You want your menu to provide as much visual appeal as any other part of your restaurant. Think about designing it sympathetically to make it look and feel like a positive experience for your diner.

Menu design and psychology is a big subject and this article is only a brief idea of what can be done to optimise menu design to improve your sales and profits. But even these simple techniques described here can transform your business if used well. Most food businesses do not put enough (if any) thought into how their menu is designed and laid out, so why not have a think about how you can design your menu for maximum success.