guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

How to Increase Restaurant Sales and Traffic Using Customer Incentives

How to Increase restaurant sales with the right blend of incentives, promotions, and restaurant marketing strategies.

The most successful restaurants have mastered how to increase restaurant sales. It’s a constant challenge. Restaurant customer trends change, food and supply prices fluctuate and new competitors pop up every day. Strong customer incentive strategies make your restaurant stand out to potential customers and keep them coming back. Customers love value – 77% of Americans say that a discount or deal would make them more likely to eat out than dine at home.

While one great deal or special may drive restaurant revenue, the reality is most restaurants need a mix of specials, discounts, and loyalty rewards to offer a little something for everybody. Here’s how to increase restaurant sales with the right blend of incentives and restaurant marketing strategies.

Restaurant sales data trends

Driving sales is mission-critical right now, as sales growth and profits are slowing down. In our latest review of the restaurant industry performance, sales are up compared to 2019. But sales growth seems to have peaked and traffic trended downward every month in Q3. Overall restaurant traffic is down 6.3% compared to 2019.

Looking at the data by segment, limited-service brands are experiencing the biggest decline in restaurant revenue, even though they are still doing better than full-service establishments overall. Sales are down 2.5% in quick service restaurants and 0.4% in fast casual restaurants in Q3 compared to Q2. Full-service restaurant growth is positive, but still relatively flat.

If we break down restaurant revenue statistics geographically, sales were up in 47 states, with Hawaii, Wyoming, and North Dakota only showing negative growth. After experiencing a slow recovery, west coast brands have figured out how to increase restaurant sales, and are starting to see growth. Average check growth is on the rise – up 5.1%, which is having an impact on traffic. And food prices are rising overall, with restaurants outpacing grocers.

The pandemic recovery is rapidly evolving and we’ll continue to track restaurant sales statistics across the industry. To keep up with our latest insights, sign up for the Restaurant Industry Performance Pulse.

Strategies to Boost Restaurant Sales and Traffic

Innovative Tactics for Enhancing Restaurant Sales and Attracting More Customers

Now that things are heading towards a new form of normal, brands have an opportunity to implement restaurant sales-building ideas that they may not have been able to offer before. Because of the pandemic, restaurant guests and operators were more concerned with the basics – getting food to people and cleanliness. But now, guests are beginning to care more about overall restaurant value and there are more opportunities to implement innovative ways to reach customers. Consider these strategies as part of your action plan to increase sales in a restaurant.

1. Offer customer incentives

In our assessment of guest sentiment data, we see a lot of positive mentions of deals, specials, and coupons. When those deals go away, negative mentions increase. There are also fewer positive mentions about the deals, meaning you lose valuable word-of-mouth. Consider the following tactics to attract more customers to your restaurant:

  • Restaurant loyalty programs – Reward returning customers with free meals or drinks as well as discounts. Restaurant reward programs are well worth the effort. Data shows that loyalty programs are highly valuable.
  • Restaurant daily specials – Draw in new guests as well as repeat customers and highlight your best menu items in the process.
  • Restaurant birthday perks – Make your restaurant a place to celebrate with discounts and freebies for diners on their birthday.

2. Refine your restaurant marketing strategy

Getting the word out is vital to driving growth, but it’s hard to do with shrinking budgets. Restaurant advertising was down last year and hasn’t fully rebounded. Brands need to get creative and figure out how to improve restaurant sales despite thinner margins and other challenges eating into ad budgets.

One strategy is to use discounts on lower-cost items to drive restaurant foot traffic. For instance, an inexpensive deal on kids’ meals will attract families who will buy full-price adult meals as well. If you offer an app, consider giving customers who buy through the app a free or discounted item (like extra salsa or a free drink). You can also consider offering a gift card in exchange for community involvement (such as drawing blood or donating clothes to a nonprofit). With restaurant foot traffic on the decline, incorporating these offers in your marketing strategy can get more customers in the door.

Email is also an important strategy because of its high ROI. On average, email marketing generates $44 for every $1 spent. It’s easy to divide users into segments and send personalized emails. For example, send discount offers only to return customers so that you won’t eat into profits too much. Or, make personalized menu recommendations based on previous purchases.

3. How to get more customers in your restaurant with a search

There’s no doubt that search engines can be a game-changer for your restaurant strategy, but the challenge is how. To increase restaurant sales, your website should be built with Google in mind. Promote your specials by creating landing pages for the kinds of terms people search most:

  • Which restaurants give free meals on Veterans Day?
  • Restaurants where kids eat free
  • Senior citizen discount on restaurant


Local restaurant websites and news sites also list restaurants with these common deals. If your restaurant’s not listed, reach out to make sure you’re added.

To create an effective customer incentive strategy, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your sales data. With a comprehensive financial intelligence solution, you can see how you’re performing in different markets to target promotions and monitor revenue in real time so you can pivot quickly if you need to. A good solution will give you data capabilities to determine if your programs are successful or if the rest of the market is seeing the same fluctuations. When used alongside a customer intelligence solution, you can get the full picture of how guests are responding to your incentives.

To see how BBI’s financial intelligence tool can help you drive restaurant growth, learn more here.

Use Financial Intelligence to support your restaurant sales strategy

What do I get with my Black Box Financial Intelligence subscription?

  • 2-year growth rate metrics published weekly during coronavirus recovery for more accurate performance benchmarking.
  • Measure performance across four interactive dashboards to create endless possibilities for drilling down into the data.
  • Track sales and traffic performance at the industry level down to the unit level to identify outliers.
  • Benchmark your brand against six segments and the entire industry through weekly interactive reports with drill-down capability.
  • View your metrics and compare with competitors down to the daypart to understand where your brand has a sales gap
  • Metrics include sales, traffic, sales per labor hour, PPA, food, beverage, dine-in, to-go, catering, banquet, drive-thru, delivery & daypart.
  • Access to the Market Share Report, the largest data set available for the restaurant industry, including market share, total sales growth, unit growth, and average weekly sales at the national, regional, state, and DMA levels.

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