Some centuries ago, when I was eight or ten years old, I remember a family ritual of going to my grandparents’ house for Friday night dinner.
Grandma would always have a freshly baked pie ready for dessert and my strongest memory was opening the door and getting that first whiff of apple or peach or blueberry or cherry or, on really rare occasions, rhubarb.
Somehow on Fridays I had no problems finishing my vegetables.
How much would your customers appetites improve if grandma was in your kitchen and aromas of freshly baked breads or pastries managed to find their way to your front door.
I’m not suggesting get Grandma out of retirement and back behind the stove, but I am suggesting you appeal to your customers’ sense of smell as well as sight when promoting your offerings. An occasional waft of fresh bread or pastries coming from your kitchen couldn’t hurt sales. If that’s impractical put your desserts on display.
The time to push desserts is not when your diners have just finished a full meal and your server asks: “Can I interest anyone in dessert?” The time to push desserts is when your customers first walk in the door.
Display desserts when your customers first walk in. Show them what’s in store for them at the end of their meal. If this is not practical, slide a dessert list into your regular menu, or select a menu that holds a full or partial dessert list that diners will see when they first open their menu covers.
Try offering main courses in two sizes: ¾ size and full size, with ¾ size for those diners who “want to leave room for dessert”. This is something your server could explain when he announces the specials. If you make the price difference of the entrée half the price of the dessert, you’re still raising your average check . . . and you can work out your own portion sizes.
OR . . . offer desserts in two sizes, one portion, regular size and one porton split onto two plates with two spoons/forks for sharing . . . show it on your menu as “half the calories.”
And if all of the above will get in the way of your busy operation, at least have your server bring around a platter of your non-refrigerated dessert selection with the questions” “which dessert can I offer you?” instead of “anyone leave room for dessert.”
#4 in a series of comments and suggestions by Mark R. Strange.