20 Proven Ways to Increase Your Restaurant’s Check Average

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5 min read

Feb 15, 2023

20 Proven Ways to Increase Your Restaurant’s Check Average

Notoriously slim profit margins plague the restaurant industry. With margins as low as 3% for full-service restaurants, cash flow can be an issue for restaurateurs. Fortunately, taking steps to boost how much customers spend can help create more of a financial cushion. In this guide on how to increase the check average at your restaurant, you’ll learn how to calculate this figure and gain 20 strategies for growing it.

How to Determine Your Restaurant’s Check Average

Calculating your current guest check average is an important part of revenue management and the first step to learning how to increase your check average in the future. 

Check average indicates how much each customer spends at your restaurant. To calculate this figure, add up your restaurant’s gross sales and divide them by the number of covers (i.e., customers) you served during the period in which you made those sales.

Check Average = Total Sales Revenue / Total Number of Customers

Your POS system, table management software or reservation software can usually supply those terms or calculate check average for you. 

Restaurant Check Average Sample Calculation

Let’s say you want to increase your restaurant’s check average in 2023. First, you need to know your check average for 2022 so you can set a realistic goal. 

According to your POS metrics, you generated $1 million in revenue in 2022 and seated 20,000 customers. Your check average is $1 million divided by 20,000 customers, or $50 per customer. You then set a goal of raising that figure to a $60 check average. 

How to Increase Your Restaurant’s Check Average

Learning how to increase the check average at your restaurant involves getting customers to spend more. These strategies can help.

1. Upsell

Upselling involves encouraging guests to order modifiers, add-ons or premium menu items. Train staff to ask guests if they want extra cheese, a side salad or shrimp instead of chicken as their protein. 

You can also automate upselling online with modifier prompts and upgrades. Take inspiration from dart venue and restaurant Flight Club Chicago, which asks guests if they want to upgrade their reservations by pre-purchasing food or a bucket of beverages.

Fight Club Chicago menu upgradesFight Club Chicago’s upsell menu listed on their direct reservation page

2. Limit Small Capacity Tables to Avoid Under-Selling

Maximize table capacity during peak hours to get more customers in and spending more. Avoid underselling by reconfiguring your reservation book so that smaller parties can’t use larger tables during or just before primetime.

3. Reduce No-Shows

Maximize revenue by reducing no-shows. You can’t get people in the door to spend more if they don’t show up. Send automated reservation reminders and hold payment information on file to enforce no-show fees.

By requiring credit card details at the time of booking, Manchester’s Cloud23 nearly eliminated no-shows and has collected £15,000 in no-show and late cancellation fees in six months with SevenRooms.

4. Find the Best Table for Each Party

Just like how in chess every move creates a different end result, every seating assignment can lead to a greatly different outcome in terms of revenue. Where you seat guests matters. SevenRooms’ table management features uses AI to sort through thousands of seating combinations to determine the best outcome for restaurant sales.

By using SevenRooms’ auto-assign seating algorithm, which explores 10,000 seating combinations per second, Mina Group has been able to seat parties in the most revenue-driving tables possible. Host teams now have more time to connect with guests, and the hospitality group is able to adjust their reservation strategy with the help of robust reporting.

5. Check On Guests Often

Servers should visit tables often and ask them if they’d like to order anything else. Placing light pressure on guests and making suggestions, like for a wine pairing, can result in a higher spend.

6. Implement a Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs gamify spending, which makes guests want to order more to unlock their next reward. Research has found that loyalty program members frequent restaurants 20% more often and spend 20% more than non-members.

Pro Tip: If you haven’t yet adopted a loyalty program, you can still incentivize customers to spend more. For example, you could offer a free dessert to any table that spends more than $200. SevenRooms’ marketing tool lets you automate email offers like these.

7. Maximize Online Ordering

Customers tend to spend more when they order online versus when they dine in. Encourage even larger online orders by setting a minimum for free delivery. Customers will want to reach this threshold by ordering more, instead of paying a delivery fee.

By using a direct online ordering solution, rather than a third-party app, you’ll pay a flat fee rather than a commission on each order.

8. Engineer Your Menu

Menu engineering is a menu design technique that draws attention to the most expensive items. Implement these menu engineering strategies to steer guests towards premium dishes.

9. Offer Bundles and Combos Meals

Create combos meals and bundles from dishes that customers typically order together to cue them to spend more. For example, you could have a lunch combo meal that includes a drink and dessert, or offer a game day bundle for takeout orders that includes family-sized appetizers and entrees.

10. Tempt Pickup Customers

Upsell pickup customers by placing merchandise, drinks and packaged treats near your checkout counter to tempt them to add more to their order.

11. Sell More Drinks

Beverages, especially alcoholic ones, are some of the most profitable items on the menu for restaurants. Restaurants typically generate an 80% profit margin on boozy drinks. Encourage drink sales by suggesting wine pairings, upselling bottles of wine or suggesting pitchers instead of individual glasses.

12. Send Deals Online

Send customers offers via email to get them to spend more. For example, you could send guests a coupon for a free glass of wine with a $50 purchase. Use email marketing software to automate sending offers.

13. Modify Your Pricing Strategy

Base your prices around the cost of goods sold of the largest size you offer, then price down incrementally so that getting a smaller size is profitable but doesn’t seem like as good a deal to customers. For example, if you serve small drinks for $3 and large drinks for $4, customers will likely want to spend just one more dollar to get the most bang for their buck.

14. Hold Staff Competitions

Incentivize staff to upsell and use other techniques on this list by holding a competition. Give the server with the largest check amount a prize at the end of the week or month.

15. Train Staff On the Menu

Make sure staff know your menu inside and out by letting them eat their way through it. Thorough training will better equip them to describe dishes, make recommendations and upsell.

16. Personalize Guest Recommendations

Use a CRM with guest profiles to customize guest recommendations. For example, if a guest’s profile indicates they prefer red wine over white, you can suggest only bottles of red. Upselling is easier to do when it’s personalized.

17. Offer Daily Specials

Create a menu of daily specials that are priced higher than your regular menu items. Guests will be more likely to order these specials – and spend more – when they know they’re only available for a limited time.

18. Suggest Pairings

Boost your check average by suggesting pairings of dishes and sides, meals and wine or even desserts and tea. Indicate suggested pairings on printed and online menus, and have servers recite them.

19. Limit Menu Items

Large menus give guests decision fatigue. When your menu is limited, customers will be able to navigate it more efficiently and therefore order more.

20. Create Spending Minimums

Implement spending minimums during your restaurant’s peak hours, such as weekends and evenings. For example, you could offer a prix-fixe menu for brunch to avoid serving customers who may otherwise split an entree.

Leveraging SevenRooms’ software to promote special events and experiences in the booking flow, London’s Flat Iron Square beer garden easily enforced £200-£350 minimum table spends during the 2021 UEFA European Championship. 

Beyond this event, they also leveraged pre-order packages for holidays and limited-time-only brand collaborations. Over the course of 2021, ticketed events and prepaid experiences boosted Flat Iron Square’s bottom line by more than £127,000.

How to Increase Check Average: Combine Strategies

We’ve given you a variety of strategies for encouraging guests to order premium items, add sides to their meals, upgrade their dishes, and spend more overall. While you don’t have to implement every one of these tactics, we recommend testing out a few to find the best combination to help you increase your return on investment. 

SevenRooms combines many of the approaches listed above into one guest experience and engagement platform. To learn more ways to maximize revenue, download our Guide to Revenue Management.

Revenue Management: How to Make More Money From the Same Seats

How to Increase Check Average FAQs

1. Why is Check Average Important?

A restaurant’s guest check average indicates how well the restaurant is doing compared to past performance and competitors. It also reveals opportunities for upselling and maximizing revenue.

2. What is the Average Check Size in a Restaurant?

A restaurant’s average check size varies between service styles. A fast food restaurant will have a smaller check average than a fine dining restaurant.

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