Any server will tell you the hardest thing to sell is dessert. The meal has come to an end, customers are ready to go or just enjoy a cup of coffee, and more often than not the dessert menu is met with some pretty stiff resistance. Add in a climate of tightening belts and reduced budgets, and restaurants are facing a very difficult dessert climate indeed.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful dessert menu, however. Tantalizing dessert items that are priced right and presented well can make for a very nice addition to your check averages. All it takes is some investment in time and energy until you find just the right combination that gets your customer to go from saying “no” to “yes.”
Flavors: Exotic vs. Comfort
Exotic sounding desserts have been very fashionable for the last 10 years or so. But it appears that customer’s tastes are changing to more familiar fare, and desserts are no different. The flip side of that coin is coming across as too conventional, like cheesecake or vanilla ice cream. By all means, serve these venerable stand-bys, but do so with a little attitude and flair. Put some unique, and maybe even a little exotic, twist on your dessert offerings to make them feel fresh but not unfamiliar.
Sizes: Less Is More
Downsizing dessert options encourages customers to indulge a little at the end of their meal. Quick, tasty desserts are the best way to get your guests buying. Not only are more and more people health conscious these days, but also price conscious, and a trim but attractive little dessert addresses both of those issues. Which leads us into the next component of a successful dessert menu:
Price: Less Is More Too
Single digit prices (i.e. $9 or less) are vital to selling desserts. Since smaller portions are also more desirable, meeting this price requirement shouldn’t be too hard. Standard pricing also makes the decision easier for the waffling guest. Many restaurants set one price for all their desserts. Some have also introduced tapas-style desserts: super small portions of inventive desserts that can be ordered individually or as a group (think 1 for X dollars or 3 for X dollars).
Training: Servers Need To Know Their Stuff
As with the rest of your menu, servers are going to be the key factor driving sales. If they have followed the 4 R’s, they should be able to tailor their dessert presentation to what they anticipate the customer will want. Servers should also have a good command of the details involved with each dessert: what’s in it, how it’s prepared, etc. And the best thing you can do for your servers besides train them well is to give them props. Being able to show guests a 3-D likeness of what they’re about to order is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your customer’s sweet tooth active.
Finally, don’t forget to have a good cup of coffee ready to go with all desserts. The two go hand in hand for most people, and making sure your brew is up to par with your great dessert menu is more involved than you might think. Desserts and coffee are mutually supportive, so if you take the time to fine tune both, you’ll end up driving after-dinner sales, and that will make both your servers and your bottom line happy.