How to increase your restaurant’s average check

March 15, 2018 • 9 minutes

Kate Palanchuk
Kate Palanchuk
Content Marketer at Poster POS. Kate digs deep into the layers of new technologies and trends in the restaurant business to provide the best content for the blog readers.

To run a successful business you need to know all possible ways of increasing your restaurant’s income. For this you should keep track of a number of restaurant metrics, because you can't manage what you don't measure. And your restaurant's average check is one of those useful metrics.

In a nutshell, the average check is the average transaction amount that is calculated by dividing the total number of sales by the total number of guests and can be measured daily, weekly, monthly, or year over year.

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How to calculate the average check

There are several methods of calculating the average check. You can do the calculation per dish, where the average check is the cost of the main course, two snacks and a dessert (not taking into account drinks and alcohol). We have chosen the formula that allows finding out the real average check in the restaurant. This is the amount of money that the waiter puts into the cash register over a certain period of time, divided by the number of customers. It is very important to use, not the number of orders, but the actual number of customers. For example, if the waiter puts into the register $900 per shift while serving 45 guests, then his average check is $20.

Ideally, all sales data should be stored in the POS system and shown in convenient reports. For example, Poster has sales statistics by waiters, which allows easily controlling the time worked and sales of each employee.

This simplifies the calculations of the average check not just for the restaurant or cafe in general but for different categories of sales. To see how it works try and you will be able to view the bunch of other sales reports by customers, tables, menu categories, products, receipts, and other indicators.

Teach the staff to sell

Of course, an iPad POS system for restaurants helps accept orders, but to increase the average check waiters need to learn to offer, unobtrusively, additional dishes and drinks that go well with an order already made. For example, if a customer wants steak, then a glass or two of red wine will go perfectly with this meal. Motivate staff to promote new dishes and recommend that guests try out something different, or cheer them up with a desert. If your POS has robust analytics and reporting, look at your sales dashboards and check how good each of your waiters is in up-selling customers.

The easiest way to motivate staff is to include a percentage of the daily or weekly revenue in their salary. Especially if the location type does not produce tips, for example, fast food, coffee points, pizzerias without waiters or takeaway food. First of all, staff needs to know how to sell and only then implement marketing ideas to increase the average check. A handheld POS as a part of your pizza restaurant pos system can really help speed up sales too!

Methods for increasing the average check

The upselling method involves offering a more expensive menu item as an alternative to the current order. For example, your guest wants to order a beer. The waiter can offer the bestseller from a mid-price category or use the upselling method and recommend a more expensive craft beer. Or if guests want two different types of roll, offer them a range that has plenty of variety, including the ones desired.

If visitors order two cups of tea, then a pot of tea will be an excellent alternative. The main thing is to do this naturally and not put pressure on customers. Using this scenario, you can increase the average check in the restaurant.

The cross-selling method means the extension of orders by selling additional menu items. The essence of this method is that the waiter suggests that the customer tries some drinks, dishes or add some ingredients to the chosen dishes. This could be a sauce, snacks with a beer, a topping on an ice cream or an extra cheese on a pizza. The waiter needs to make these recommendations while taking the order. For example, a waiter may offer guests a dessert with their coffee or a salad while the main course is cooking.


The cross-selling method is rather underrated in the restaurant business, especially in big locations. Some waiters are scared they will put guests off, so they never touch this method while serving. So how is an aperitif offered in the right way without annoying customers?

  • It’s better to offer an aperitif right after the waiter brings the menu. The earlier a customer orders a drink, a salad or a cold snack, the sooner the waiter delivers it (of course, you need to consider the speed of the bar and kitchen) and be able to offer it again. Note that an extra drink increases the check amount by 10% on average!

  • Re-ordering crucially depends on the timeliness of the offer. For example, if you offer to refill glasses of wine while the guests are just finishing them, most likely they will agree. If you suggest a refill halfway through, most likely it will be rejected. It also makes no sense to ask if customers want another drink when they are already finishing their last dish and are getting ready to leave. The best option is to offer the next drink when there is only ¼ of the content left in the glass.

Powerful marketing words and phrases for waiters

If the owner tasks the staff to just go and offer, then most likely customers will hear clichés like «Anything to drink?», «Something else?», «Would you like a dessert?», etc. Usually, these phrases don’t sell. That is why there is a whole bunch of special trainings created to teach waitstaff how and what to say to sell more.

Make a specific list with a detailed order extension for each dish. Having this list, waiters can easily and unobtrusively recommend to customers something to complete their experience of the restaurant. Also, create templates with a few phrases for the waiters which will help advise customers on food and drink.

Here are some recommendations for waiters:

  • Offer an alternative. Instead of the phrase «Would you like something to drink?» the waiter may concretize: «Tea, latte, fresh juice or, perhaps, wine?»

  • Forget about negative words in the sentences and never use denial when talking to a customer.

  • Make a proposal in the affirmative with the words: «I advise», «I think, you may like», «I recommend», «Often our customers order», etc.

  • Offer specific positions: «We have a brand-new craft beer on our menu. Want to try?»

Don’t be annoying

No restaurant manager wants waiters to be too intrusive and push customers too hard. The first thing the owner can do to avoid overloading guests is to forbid waiters from offering anything solely to expand the order. Another option is to limit the volumes for sale and restrict the number of portion types. For example, sell only one size of pizza or pour juice only in 200 mL glasses.

Add stop words to the rules of your restaurant. If the customer says: «We are done», «That’s enough», «We are good» and so on, the waiter needs to stop making his recommendations. Organize a service assessment in your restaurant. Find out whether the waiter was too insistent and whether he helped customers to choose. As restaurateur experience shows, waiters are mostly not obtrusive, and often they don’t show initiative.

Sell marginal dishes

You don’t have to sell the most expensive items on the menu. Analyze specific positions or sets first and allocate dishes that have the highest rate. You can sell more inexpensive dishes but with a much higher markup than, for example, delicacies.

Suggest a «doggie bag» for dessert to go

It is better to offer customers desserts and pastries in the original packaging at the end of the evening. Ask your guests what they loved the most and offer an order to go. If guests refuse a dish, saying they are full and won’t be able to handle one more portion, offer to pack the leftovers to eat at home.

If you want to sell more, you need to offer more. In turn, to give customers tempting offers you need to understand what, exactly, you are selling. Therefore, the staff should ideally know the menu and be able to navigate it quickly, as well as be aware of all the nuances of the cooking process. Waiters should clearly answer every question that a customer may have. If the staff can sell, the rest depends on the skills of your cooks and the correct marketing strategy. If you do everything right, the rise in the average check won’t keep you waiting!

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