The word “upscale” might sound scary. You might already have taken out your calculator to see how much it would cost to pay a top notch chef and sous chef, to redecorate the place to look like Tiffany’s or to move to a high end neighborhood.
But it doesn’t have to be that expensive to go upscale. Here are 11 ways you can go upscale and raise your prices without spending an arm and two legs on improvements.
1. It’s all in the (French) name.
Change the name of your restaurant so that it sounds more French. For instance, if your restaurant is called Harry’s Place, change the name to Chez Harry. French restaurant names always sound classier and more upscale. People expect to pay more at any restaurant whose name begins with “chez”.
2. It’s all in the (dish) name.
Anybody can serve hamburgers, club sandwiches and apple pie. People will pay extra to savor such rare delicacies as Velvet Patty Deluxe, the Club Extravaganza Plate, and the Apple Queen Pie a la Mode. Take time to be creative with the names of your dishes.
3. Decorate your staff.
Sure, they can wear jeans and a black T-short, but a uniform give your establishment a certain look. Hooters is famous for this, of course, but you can certainly find classier restaurant uniforms that match the style of restaurant you are trying to build.
4. Decorate your walls.
To match your classy looking staff, you can make your walls look just as upscale. Approach some local artists to provide paintings for the walls. What you actually would be offering them is a place to display their paintings for potential customers. What you would be getting would be free art.
5. It’s all in the (French and hoity-toity) name.
With art on the walls, you can change your name again. Now you are Chez Harry Fine Dining and Gallery. The arts automatically make the place fancier.
6. Add garnishings to the plates.
It is simple to add a sprig of parsley or a radish carved like a rose. For deserts, just a nice little drizzle over pretty much any of them, or adding a cherry on top will help.
7. Increase your prices.
Higher prices create the perception of more value. You will lose some customers, but the customers you retain will be the better paying, better tipping ones. It helps to raise the prices at the same time as making other changes. Current customers will happily pay higher prices if they feel they are getting higher value for their money.
8. Offer catering services.
If you offer to “Cater your exclusive event”, you are making yourself one of the few restaurants to do this, creating a more exclusive image. Plus, you’ll have more business that way.
9. Train your front end staff.
Make a point of training staff in how to go beyond customer service, reminding them that they can increase their tips that way. If you also give customers the opportunity to vote for the server with the best service, your staff will be motivated to perform. By the way, the training starts with you. Make sure to bond with your servers; make them feel invested in the restaurant family
10. It’s the little things.
For a regular customer, an occasional note of thanks, hand-written by the chef, can go a long way. If you can capture regular customer birthdays, you can also throw in something special for their birthday, such as whipping up a special dessert.
11. Get some ambiance
If the arts make a place classier, then why not some music. Find a couple young musicians, such as a violinist or a harpist. If they don’t have any gigs, they will be willing to work for very little. You can offer them a free meal and a small stipend, as well as a nice classy-looking tips jar for those who want to express their appreciation. Even if it won’t make them rich, they have to practice anyway, so they might as well get paid.
Going upscale doesn’t have to be all the difficult or that costly. And it might even be worth forking out for a better chef with a great imagination, who can cook up something a little different now and then or make regular customers something personal for their birthdays.
Val Charming is a freelance writer who focuses on customer service and branding matters. He believes that customer experience and branding have to be linked, and he loves writing about those links.