How to diversify your sales income – for cafes, restaurants and bars


If you only have one source of income (like daily cafe, restaurant or bar sales), you’re more vulnerable to seasonal ups and downs than if you have three or four.

The COVID-19 closures have highlighted how much of a challenge this can be. Here's how to add more income streams, without renting more space or doubling your workloadit’s time to spread your wings!

To find the tools to enable new sales channels, check our Guide to Best Apps & Ordering Systems for Takeaway & Food Delivery and the Guide to Turning Your Restaurant Menu into a Delivery Menu .

* Take Away from your existing menu – food, desserts, whole cakes or catering trays. Doing this already? Great – how about adding kerbside collection or drive-through to make it even easier for customers to call by and maintain social distance.

* Take Away through the Window - a solution for small venues that can only legally fit 2 or 3 people. Opening up a front or side window to serve food & drinks keeps people outside at a safe distance. Add umbrellas if you don't have an awning.

* Meal Kits allow people to create the restaurant experience at home, with pre-packaged meals for one, two or a crowd. Services like HelloFresh have created a market for this, and people are ready to cook some of the ingredients if you package it up with instructions and special ingredients.

* Add a grab & go fridge or freezer with prepared foods and ingredients. Guests can select and take with them, and they can be included in the online ordering menu for additional purchasing options. 

* Organise your Own Delivery – there are ‘white label’ services that let you set it up yourself. In Australia, check what’s offered by a host of smart apps and services – put up your own ordering page on your website, and it processes and notified of customer orders just like the well-known services. And you don’t pay 30-35% commission.

* Use a Delivery Service – with an existing system like UberEats, Menulog or Deliveroo. Not for everyone, and the fees are very high (30-38%), but they handle all the logistics of sales and delivery.

* Sell your Coffee Beans - if you have a reputation for coffee, many people will want the same experience at home. Have whole beans available in 250g & 500g packs, and be ready to grind fresh according to their needs. Include instructions for the 'perfect brew' and also have some pour-over equipment for sale. Display bean packs on the front counter where people order, so it's an impulse buy - add a small commission for staff to really drive the suggestive selling.

* Gift and Souvenir Shopping – if you have space at the counter, add some caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and low-cost gifts. Make sure it looks as good as a boutique – light and bright designs will sell more than something with just a logo, and keep the price reasonable – they are also ‘walk-around advertising’.

* Prestige Shopping – upscale restaurants can offer quality gifts like aprons, linen t-towels or cookbooks. See how they do it at Lucio’s in Sydney – stylish gifts for your parents or business colleagues.

* Gift Vouchers – make it easy for people to manage the whole transaction online. They prefer not to ring, and may be doing it when you’re not even open. Easy money.

* Cooking and Cocktail Classes – they can be hands-on sessions or demonstrations. This is a good skill for a chef or bartender to add to their repertoire – help them with practise sessions, and attend classes run by others to see how they’re organised. Manage the bookings online with a service like Eventbrite.

* Wine Sales with Online Tastings - these were pioneered during the depth of the COVID-19 closures, and were surprisingly popular. Customers buy a selection of your wines and have a sommelier guide you through a tasting run on a Zoom conference call.

* Dinner Events – organised around wine, food, craft beer, sporting awards or a guest speaker. As these events become regular, they will build a following. Use an online booking service to streamline reservations and payment.

* Meeting Room Hire – these are an easy way to make money. Organisers want a quiet space, plenty of coffee and comfortable furniture. It’s now expected that you also have a flat screen and microphone available – these are not expensive to buy.

* Out-of-Hours Kitchen Hire – for caterers or small-scale food manufacturers who need a licensed kitchen for a few hours each week. With the right agreement about sharing of the space, this can be a steady source of income.

* Membership – is there a way for people to pay a subscription and receive special treatment or offers? If they pay for membership, then they receive a birthday gift and regular discounts. Many of the new delivery apps allow you to create membership schemes like this.

* Sales in Advance – buy the $20 coffee card and save $1 on each of your next 20 coffees. Or pay $20 and receive 7 coffees for the price of 5. This works well in busy office areas.

* Charity Sales Offer – support non-profits by offering them 20% of the sales for large bookings they organise on a quiet night. The more they sell, the more you both make. Works well if this is a genuine ongoing commitment, and the non-profit is supported by people who would be your type of customer.

* Your own Food Truck – add a vehicle for extra sales at events. Many of the new food truck licenses are being taken on by existing foodservice operators, who want an outlet for additional sales. You already have the kitchen – where could you sell more of your food?

Many of these events or services can introduce new people to your business - through a special event, a food delivery, or bar customers finding you through entertainment. They like what they see, and come back for the regular offer. And you like the extra source of weekly income.

* BONUS - Masterchef winner and food writer Adam Liaw gives his predictions for Fine Dining in the Future, with quite a few clever ways to diversify and boost sales...

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