Running a quick-service restaurant is quite the juggling act. You’re constantly balancing customer satisfaction, order volumes, pricing, staff management, and, of course, profitability. The key to thriving in this industry? Revenue management coupled with operational efficiency. Now, this may sound like corporate jargon, but let’s break it down in a manager-friendly way.

At its core, RM is about selling the right product to the right customer at the right time, for the right price, through the right channel. It’s about creating win-win scenarios where your customer feels valued and your profits rise. This involves strategic pricing (like dynamic pricing), optimizing your menu to drive higher-margin sales, and managing different distribution channels efficiently.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: Driving First-Party Orders: Lessons from the Hotel Industry

Firstly, let’s talk about the menu. Your menu isn’t just a list of offerings; it’s a powerful sales tool. By highlighting higher-margin items and creating appealing combo offers, you can guide customers towards choices that boost your revenue and their satisfaction. This might involve upselling or cross-selling techniques like suggesting meal upgrades or add-ons.

But there’s more to RM than your in-house operations. In today’s digital world, your quick-service restaurant is linked to various third-party delivery platforms like UberEats and DoorDash. These platforms increase your reach but also bite into your profits with their commissions. Your RM strategy needs to balance this dynamic by effectively managing orders across channels and driving more first-party orders, i.e., orders directly from your customers.

More direct orders mean more control over customer relationships, improved profitability, and a direct line to customer feedback. How can you drive this shift? Consider exclusive benefits for direct orders, like special items, discounts, or perks. Leveraging your loyalty program can also be a strong motivator, rewarding customers with points or exclusive deals for their direct orders.

This brings us to operational efficiency. With multiple channels to manage, from in-house dining and pick-up orders to various delivery platforms, the operations can become a whirlwind. Keeping your kitchen and staff ready to handle this multifaceted demand is crucial. Technology can be a big help here, streamlining processes and improving efficiency.

More than that, efficient operations play a significant role in customer experience. Imagine a customer waiting too long for their order because your kitchen is overwhelmed with deliveries from a third-party platform. Or worse, the dreaded mix-up of orders. Operational efficiency directly affects customer satisfaction and, in turn, your reputation and repeat business.

The backbone of successful RM and operational efficiency is quality data. Having accurate insights about customer preferences, order habits, peak hours, and more allows you to make informed, strategic decisions. Investing in systems that capture and analyze this data effectively is a non-negotiable.

And while third-party platforms may take a slice of your profits, remember they also bring visibility and new customers. So, use them as customer acquisition tools. Provide superior food and service to these customers, making their first interaction memorable. Over time, with consistent quality and strategic promotions, these customers can be converted into first-party orders.

The world of RM offers an array of tools and methodologies, but the challenge lies in identifying the best approach to sell the right product to the right customer at the right time, for the right price, through the right channel. In future articles, we’ll delve into how to select the RM tools best suited to your restaurant.

In conclusion, the dual strategy of RM and operational efficiency can significantly enhance profitability for your quick-service restaurant. It’s a game of strategic pricing, effective menu design, efficient operations, and savvy management of multiple distribution channels. It might require upfront investment in technology and data analysis, but the long-term profitability gains make it a worthwhile journey. After all, satisfied customers and a thriving bottom-line are the dream of every restaurant manager, aren’t they?

Sherri Kimes is an Emeritus Professor at Hotel School at Cornell and specializes in pricing and revenue management. She is passionate about helping restaurants increase profitability. She can be reached at

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