Product Sampling in Your Restaurant

Product Sampling

The next subject on my list of Local Store Marketing ideas is product sampling.

What is product sampling? Giving away small portions of your menu items as a taste test to new or existing customers in the hope of either promoting trial of your restaurant or enticing existing customers to use you more often.

Sampling to existing customers, dependant on your concept usually means:

1. Adding a small plate of samples either at point of purchase or point of payment for coffee shops and other establishments that require the customer to order or pay at the counter
2. Delivering a trial sized plate to the customer at the table while they are deciding their order
3. Giving the samples after the meal at the table.
4. Sampling outside of your establishment. Normally at the edge of your lease line or close enough to control usage and your team.
5. Any other means to bring your product to people as a trial.

What should you sample? Anything that will retain its quality when not served in the usual manner and will still have eye appeal when served in small portions.

Here are a few sampling ideas that I have seen work in the past:

• New menus or significant changes to a current menu can be stressful, so prior to releasing it try a sample plate on your regular customers and get their feedback. It not only helps you to test your ideas and weed out some of those mistakes we all make, it makes your customers feel special.

• Bakeries or any business that sells pastries, cakes etc., can easily cut a pastry into small pieces, arrange on a doily and plate, stick a toothpick in the piece and have a team member go for a walk. Make sure that the team member is well trained on the product, pricing and ingredients.

• Coffee shops can buy sample sized paper cups and give out these to existing customers with new products or specials or as in the bakery scenario have a team member go for a walk.

• In one very large coffee concept who uses the sampling method on a regular basis, they were dumbfounded to find out that when sampling two new cold beverages prior to summer that the number one comment coming back from customers was “we didn’t know you sold cold beverages.” Sampling works!!

• If you have products that are almost at the end of their shelf life use them to sample. They have to be discarded anyway so why not use them to build sales.

Assuming you have decided to try sampling, remember to:

Spend the time training your team on the correct way to sample. Use team members with personality rather than product knowledge, you can always teach that prior to the sampling process. It is almost impossible to teach personality.

Spend time on packaging. A well presented sample will induce more trial than a tired piece of cake on a plastic plate, for higher priced items you may even want to look at individual sample packaging.

Run sampling on a regular basis, especially during slow periods, and add a discount for coming into your establishment on the day of sampling. A 10% discount card for the specific product can be given to people who have sampled your product and in the case of the large coffee chain I mentioned, they wrote the date and $1.00 off on every sample cup for a full sized beverage.

Good luck adding sampling to your LSM and if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

RStevens