How can we sell more desserts?

Discussion in 'Professional Pastry Chefs' started by thetincook, Jun 18, 2011.

  1. thetincook

    thetincook

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    That was the topic of discussion during the lull and closing last night at work. Nobody had a menu mix handy, but the consensus was we needed to sell more. Servers want bigger tips, and the kitchen should could use more revenue. Despite our common motive we just don't seem to be getting there.

    It seems like we run into 3 main obstacles:

    1) We don't want to spend the money. (Usually unstated)

        a) We don't want to spend the time.

    2) We're too full. (This was cited by our servers as the most common objection raised)

    3) Desserts are for special occasions only.

    There are another couple of possibilities I'm willing to entertain.

    4) We aren't the kind of place were people order dessert.

    5) Our desserts suck.

    Most of the discussion centered around better or more suggestive selling.

    We came up with a couple of neat ideas to address 2. Start offering half portion desserts, or suggest splitting. Or offer to bring it to go boxed so they can just have a nibble or two at hte restaurant, and take the rest home for snack or breakfast.

    We also discussed comping a high impact dessert to a central table to prime sales. We're not sure if we have anything to fit the bill. Maybe a flambee if they are still legal here.

    We were also thinking of giving away some freebies at the end of meal with the check. It would just be a little something, but it seems from elsewhere to really create a lot of goodwill. We figure if we make it a pastry item, we'd get a bump in dessert sales. Candidates are alfajores (hispanic caramel sandwich cookie), some kind of macaron, or candy made in house.

    Our restaurant pastry menu is a bit of a red headed stepchild. Right now we offer:

    -Apple Pie ala mode (Bought in)

    -Brownie ala mode (Bought in, used to make it)

    -Ice cream with choice of chocolate, strawberry, or caramel topping. (All bought in, but sometimes we make the strawberry topping with fresh berries that don't make the cut for fruit platters). Usually have vanilla and choco ice cream and a sherbert (usually rainbow and sometimes orange) on offer. Additional selection depends on the odds and ends left over from banquet/catering.

    -Strawberry Shortcake- sweetened buttermilk biscuit, macerated fresh strawberries, vanilla whipped cream. I had to push for this. I make sure the biscuits are fresh, so they a little crunchy on the outside, and moist on the inside. They are so good when the biscuit is still a little warm.

    -Cake de jour. This is whatever cake we have as remainders from functions. Generally, it's a high ratio sheet cake (baked in house. MIght be a mix, I dunno) filled with fruit filling from a bucket, and frosting from a bucket. This current one on offer is pineapple with vanilla cream.

    The brunch buffet at the restaurant feature some of the same stuff, but has some additions

    1/2 pan of bread pudding and 1/2 pan of fruit cobbler in a chaffer (both made in house, but I think the fruit filling is from a bucket most of the time)

    Danish type pastries(bought in frozen)

    Sweet Trays (These are generally odds and ends from functions that are sold sweet tables. The pastry guy is more inspired here then else where. I've seen some pretty looking jam cakes and canolli.)

    Sweetrolls (only if I have the time to knock a couple pans together. I make em from scratch, and make sure the are baked as needed only and brought out while all nice and gooey. Cinnamon roll, and orange are the most popular flavors I think. Going to work on a coconut one.)
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    I know you've probably posted it before, but what is the theme/cuisine/style of your savory menu?

    Seeing that again may trigger some ideas.

    Guessing, from what you listed, it sounds like a diner/cafe type place.
     
  3. panini

    panini

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    I'm with Pete.

    It is a very standard dated dessert menu. Pretty hard to sell bought in pie and ice cream when customer can stop at the store and get the same thing.

    I don't know your wine consumption,

    You could pair your dessert special with wine.

    Nut Torte comes with a free glass of a late harvest Riesling.

    need to see menu.
     
  4. thetincook

    thetincook

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    Menu is pretty much standard American fare. Nothing too fancy. We've got steaks, burgers, some pastas, some pizzas, a couple of quesadilla's. Sides are rice, mash, or fries and veg (usually the zuchini, yellow squash, and carrot combo we use for most functions. Sometimes brocoli. All fresh though) Our grill guy does a pretty good rib and bbq sauce. We also do prime rib fri-sun. Plus the standard bar food.

    Brunch has the usual suspects. Carving station with 2-3 meats. Omelette station, waffles to order. One thing I don't get, is Chef is Italian, but he always, always, always puts out a pan of tortalini with pesto sauce. Pesto sauce in this case being bechamel + parm + puree basil.+ garlic. People like, hell, even I kinda like it. Just never thought an Italian would do such a thing.

    Dated, yeah. I totally get that. I was at Outback Steakhouse with the family the other month, and they had this apple dessert. Big scoop of vanilla ice cream, sauteed apple wedges, drizzled with caramel, sprinkled with some sort of granola/struesal thing. and topped off with cinnamon croutons. Cinnamon motherfricking croutons!.

    I'm not sure how much menu change we can do. It's gotta be KISS. a) We only got 2 people with pastry skills, if I'm arrogant to include myself. b) Most of the focus is on the banquet catering side of things. The only restaurant line staff that spends more then 75% of their time on restaurant stuff is probably just the CdC in charge of the line. I'm split at around 50-50 between banquet stuff and restaurant pantry. The bosses are also pretty ruthless about cutting you early if we are 'overstaffed' for the shift. (The one notable exception was when I finished all the prep for the day and got a head start on the other stuff, and had a couple hours left on shift. Couldn't find chef, asked the CdC if I was needed, got the go ahead to leave. I got in trouble when Chef had to make a single serving of salad for a tasting he didn't tell anyone about, and I wasn't there to do it. pfft)

    I'll have to check my schedule. When I work pm shift on mon-weds. There is usually light enough work that I can probably do some pastry stuff. Can't be cut either because of minimum staffing needs, the hardcase bosses are gone for the day. Hopefully this won't antagonize the official pastry guy. I don't think he cares about the restaurant section though. He's a banquets guy through and through.

    I have no clue about the wine. I assume it's a pretty basic list, because my impression is that we do more beer and mixed drinks, also food price point isn't that high. Alcohol department is in their own world. They have seperate storage for their stuff on the other side of the building, even seperate cooler for kegs. Didn't even know we had a manager of that dept until I tripped over her New Years Eve. They = football team, We = AV Club lepers. I will check though. Cross promotion is good. I think I overheard something about an American Gewurtztraminer. Dessert wines might be pushing luck.

    How about pairings with meades or hard ciders? They are trending right now.

    Are we allowed to give out alcohol?
     
  5. durangojo

    durangojo

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    tincook,

     your dessert menu is boring, boring, boring!...no one in their right mind is gonna pay for brought in hackneyed desserts. why ruin a nice meal? my thinking is that the last taste in your customer's mouth better be a good one, whether it be just a good cup of coffee or dessert, hopefully both. that's what they will remember. people will spend money on dessert if it is interesting without being snooty, expensive or both. suggesting splitting is great for first time customers to get familiar with your desserts. your waitstaff needs to be good at selling...selling = tips = higher revenues...it's a win-win for all...and happy customers which in turn means return customers, which in turn means more revenue etc. etc. etc...  in my joint the waitstaff know what an extra $40 bucks worth of desserts for a table can do for their tip pool. if its a large table, the waitstaff suggests one of each dessert, and then they get passed around. 99% of the time its what happens..... please don't give your desserts away...even if they are free, people really don't want  to eat crap(well, at least some don't)...plus, it just makes it harder for the rest of us when joe blow down the street is giving his desserts away......here is my dessert menu....all made by moi...not fancy, but nice, i think

    ~ frozen strawberry margarita pie

    ~ ginger cognac cremem brulee with fresh raspberries

    ~ classic key lime pie with mango coulis

    ~ chai chocolate mousse with vanilla rolled cookie

    ~ colorado peach crumble with granola topping and vanilla bean ice cream

    ~ chocolate ' sin'..flourless cake with baileys, kahlua and raspberry liqeuer with raspberry coulis

     even if you have only a few dessert offerings, make them nice.....flan or creme caramel, perhaps homemade ice cream or sorbets, something chocolate for sure and something fruity or comforty like cobbler(blueberry?) with good ice cream....

    joey
     
  6. panini

    panini

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    Ya know Joey, you're always so PC.        Why don't you tell us what you really think./img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

    margarita, cognac, Baileys, Rasp liqeuer, Kahlua, We see why the chef make all the desserts.

    brulee/img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif

    OMG  chai!  I'm getting queisy
     
  7. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    TTBOMK, no, not in California. Take a look at ABC homepage for details
     
     
  8. durangojo

    durangojo

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    color me stupid  but what exactly does PC stand for...i don't text, twitter(i heard ii can get you into trouble!), facebook or anything really other than here..did i make a boo boo, offend somehow and don't know it. i can always count on all  you to educate me and call me out if i indeed did ..thanks...of course, if its a rub that i don't understand, please inform me as well....thanks....happy father's day all..

    joey
     
     
  9. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    PC in general refers to politically correct, i.e. avoiding anything that might be construed to be offensive, disparaging, straightforward, etc. Often used satirically when someone IS straightforward and speaks (writes) what they really think without regard to what might be construed as politically correct.

    PC is often though of as beating around the bush or using euphemisms to communicate criticism.

    OTOH, PC is also short for personal or private chef /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif
     
  10. jellly

    jellly

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    You have pizza on your menu - what about a dessert pizza using standard pizza dough, nutella and fresh bananas or strawberries, then topped with nuts or sauce.  I am stealing the idea from a local pizza place, but it certainly doesn't require any pastry skills, and is quite delicious if your dough is good.
     
  11. chefross

    chefross

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    When I want a dessert in a restaurant, I don't want something that the place bought from someplace else to plate and call their own. I ask the server if there's anything house made. To me that would be a good selling point. You site ice cream, apple pie, and strawberry shortcake, all easy desserts with a low plate cost. You can transfer that cost to home made items just as easy. The down side of that is consistency and prep time.
     
  12. chefedb

    chefedb

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    There was a large local chain  of Deli,s here in Florida that I did some work for that wanted to sell more dessert like you. Most were house made. I told all wait staff that at end of month whoever sold the most desserts would win Dinner for 2 at a local restaurant , or 2 tickets to Disney.. Their dessert sales climbed 50%. Well worth the cost of prizes. Best way to get any thing accomplished is thru the pocket. You have to spend a little to make $
     
  13. durangojo

    durangojo

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    tincook, 

    guess my point is that i am certainly not a pastry chef, but there are a myriad of desserts that do not require many special skills. sometimes just refiguring your plating can do the trick...for example, for your cake du jour, cut into pieces and put in a parfait glass with fresh fruit and whipped cream..kinda like a shortcake in a glass....loose the pineapple and coconut though. most people like something lemony in the summer...lemon ice box pie or a lemon meringue perhaps.. a simple cheesecake with fresh berries, mint chocolate mousse in a martini glass, a really good carrot cake...that kind of thing...instead of buying pie or fruit fillings, maybe just buy straight frozen fruit...raspberries, sliced peaches etc. it really takes nothing to make frosting. anyway,just a few more thoughts rattling around...what size operation is this?... a hotel?

    joey
     
  14. thetincook

    thetincook

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    I'm no longer at this job, so it's no longer my problem.

    You guys are amazing!

    Pete- thanks! Lots of interesting stuff on that site.

    Durangjo, You've got some very deep insights, thanks for taking the time to post. That is a great menu. Lol, panini even needed fresh pants after reading it. Lemon ice box pie sounds really really good right now. Haven't even heard of it before.

    chefedb- thank you for restoring my faith in the invisible hand!

    Jelly- That is a good idea. We did have a function once that had an apple dessert pizza with flat icing. Our restaurant dough is currently speced to having dried herbs and cheese in it. It's delicious, but diametrically opposite dessert.

    Cheffross, you make a very good point. I'm just not sure how to square it with the other feedback of us being boring and dowdy. Apple pie is apple pie?

    I think the dessert menu is the way it is because people stopped caring. Apparently we used to do creme brulees. When I first started, pastry dept would send over a pan of tiramisu. We'd serve a scoop of that with some strawberries and an dollop of whipped cream. I don't know why they stopped that, because it was delicious. There were also economic decisions and compromises. Ice cream for instance. On avg, we went through 6 3 gal of Blue Bunny vanilla for banquets/catering, it's really easy to say, add a 7th and the restaurant will be good for 2-4 weeks. The apple pie I think is still from the frozen cache left over from the holidays.
     
  15. durangojo

    durangojo

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    tincook,

    excuse the nosiness but may i ask....so what happened? did you see this coming? are you okay with it? to me, change is always good in the end.... i dunno, seems like the whole place was a bit 'stale' and dated.....

    fyi, not that it really matters...lemon ice box pie, although a bit dated from the 50's i think, but i prefer to think of it enjoying a renaissance, is basically a no bake pie(hence the 'icebox'). its most like a key lime pie but  lemon juice and lemon zest replacing the key lime and some added cream cheese...done in a graham cracker crust......

    press on regardless!

    joey
     
  16. thetincook

    thetincook

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    Had a disagreement with the boss on Sat regarding a different matter. He was on my case a bit more then I thought was warranted, so I told him to STFU and let me cook, and he could bawl me out later. I got the call the next day.

    Am I ok with it? Not really, even though I consider the termination in bounds. I would have rather left on my own terms, and had something lined up before I left. Also, I don't consider it one of my finest moments in professionalism. I figured there would be a parting of the ways sooner or later, whether I left or was dismissed. I was starting to get a little bored with things, and I could tell my mind wasn't on task like it should be.

    The place is definitely a bit old fashioned, but it met two criteria for me a) let me get some high volume banquet and catering experience, and b) they hired me on the spot at a time when I didn't have many options. The prior two jobs I had I lost when the place went under, and just before the place went out of business. Both were places that I was on the opening team. This place a much better track record.

    Yes, change is good, but I'm really looking to start putting some stability and length on my resume.
     
  17. panini

    panini

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    Joey,

    ignore me most of the time.

    I run an ice box once in a while. We do a margarita. We use Nelly and Joes real key lime juice,SW and Conden milk, taquila, triple sec we get it pretty high with cream.

    for the crust we grind up salted pretzels, some coarse salt and butter. Just a thought for you/img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
     
  18. thetincook

    thetincook

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    ZOMGWTHBBQ!!!?!? Bottled juice? I'm surprised enraged Floridians aren't burning your store down. The sentiment down here of the people I know is to use mexican 'key' limes. Guess I'm not safe from the Florida horde either. At least we aren't using Rose's, right?(I gather you must use it for gimlet's though.
     
  19. panini

    panini

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    Tin,

    Are you drinking?/img/vbsmilies/smilies/drinkbeer.gif

    N @ J have been a staple in the bakery both regular and upscale.

    Mexican Key Limes are good for ceviche. That's about it. Well, maybe put-put golf.

    A real Key Lime, if not an impersonator, tends to be inconsistant in juice volume and pulp.

    N&J's fresh squeezes in large volume and is usually consistant. It's bottled in gallons and sent out fresh.

    If someones claiming their squeezing fresh for a volume product, I'd snoop in the coolers.
     
  20. thetincook

    thetincook

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    I'm either drinking too much or not enough, I can't decide.

    My main point about the bottled juice is I think they lose quite a bit of nuance. I mean like bottled for sitting on the shelf bottled, like Real Lemon.

    If they do a chilled food service pack like we can get for lemon and regular lime juice, that would be pretty cool. From the look of the bottles I saw, I assumed it was shelf stable.

    Guess I'm being a snob for no good reason.