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by Richard Saporito
A signature item is a particular food or drink that a restaurant has created and is very well known for. Every establishment needs a signature item which becomes the mainstay for regular patrons, and, in turn, keeps the establishment in business for a very long time.
The signature item could be anything such as a specially made sandwich, a pancake filled with a choice of 100 different items, a dessert, or even a cocktail. You've seen it; a restaurant that serves such a delicious dish that people will literally drive hours and hours, over state lines, just for a taste. Once they arrive at a restaurant that serves such a dish, the most important thing they must know is where the line forms at the front door.
A signature item can actually keep a restaurant afloat because it's the one reliable item that puts their numbers over the top. If a signature item is really that good, it can become quite famous such as the California Cobb Salad or Buffalo Chicken Wings which are both still finding their way onto menus after many, many years. Then, there is a restaurant that will actually name a dish after the patron who concocted it and add it to the menu permanently!
A great signature item has the potential to bring your restaurant significant growth as your customers will tell their family, friends and co-workers about their experience at your establishment. This word-of-mouth marketing will result in more overall business and more repeat business as well.
One particular signature item experience of mine was when balsamic vinegar first came on the scene many years ago. I was working in a restaurant where the Chef had created an unbelievably delicious mustard balsamic vinaigrette dressing. People came from all over town to taste this salad dressing. And brilliantly, the menu offered a huge selection of giant sized, tasty salads that this vinaigrette dressing would complement.
This is brilliant marketing and highlights an important aspect of adding a signature item to your menu. While adding a signature item is the first step, you must also find a way to feature your signature dish for best results.
This can be achieved a number of different ways; by a well-designed table-top display, adding positive customer remarks to the menu, or by simply having the waitstaff highlight this signature item during their initial contact with your patrons.
In the beginning, you may consider offering your new signature item to your best customers for free. This will improve your reputation with these customers and will allow you to gain valuable feedback.
After all, your signature item will only help to grow your restaurant's business if it is loved by the majority of those who have tasted it.
Richard Saporito, founder of Topserve Consulting, has over 30 years of restaurant service experience in many large, diverse, and profitable New York City establishments ranging from small independents to large scale corporate operations. He uses this successful experience to help restaurants achieve their desired customer service goals understanding that it may be the difference between success and failure for those restaurants.
Topserve Consulting develops new restaurants and improves current restaurants with Training Programs and Consulting Services
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