May 2004 Edition
Sampling - A Great Way to Improve Sales

It is easy to be so food-cost focused that the thought of giving something away for FREE just doesn't make sense. In reality just the opposite is true - sampling makes great business sense.

Retail food operations have been sampling for many years. They know that 50 percent of their patrons that accept a free sample will actually buy the product! And, what's more, those customers don’t just buy the sampled product once, but instead add it to their regular shopping lists and buy it again and again. The small cost of the initial sample becomes insignificant when spread over many reorders, and, the new items are added business that the operator didn’t have before.

Compared to the costs of alternate marketing and promotional avenues such as direct mail or newspaper advertising, the cost of sampling seems insignificant - but the payoff can be anything but.

In a foodservice setting there are additional benefits to sampling. Sampling allows you to test customer acceptability of new items before 'going to press" with your new menu, so you avoid any unwarranted substantial printing costs. And what customer doesn’t appreciate something for free? Even if the sample does not pass the acceptability test, nearly all customers will appreciate the gesture.

Sampling also gives the manager an excuse to work the dining room floor, a chance to mingle with their customers, which most restaurant patrons appreciate as it gives them the opportunity to meet the manager. The net result is an increase in customer loyalty which leads to an increase in visits to your establishment, and of course you benefit from the sales that accompany those visits.

Sampling can also be a great way to smooth ruffled feathers caused by service or product shortfalls. By giving away free food to compensate a dissatisfied customer you may also be ensuring future business!

A savvy operator once remarked that "no restaurant ever went out of business by knowingly giving food away." Give it a try and watch your cheque averages and customer counts grow. ¨

Contributed by Tepper Kalmer Associates, Operational Consulting and Training for the Foodservice Industry, Emeryville, CA. For further information, call 510-655-0936.


The easiest and potentially most profitable items to sample are desserts and appetizers. Both of these menu categories represent add-on business and do not displace other menu choices.

More powerful than any picture found in an advertisement, Sampling allows a captive audience to see, smell, touch and taste! As a marketing tool, Sampling is ideally suited to foodservice - in moments you have them eating out of your hands and hearing what you have to say about the food you serve.