Restaurant Marketing Strategies : 4 Sweet Ways To Market Your Desserts

Let’s be honest, selling dessert shouldn’t be hard. It’s easy to get your mouth watering just by looking at the sweet treats displayed. However, dessert marketing is the toughest cookie in the restaurant business. If that delicious display of desserts isn’t presented well, it makes getting that final sale a little harder.

Your website can make your delicious treats stand out from the rest. This is a great way to share your high-quality goods with others.

There are, however, several other ways your restaurant marketing strategies can turn a casual “would you like dessert?” offer at the end of the meal into a revenue generator. 

  1. Restaurant social media is a great way to get dessert ideas
  2. Your servers should be taught how to sell desserts
  3. Focus on food trends
  4. Highlight desserts in your food menu

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1. Make the most of social media.

Social media is loved by guests. They also love contests. There is no better way to convince people that you are worth their time than to invite them to participate in a contest online.

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We’ve seen restaurants challenge fans to name 30 songs with the word ‘vanilla’ in them. The restaurant would offer a free cupcake to the 30 first correct answers. This strategy makes customers feel connected and included with the company. It also encourages participation, and eventually purchase. Always keep your business at the top of your customers’ minds.

Another example of a dessert marketing strategy you can use with Facebook:

Bakeries and dessert shops offer a wide variety of delicious daily offerings. They also have customers who salivate over their sugary treats and are more likely to share food photos than any other fans we’ve encountered.

A cupcake shop was opened in an attempt to get Facebook users off their desks and to the dessert counter. Continue readingIn Chicago, Illinois, a great idea was created. The cupcakerie began posting photos of their cupcakes every so often. Their fans would “ooh” and “ahh” and the post would get a dozen shares and dozens of comments.

 MORE decided to capitalize on this interest in January 2010 by hosting a contest. The 50 first people to tag themselves in a post image were eligible for a free cupcake.  Fans were excited to receive free cupcakes and quickly reached the Facebook limit of 50 tags for each image. Since then, sweet-loving fans have been tuning in to get a chance to win a free cupcake by Sunday of the week.

Sometimes, it takes just a few minutes to get a cupcake photo to meet the limit after the first contest.

To appeal to fans further, MORE adds pizzazz to their posts by including a branded play on words with each picture, like “Open the door of your day with a MORE Key Lime!” or “One MORE because we are nuts for Coconut Cupcakes!”

Fans are encouraged to ask for “more” cupcake pictures to tag themselves in, and when they do, MORE responds with posts like, “One MORE for Jessica! Feel better!” and “One MORE for Matthew because he wants everyone’s day to be merrier!”

However, cheating is not something that players do. MORE informed their fans when this began to happen:

This is supposed to be a lot of fun. Some of you are not being fair, which is a problem for everyone else. As fans tag their friends, there is a lot more double-tagging. We are going to remove doubles and document the name. If this becomes a pattern among certain fans, their names will be removed completely. If you see that you have been mistakenly tagged more times than once, please forgive yourself and remove the other.

Still, the longevity of this promotion proves that it’s been a winner for this cupcake company, and it’s an innovative idea that your restaurant can reinterpret to promote your own desserts.

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2. Train your servers how to sell the dessert menu.

Let’s not forget that Server tips and tricksThese are the keys to selling your menu. Of course, desserts can be more than just cakes and pastries. They can also contain wines and brandies. Analytics from your POS systemThis will help you identify the best-sellers and make it easier to upsell your staff.

Dessert wines are a special combination of sweetness that can be the perfect way to end a delicious meal. These wines can be paired with sweet treats or enjoyed on their own.

Here are the rules for dessert wine pairings

There are three general rules of thumb when choosing any wine pairing, but for dessert wines, it’s important to consider:

  1. Acidity
  2. Intensity
  3. Sweetness

Wines with higher acidity are good for citrus desserts. However, wines with more intense flavors would go well with something richer like a flourless chocolate cake. Sweet dessert wines should also have a higher sweetness than the actual dessert.

Let’s dive into some examples and suggestions.

Dessert options: Apple pie or citrus-based desserts

Wine pairing:A wine that highlights the fruit and spices will please the palate will be a delight. You can try a pink sparkling wine, champagne, or even ice wine. These drinks are full of flavor but still taste refreshing and fresh.

Dessert option: creme brûlée or other custard-based desserts

Wine pairing:White wine such as a late harvest Riesling, or a sparkling wine, works well here because it blends well with butter and vanilla flavors in the dessert.

Dessert options: Caramels, chocolates, rich, bold-flavored sweet treats

Wine pairing:These dessert flavors are bold and a wine that can match them is necessary. Pairing well with dark red wines such as a Pinot Noir from the late harvest would be a great choice.

If you have only one thing to teach:

Port, Champagne, Sherry and Champagne are great dessert wines that go well with a variety of desserts.

3. Focus on food trends.

A popular restaurant food trend focuses on what’s in season, so you can concentrate on serving desserts only made from products that are grown locally. This is a great way for social media to generate excitement by promoting what’s available and fresh this season.

But don’t forget about the desserts of the moment, too.

Some people are incredibly sweet while others only occasionally indulge in decadent desserts. Regardless of what your guests prefer, making sure you offer tempting desserts every day, with seasonal variations, is a great way to keep them coming back for more.


There are many options for dessert. There are cakes, pies, cookies, ice creams, fruits and puddings—so it can sometimes be challenging to decide what to include on your menu.

These desserts are on-trend and sure to inspire your imagination.

House-made and artisan Ice Cream

Many restaurants are now making their own ice cream at home, with many different flavors than traditional. Innovative marketing strategies are being used by restaurants to promote their ice cream creations.

  • The Chelsea Royal DinerVermont’s West Brattleboro produces its own ice cream and offers many great options such as a maple walnut pie dessert sundae. In season, frozen yogurt and hard ice cream flavors are available.
  • 30BoltwoodThe Lord Jeffrey Inn in Amherst Massachusetts, has a restaurant that makes its own ice-cream and sorbet.
  • Al FornoProvidence, Rhode Island has a coffee malted sandwich that is hand-churned and made with homemade pecan brownies.

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Consider mini and bite-sized desserts.

Mini desserts and bite-sized versions are great for sharing and trying new flavors. For guests who just want a tiny taste of something sweet after a meal, the petite option is great.

Cupcakes are a popular dessert that can be made in miniature. The Duck and BunnyThere are many mini cupcakes available in Providence, Rhode Island. Some of the cupcake menu’s highlights include chocolate cheesecake, consisting of chocolate cake and a cheesecake center with chocolate sour cream frosting. The date-nut flavor cupcake features dates and chopped walnuts with brown Sugar frosting.

Explore savory desserts.

Some of the most unusual desserts include a savory element to balance the sweetness. Savory desserts are becoming more popular all over the country. Some of these options are delicious.

  • Atwood CaféDowntown Chicago offers bacon root beer doughnuts as a dessert option.
  • Gramercy TavernNew York City offers a blueberry popcorn ice cream sundae.

Offer deconstructed classic desserts.

Deconstructed desserts sound exactly like they sound: desserts made with traditional ingredients, but in a different manner and sometimes in a completely different form.

For example: FinaleBoston Cream is a dessert made with yellow cake, cream, and chocolate, and includes vanilla gelato, whoopie pie and fresh fruit.

Add dessert combos and flights.

Flight menus offer guests the chance to enjoy smaller dessert portions, which often combine popular elements. The Orange Squirrel, Bloomfield, New Jersey, offers a dessert flight menu consisting of cookie crumbles with pudding or whipped cream. Some ingredients include peppermint mouse, dark chocolate, gingerbread and dark chocolate.

4. Optimize your dessert menu.

Restaurant menu designIt is both an art as well as a science. If done right, there are design elements that can enhance the look of your menu and draw the attention to specific sections.

There’s also a science to design menu design that can help encourage guests to choose certain dishes. These marketing strategies will help you ensure that your dessert menu is as strong as it can be.

There are five C’s that every dessert menu should contain.

According to EatocracyA gated resource, there are five elements every dessert menu should include:

  • Chocolate. Do we need to say more?
  • Citrus. Sorbet will be a great alternative to chocolate.
  • Coffee Popular European post-dinner option.
  • Caramel For those who love chocolate, this is a great alternative to chocolate.
  • Cheese Traditional cheese platter or cheesecake

These are just three more things to remember.

1. Keep desserts separate from main menu.

If guests “see an eye-catching dessert at the beginning of the meal, they’ll skip an appetizer,” explains Thrillist. This means that it’s often a better idea to create a separate dessert menu and present it to guests after their meal. This way, guests won’t be tempted to skip anything in the name of the dessert, but they still have the chance to be wowed by (and order) a delectable dessert after.

couple at dinner

2. Consider eye scanning habits.

If you don’t take your dessert menu’s design seriously there’s a good chance that customers will scan right over it without seriously considering the offerings. “For years restaurants have been designing their menus under the assumption that customers’ eyes are naturally drawn to the ‘sweet spot’ in the upper right-hand corner. However, new research suggests that customers tend to read menus like a book, starting in the top left corner,” explains 99designs.

You can divide your menu into logical sections, and add elements such as illustrations and boxes to break it up. It’s also important to choose the right typeface for your brand and to use color wisely—it might not hurt to bring in the pros for this one.

3. Follow the balanced meal ratio.

Thrillist also mentioned that there’s a golden ratio for menu design: 10 appetizers, 10 main dishes, and six desserts. You can create your menu by determining how many appetizers and entrees, and offering half the amount for desserts. This will help you stay within the golden range of menu balance.

Use these restaurant marketing tips for your dessert menu and you’re likely to attract more Your doors will be open to new customers. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love dessert and customers love to revisit restaurants where they received a great product at a reasonable cost with outstanding customer service.

Are you ready to create your perfect menu? Talk to one of our expertsTo find out more about Small Biz Sense, click here.


Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.