We are located in a fairly large city, about 40 mins outside the metro, in a downtown location in a lower-middle income market. We sell entrees from $17-$24 and that seems to be a fairly good price range for us, despite still some grumblings of our prices "being too high". Doing things a little more "upscale" (and I use that word lightly) and being a little more creative but still comfortable for our clientele is the route we want to go for long term success. There is a market for this in our area as there are two other successful restaurants practically on our doorstep that do similar things food wise. I by know means think foie grais or roasted marrow would sell in our market, but I do think we can be better than what we are currently doing.
We don't have a super adventurous clientele, getting them to try things that are slightly different is very hard. I'm not talking sweetbreads and tripe here I talking ribeyes ("sooo fatty!") and truffle oil ("it smells"!). While this is not every customer that walks in it's enough people to scare the owner and want to revert to sandwiches and nachos. Most do enjoy it once they actually try it. Simply getting them to order these things seems to be most difficult especially if there is something they are not 100% sure about (creme fraiche, hangar steaks, chimichurri, ricotta salata cheese, truffle oil, brioche etc, etc.). It doesn't help that we have a poor FOH staff that has no oversight and have zero real training or food knowledge themselves. Getting them to simply describe things or try to push a certain item is difficult BUT it is getting better little by little. Getting FOH excited themselves about some new menu items is so difficult as NONE have what I call a decent palate, a properly seasoned steak is "too salty" for them and a buttery pommes puree "sounds disgusting". A whole new culture in the restaurant is what we need but this may never happen and I understand that.
So are there any lessons to getting customers to try new things (and stop ordering so many burgers and steak tips when we have a beautiful ribeye on the menu!). One thing we are doing is making menu descriptions fool-proof, for example pommes puree will be creamy mashed potatoes and chevre will be goat's cheese. This way menu items are more approachable and less likely to intimidate them. We are working slowly but surely to get FOH to do more than simply take orders and pour drinks, this will take a lot of time but most do have the right attitude at least.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!