Fundamental Upselling Strategies for the Restaurant


Upselling is a practice of embellished suggestions aimed at convincing the guest to spend more money. It is a valuable marketing strategy in any restaurant, but it must be trained and practiced in order to be a legitimate sales technique. Restaurant servers, cashiers and kitchen staff who have contact with the customer should know appropriate and effective ways to upsell menu items. These useful methods for upselling will help increase sales and tip money.

How to Upsell

Offer Multiple Suggestions

Workers can upsell whether they work in a quick-service restaurant or a swanky lounge. Here are two prime examples:

  • At fast food restaurants, the worker at the cash register will usually ask the customer if they would like to up-size their order. This means getting a bigger drink and bigger order of fries for a few extra cents. The customer often feels as though they are getting more bang for their buck, even though they probably did not want the bigger size in the first place.

  • A guest asks the bartender for a vodka martini. Rather than simply taking the order, the bartender asks, “Which type of vodka would you prefer? We offer Grey Goose and Svedka.” The bartender brings up two of the most expensive varieties of vodka in order to upsell to the guest, or get them to pay more for their martini.

Use Embellished Descriptions

Servers and restaurant workers can upsell by describing the ingredients, cooking process or presentation of a dish as a means of enticing customers and convincing them to buy. Often, servers will not actually ask a question. Instead, they will simply launch into descriptions to whet the guest’s appetite. Make the items sound exciting by trying the following methods:

  • Suggest an appetizer by explaining the ingredients and preparation with vivid language. For instance: “You will find our appetizers especially intriguing, including the broiled goat-cheese quesadillas which are sprinkled with pepper and thyme, served piping hot.”

  • If a guest is already sure of what they want, ask if they would consider any sides to go with the meal. To a guest ordering chips and salsa, a server might say, “A side of our fabulous guacamole would complement your chips and salsa, since it is prepared with fresh avocados and tomatoes, as well as our signature spices.” Describing the side as a smart attachment to the meal is a great way to make the meal seem incomplete without the extra purchase.

Wine Pairing

Wine can provide an excellent complement to a meal. Therefore, wine pairing is also great way to upsell to your customers. However, satisfying the customer’s palate with a well-paired wine requires training, experience and extensive knowledge of both the food and wine menus. Taking the time to learn about food and wine pairings can greatly improve the customers’ dining experience and make even more sales for the restaurant.

Five Keys for Upselling Dessert Items

Server with Dessert

Desserts in particular are lucrative yet challenging items to upsell. The guest is often satisfied from the main entrée and may not ask for dessert directly. Listed below are five popular strategies for upselling desserts:

  1. Present dessert menus after lunch or dinner.
  2. Bring out dessert menus for each diner after clearing dinner plates. Seeing the descriptions and ordering from a menu may make the guests feel more in control of their choices.

  3. Use vivid descriptions.
  4. Describe a few of the dessert specials using vivid imagery to appeal to the guests.

  5. Bring out the dessert tray.
  6. Utilize a dessert tray to show guests how tasty the desserts look.

  7. Offer low-calorie options.
  8. Do not forget to offer low calorie dessert options, which may sway diners who are trying to watch their figure. Also suggest coffee or tea.

  9. Show off your desserts.
  10. When someone does order a dessert item, be sure servers or runners carry it at table level. This way, other diners can see and smell the dessert and may be convinced to order one of their own.

How to Integrate Upselling Strategies into Training Sessions

Upselling does not always come naturally. You can make it part of the training regimen by offering tips and suggestions to restaurant workers and servers at the start of every shift, as well as during initial training sessions. Managers and lead servers can help their staff learn to upsell by following these suggestions:

Allow Servers to Taste Menu Items

Provide opportunities for servers to taste menu items, including daily specials.

Train in Menu Knowledge.

Make menu knowledge a priority, This way, servers can speak intelligently about the preparation and quality of food.

Suggest Vivid Descriptions.

Offer ideas for how to use colorful language when describing dishes. For example, avoid simply offering “a slice of chocolate pie” and instead upsell “an exquisite slice of delicate chocolate mousse pie with a drizzle of caramel.” The second description makes a big difference.

Role-Play with Servers.

Practice with servers to demonstrate how to ask questions or offer more items.

Provide Rewards

Hold contests and offer incentives for servers who sell the most dessert or daily special, giving food or gift cards as prizes.


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1 Comment

  1. I always notice that when I go out to eat I am asked if I want a dessert, and I am always too full to order one. However, I have a feeling if they brought a dessert tray out it would be much more tempting. Thanks for sharing!

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