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Top 10 Tips for Successful Restaurant Upselling

Top 10 Tips for Successful Restaurant Upselling

Upselling is an easy way to improve profits immediately. To increase customer satisfaction and check size, train your servers and cashiers in effective upselling techniques. Follow these guidelines to implement a successful upselling campaign in your restaurant:

1. Predetermine items and times for upselling.

Train your servers to always upsell certain menu items at certain times. For example, if your Thai tea is a profitable item and is usually well-received, you could tell servers to mention the Thai tea when they take customers’ drink orders. Or, if you run a Mexican restaurant, servers could always ask customers if they would like chips and salsa to start off.

2. Do not annoy the customer.

The best time for servers to upsell is when the customer asks for their opinion. Then, they can suggest whatever you want them to. Otherwise, they can typically only pitch 1 or 2 upsells without annoying the customer. It is important to be subtle with your upselling techniques. Otherwise, the customer will feel pressured. Getting a few extra dollars from the customer does not do any good if you permanently lose that customer due to pushy upselling techniques.

3. Provide useful suggestions.

Upselling should seem like good service rather than a sales pitch. For this reason, it is best that the server know everything about menu offerings so they can practice good consultative selling and make appropriate suggestions. They should also have significant knowledge of wine and food pairings and techniques for reading customer behaviors and signals. That way, servers can offer a wine suggestion to go with a particular meal, or a dessert suggestion when they see that the customers are not quite ready to go. Such upselling techniques will be viewed not as a sales tactic, but as quality service.

4. Make the upsell enticing and convincing.

Servers should be knowledgeable and seem excited about the things they are selling. For example, servers should not just ask, “Would you like a dessert?” Instead, they should mention the benefits of getting a dessert and make the dessert sound enticing: “Would you like to end with something sweet? Our special today is dark chocolate cheesecake with a tart raspberry glaze.” Remember, a lot of people really do want the item you are upselling, but perhaps they are hesitant to overindulge or spend too much. All they need is to be convinced.

5. Mention your takeout.

Encourage customers to bring something home with them “to-go.” If customers are too full for dessert, you can recommend they take dessert home with them. For example, Perkins Restaurant often encourages customers to take home one of their signature pies. If customers are not interested in dessert, you can still offer them a take-out and delivery menu to take home with them when they leave. This could result in future take-out and delivery sales, if they enjoyed their experience. » Learn more about take out and delivery marketing 


6. Upsell to uncertain customers.

Customers who look at the menu a long time or seem indecisive about what to order or hesitant in any way are most open to suggestion. Servers should be trained to read body language and attitude, so they can identify the customers who might respond well to suggestions.

7. Make assumptions as well as suggestions.

For example, when a customer asks for a cocktail, assume they want the more expensive liquor by asking, “Do you have a vodka preference? We offer Grey Goose and Smirnoff.” If the customer says, “Grey Goose, please,” then you have just converted a well-drink sale into a high-end drink sale, adding several dollars to the check. Another example is the “nod” technique. If a customer orders fries, the cashier should look them in the eye and say, “A large fry?” while nodding. Most likely, customers will reply in the affirmative, even if they were originally planning on ordering a medium fry.

8. Routinely train servers.

Each server should taste test all menu items and memorize ingredients and preparation for all dishes. Servers should also be aware of good food combinations, like wine and entrée pairings, as well as what is and is not available at any given time and which items are most profitable for the restaurant.

9. Try downselling.

Although it is usually ignored, downselling can be the perfect alternative to upselling, especially in times of economic hardship. Downselling involves offering a more expensive option first, and then offering a more economical alternative when the customer refuses. For example, servers could offer a $10 glass of wine, and when the customer refuses, explain to them why the $7 glass of wine is the perfect alternative to complement their meal, and almost as good as the more expensive wine. This will make customers perceive the more economical item as a higher value.

10. Cross-sell more profitable items.

Cross-selling your most profitable items is always a good marketing technique. For example, if a customer is considering ordering wine and says, “I’m thinking about the x pinot noir,” but the server knows that a certain cabernet (y) is the same price but has a higher profit margin, he or she could say, “The x pinot noir is a good wine. Personally, I am also a big fan of y cabernet sauvignon. It’s really smooth and has an excellent finish.”