Upselling in restaurants is an important and effective way to increase profits within your restaurant business. However, you don’t want to potentially lose a customer by annoying them with continuous attempts to upsell and that’s where the importance of trained waitstaff comes into play.
A key requirement for effective upselling is having a team of servers who are trained specifically on how to upsell without annoyance when they are waiting on customers. By learning effective upselling techniques for waiters in your restaurant, you can take advantage of the opportunity it offers to increase sales and profits for your business.
Here are the 10 best upselling strategies used by successful restaurant managers to sell more in their restaurants.
The 10 best upselling strategies
1. Know Which Menu Items Have High Profit Margins
When upselling, you want to suggest menu items that have the best profit margins so that you are increasing your profits to the maximum potential. This means knowing which items you sell that have the best profit margins and training your waitstaff on this as well.
When taking the customer’s order, servers can suggest items with the highest profit margins instead of items that make less of a profit. For example, if a customer is deciding on which wine to purchase, the server can suggest the wine with a high profit margin and give a short description of why it’s a good wine to purchase.
You would never say that you are suggesting this wine because of the profit margins, as this would be a turn-off for customers. Always have a good description of the flavour or enjoyment that the customer would get from purchasing your suggested menu item.
2. Offer Extras
When a customer orders a specific menu item, the server can offer a variety of extras that could accompany the meal that the customer has asked for. Offering extras to customers is a good way to increase the cost of the meal that the customer wishes to purchase.
For example, with pasta dishes the server can suggest to addition of shrimp in the pasta or garlic bread on the side, with meals that come with fries the server can suggest adding gravy or making it into a poutine and with salad orders the server can suggest the addition of chicken to the salad.
When extras are suggested, the customer is more likely to order them thereby increasing the amount that the customer is paying for their meal. This is a simple way that servers can help to upsell without sounding too annoying to the customer.
3. Offer Specific Items
When the server uses generalities, like simply asking if the customer wants drinks or dessert, it is easier for the customer to refuse, therefore losing the restaurant the increased profits that come from upselling.
It is more effective if the server suggests specific items when recommends courses that the customer has not already ordered. For example, when asking if the customer would like a drink order, the server should suggest a specific drink that they think the customer would like.
When the customer has a specific option recommended to them, they are more likely to accept it. With desserts, the server should suggest a dessert on the menu and, if possible, show the customer a picture of the item in the menu.
By suggesting a specific item and showing the customer a picture of it, you are enticing the customer more into purchasing it. By offering specific items, the customer does not have to think about what they want and will be more likely to order what has been suggested to them.
4. Be Enthusiastic About the Items You Are Suggesting
Never underestimate the power of an enthusiastic server in upselling at your restaurant. If the server sounds bored or uninterested with the items they are suggesting, the customer will get a bad impression and will be less likely to order those items.
In addition, it could leave a bad impression overall, with the customer feeling like the waiter does not really enjoy the food that they are serving or suggesting. Having an enthusiastic waitstaff is an important component to effective upselling in your restaurant.
Servers who are enthusiastic about the menu items, and seem genuinely happy and excited about how they taste, will be able to get the customer more excited to try the items they are suggesting. Servers who love the food they are serving create customers who love to try their suggestions.
When your servers are suggesting items to the customers, have them describe how good the food is as if they ate it earlier in the day. Impressing on customers that the servers have tried all of the food will make customers more readily trust the suggestions and be more likely to purchase them.
5. Know What Items to Upsell at What Times
When your servers are taking the customers’ orders, they need to be aware of the right items to suggest and the right times to do so. Suggesting dessert when a customer first sits down will not be effective because customers are not likely to want to eat dessert before their meal.
Training your servers on what items upsell best at what times means that you are more likely to be able to capture the potential for extra profits that upselling presents. When a customer first sits down, this is the time to offer them a drink from the bar or an appetizer. After they finish eating, but before you bring the check, offer them dessert and tea or coffee.
Ensure that your servers know which menu items sell in each of these areas so that they can suggest items that will be more likely to be accepted by the customer. For example, at a high class dinner restaurant offer to bring a bottle of wine to the table when the customer’s first sit down.
Since they haven’t had a chance to look at the menu yet, they will be more open to the wine choice that you suggest and you can upsell a highly profitable bottle. Plus, customers often like to have a drink while they are looking at the menu, so when they first sit down is the perfect time to offer them wine with a better likelihood that they will accept.
6. Do Not Annoy the Customer
There is a fine line between effective upselling techniques and annoying the customer to whom you are making suggestions. It is important to know the difference because you do not want to annoy your customers to the point where it leaves a bad impression and they do not want to come back to your restaurant.
Customers do not want to be constantly bombarded with suggestions and attempts to upsell and will become unhappy with your restaurant if this happens. Training your servers to know how many suggestions they can make and at what times they should make them before they become annoying is an important part of effective upselling.
It is important to ensure that the upselling techniques are inserted naturally into the conversations with customers so that they do not even realize that the server is upselling to them. When servers make upselling seem like a natural part of the conversation, they are less likely to annoy the customer and more likely to make upselling work.
7. Mention Takeout Options
One barrier to upselling is that customers are full by the end of the meal or they don’t want to over-indulge by ordering dessert after their meal. This is a barrier that is easily overcome by offering a take-out option.
When customers say that they do not want dessert at the end of the meal, offer them the option to take it home for later. Most customers actually do want to order the dessert, but they are either too full or don’t want to seem like they eat too much so they choose not to order it instead.
By allowing and encouraging customers to take dessert or coffee and tea to go, you can convince more customers to order something that they already really want. While the server is asking if the customer wants dessert they should also suggest that they can have it packed up for the customer to take home.
This way the customer can wait for the dessert while they are waiting for the bill and everything will be ready at the same time. Giving customers the option to take food home means that they are more likely to order it and increases the profits for your restaurant.
8. Suggest Other Courses that the Customer Hasn’t Ordered
Another effective upselling technique is to suggest options for courses that the customer has not already ordered. By doing this, you can increase your profits by convincing the customer to order every possible course that you offer at your restaurant. If the customer only orders water or soft drinks suggest a drink from the bar as well.
They may be more likely to order something if it is suggested to them than if they have to think of it themselves while looking at the menu. When the customer places their meal order also ask if they would like to start with an appetizer that can be brought out before their meals are ready.
For customers who are hungry, suggesting an appetizer that will be ready faster than their meal is a good way to upsell to them. Finally, once customers are done eating, before asking if they would like their bill, ask them if they would like tea, coffee or dessert.
Customer may not have thought of ordering the course you are suggesting and other customers are more willing to order something when it is suggested to them. Having your servers ask these questions is a good way to implement effective upselling techniques.
9. Train Servers Regularly
Training servers regularly is an extremely important aspect to effective upselling in your restaurant. As the ones who converse with the customers regularly, your servers are the most important tool you have at your disposal to increase your profits through effective upselling.
Make sure that your servers know what is on the menu, the specials that you are offering and that they have tried the food so that they can easily make suggestions to the customer. Also ensure they they are trained on how to upsell to customers without annoying the customer.
You should make sure that they are trained on when to suggest items, which items to suggest and how to upsell without the customer noticing. By having servers who are well-trained on upselling techniques you will be in a better position to effectively take advantage of the profit opportunity that upselling presents.
Your servers are very important people on your team and their training on upselling should be continuous, not just a one-time thing when they begin working for you. Continually update them on new techniques and the new items and specials that you are offering so that they always have up-to-date information to give to the customer.
10. Make Assumptions About the Order
This is a technique that should be done cautiously so as not to offend the customer. Making assumptions does not mean that you just add an item to the customer’s bill and deliver it to them without ensuring that they want it.
Making assumptions means that when taking a customer’s order the server should make an assumptive statement to the customer about what they are ordering. For example, if the customer asks for a salad the server can say “You would like chicken in the salad, correct?”.
When faced with a statement like this the customer is more likely to agree to the upsell. This can also be done when customers order drinks by making an assumptive statement to them about making their drink with a higher priced alcohol.
When servers make assumptive statements to the customer about their order they are more likely to go along with it then if the server were to ask “which vodka do you want that made with?”.