Secrets to Effective Upselling in Restaurants

secrets to upselling in restaurants

A confident and enthusiastic server equipped with a solid toolkit of upselling techniques and the skill to use them properly has the potential to boost your restaurant’s bottom line significantly.
Unfortunately, stoking server enthusiasm for upselling is often met with a lukewarm response at best. Many servers have a negative opinion of upselling and are concerned that they will come across as greedy and insincere. How do you motivate your wait staff and bartenders to become the upselling all-stars you need them to be?

We have got you covered. We created a comprehensive guide with all of the best upselling techniques and tips that will have your crew upselling like pros before you know it.

Of course, before any upselling training can begin, you will need to understand and correct your crew’s negative beliefs about upselling, cross-selling, and suggestive selling. Even the best techniques are destined to fail if servers don’t feel comfortable with their role in the process.

Everyone Wins in Restaurant Upselling

Despite popular belief, upselling is not bad; it is just misunderstood. If upselling is performed correctly, it shouldn’t look like selling at all. Restaurants are a service industry, and as such, the customer service experience plays an over-sized role in the ultimate success or failure of your business. Upselling is, first and foremost, about offering your customer the very best experience possible. Today’s diners have an infinite array of dining options to choose from. Pre-packaged meal kits, take-out, counter service, and home delivery compete for the same customer cash.

The Benefit of Upselling: Customers

As competition in the restaurant industry has intensified, customer experience has played an ever-larger role in standing out from the crowd and establishing a loyal and reliable customer base. Upselling encourages diners to choose the very best cut of meat, the freshest fish, the highest quality liquor, which inevitably leads to a higher degree of customer satisfaction, and increased customer loyalty. A 2017 global customer preference poll found that the customer service experience was a significant factor in determining loyalty to a particular brand or business for an astounding 96% of consumers.

The Benefit of Upselling: Restaurant Owners

The benefit of upselling for the restaurant owner is obvious. Selling the higher quality and higher-priced menu options means higher ticket values and more significant profits.

The Benefit of Upselling: Servers & Bartenders

Finally, upselling rewards the server directly by increasing customer satisfaction and the total ticket value resulting in higher tips for the server.

Encourage your servers to think of upselling as a method of providing expert guidance to ensure the optimal dining experience for every customer on every visit.

Once you have your team dialled into the beneficial nature of upselling, they will be ready to start learning and implementing the skills and techniques that will transform them into upselling wizards.

Start Upselling Training From a Strong Foundation

Every successful upsell must start with a solid foundation of trust. Customers are looking to the server as an authority who can act as a tour guide for their dining experience. Servers should know the food, beverage, and dessert menus by heart so that they are prepared to respond to any customer queries or requests with complete confidence and accuracy.

Servers should have sampled all of the menu items and know the main ingredients and preparation techniques used to create each one. The more your servers understand about each menu item, the more sincere and convincing they will be when extolling a particular entrée’s virtues to the customer.

At the bare minimum, every server should have a comprehensive understanding of the following :

  • All menus offered, the selections available on each menu, and the times or days when each menu is valid

Example: A Breakfast or Brunch menu available on weekends only

  • Each menu item’s core ingredients and how each item is prepared

Example: The Reuben Sandwich is made with corned beef carved from a whole brisket smoked fresh this morning and served on freshly baked Rye or Pumpernickel bread.

  • All available swaps and alternative ingredients or preparations that are available to accommodate a customer’s unique dietary restrictions or cultural concerns

Example: A veggie burger patty can be swapped out for the ground beef patty on any hamburger on the menu

  • The sides, garnishes, and sauces that are included with each dish and the optional upgrades and additional items that are available for an additional charge

Example: The Reuben is fully dressed with the traditional sauerkraut, melted provolone, and Thousand Island dressing and garnished with a fresh dill pickle wedge. An order of Fresh-cut Fries, Fresh Coleslaw, and/or Garden Salad can be added for £2 each

Using Body Language in Upselling

Learning to interpret a customer’s body language can go a long way towards avoiding any awkward upselling fails. Train your crew to recognise the basic signs that indicate when a customer is open to upselling with recommendations and advice and when unsolicited suggestions are likely to receive a chilly reception.

Body Language Cues That Indicate “Openness to Suggestion”

  • Relaxed posture and movement
  • Regular Eye-contact and attention
  • Actively browsing the menu

Body Language Cues That Indicate “Conversation is Unwelcome”

  • Tense, rigid posture and jumpy or sharp movement
  • No eye contact or slight eye contact
  • Closing the menu and pushing it away

Body Language Cues that Indicate “Indecision”

  • Still reading the menu long after their tablemates have finished
  • Looking around as if seeking assistance
  • Asking for advice or recommendations

Learning to recognise these basic cues will help your server know when their upselling techniques will be welcomed as an informative enhancement of the overall dining experience.

Recognising the signs that a customer would prefer to be left alone will help prevent any awkward upselling attempts that are likely to be viewed as an annoyance by the customer.

On the flip side, recognising the signs that a customer is struggling with the decision-making process nudges the server into action to swoop in and save the day by guiding the customer to make a choice.

WIIFM for Upselling in Restaurants

WIIFM is the acronym for “What’s In It For Me?”. The term is often used in sales to reference a selling technique that emphasises the usefulness of a product and the ways that it will benefit the customer rather than the more traditional method of focusing on the top features of an item.

Applying the WIIFM technique to restaurant upselling can be a little tricky. The list below will provide your team with a solid starting place.

WIIFM Restaurant Upselling

  • Superior Flavour
    • The benefit is the superior flavour of the item compared to the standard. Servers must be able to describe the superiority of the upgraded product in vivid detail.
  • Freshness
    • The server provides beneficial insider information about the freshness of the product
  • Great Value
    • The server can illustrate the great value of the upgrade by emphasising the generous portions large enough to share
  • Novel
    • Servers can emphasise the novelty of a new experimental dish which will give purchasers a sense of exclusivity
  • Benefits Charity
    • Servers should highlight the charity that profits will be donated to
  • Adds Convenience
    • An upgraded menu item may be more portable and easier to eat on the go.
  • Scarcity
    • Servers should allude to the dwindling inventory or one-time-only event to sell the benefit of the opportunity

Gamify Restaurant Upselling with Winpos EPOS

Once your crew members have mastered the fundamentals of upselling in restaurants and have begun to feel comfortable integrating these techniques into every sale, you can keep the motivation high by adding in a little friendly competition.

Select your top 2 or 3 menu items with the highest profit margin and challenge your crew to see who can upsell the highest quantity of these items. You can easily use the data reporting feature of your Winpos EPOS system to keep track of the individual server’s sales totals. When the time is up, the system will be able to determine the winner. The prize can be anything that your employees covet enough to motivate their active participation.

Use these basic restaurant upselling techniques to provide a sound starting point for your team’s upselling training. Have fun with the techniques and make them your own. Remember, the key to successful upselling in the restaurant industry is making sure that the customer feels recognised, validated, and important. If your team can accomplish this, your restaurant will always have loyal customers.