There is more to restaurant upselling than simply asking a customer, “Would you like fries with that?” If done well, upselling will increase the size of your customer orders and bring a lot more money into your restaurant. Implement upselling techniques properly and they can pay off, but get them wrong and you can alienate once-loyal customers.
A well-trained server can be your restaurant’s best sales tool. Without the proper knowledge, however, most attempts at upselling will fall short. Set up pre-meal briefings for your waitstaff where you review any special dishes and identify high-profit items they should focus on selling to the customers. Host regular wine education seminars so servers will know which bottles to recommend with which meals. Adding a bottle of wine to a meal can really boost the check size. You should even consider sending key servers out for sommelier training.
Encourage your waitstaff to use a soft-sell technique that uses descriptive language when explaining dishes to customers. Instead of simply asking guests if they want wine with dinner, servers can say, “We have an excellent reserve merlot that has won several recent awards, and it will complement that steak nicely. Can I interest you in a bottle?” When executed properly, customers will feel as though they have just received high-quality customer service instead of a sales pitch.
Learn to read customers’ body language and adapt your suggestions accordingly. If one of your customers seems indecisive or hesitant when ordering, jump in describe your favorite menu items. Take group dynamics into account when reading customers. Every table of customers will have its own personality. Knowing what that is will also help you determine when to sell and when to listen. Most groups of diners have an “alpha buyer,” or someone who takes charge in the ordering process. Determine who that is and direct most of your upselling toward him.
When you make suggestions to customers, assume they want what you’re selling. When a customer orders a vodka and cranberry, for example, a simple “We carry several brands of vodka. Would you prefer Grey Goose or Ketel One?” will almost always elicit a brand choice, changing that sale from a low-profit well drink into a high-profit premium cocktail. As you are making suggestions, look the customer in the eye, smile and gently nod your head as if you know they will answer in the affirmative.
The most expensive menu items are not necessarily the ones that bring in the highest profits. Gain a clear understanding of what dishes are the profit drivers, and focus on those when making suggestions to customers. Brief your waitstaff on which items they should be pushing and at what meals so that there is no uncertainty.