Restaurants: How to Upsell

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waitress upsellUpselling and cross-selling is how you divert customer attention to the items you’re trying to push. The reasons for doing this are to get the customer to buy more food and possibly more expensive items which will increase the profits for both the restaurant and the server. The other reason is to encourage the customer to buy items that you are trying to get rid of such as fish when it’s getting close to its expiration date. When upselling, you should always:

Know which items to upsell. You will have more success if you focus on a small group of items you want to attract customers to. It will also make your suggestions seem more sincere if you aren’t just offering them every expensive item on the menu, but have very specific recommendations. Your sales pitch will sound more convincing if you have specific reasons why you are suggesting the items also. For instance, if your restaurant is unloading a complimentary case of flank steaks, instead of just saying that “flank steak is tonight’s special”, try saying something like “our chef is sampling a new steak cut that we don’t usually offer and has paired it with a really delicious chimichurri sauce.” It makes your offer sound exclusive and enticing.

Target indecisive customers. You don’t want to annoy customers by making too many suggestions to them. Especially if the customer seems fairly confident in what they want and orders quickly. The best candidates for upselling are customers that take a long time to order, ask questions, and generally seem open to suggestions.

Push drinks. If you don’t think you can sway a customer to buy a certain food item from the menu, you can always offer drink suggestions. Drinks are a big profit maker, and a few cocktails can make the customer’s bill go up quite a lot.

Suggest sharing. Sometimes people don’t want to overindulge in appetizers and desserts, and usually tend to turn them down either for the sake of their waistlines or their credit card bill. A great way to get past that hesitation is to say, “would anyone like to share a dessert?” The idea of splitting the guilt with someone else will usually make people more likely to accept the offer.

They key to upselling, just like any other sales pitch, is to make the customer feel like you are offering them a private deal that is too good to pass up.

Last modified: April 24, 2013
Sasha Smith


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

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