Teach Restaurant Staff How to Upsell without Turning Off Customers

customer experience increase restaurant sales upselling
Teach Restaurant Staff How to Upsell without Turning Off Customers

Too many restaurant staff are afraid of upselling. Servers and bartenders don't want to come across as pushy, or they think they're taking advantage of the guest. When they think of upselling this way, they just won't do it. And while nobody likes to be sold to, the best salespeople are working to satisfy a need or fix a problem. The best salespeople are not jamming something down someone's throat. To make sure your customers have the best experience in your restaurant, I’m going to share with you how to teach restaurant staff how to upsell without turning off customers.

It’s very common to have a negative mindset about upselling, so to fix it, you need to address your staff’s attitude towards the process. You need to explain to them the nature of the restaurant business, that you are in the business of hospitality. The goal is to give your guests the best experience possible, an experience that is all about the food and beverage, the atmosphere and the service. And the reality is they're all tied together.

For example, offering the chance for a guest to upgrade their vodka Martini from a well vodka to a premium vodka makes the drink better and improves the guest experience. Suggesting to the guests that they order the best item on your menu, even though it may be the most expensive entrée, almost guarantees they'll love their meal. When they love their meal, no matter what they paid for it, it was great.

Educate your staff on the benefits of upselling to a guest by providing them a long list of examples and how each example makes guests’ experience better. Overcome the negative attitudes attached to the word selling.

Upselling is so important because it’s key to increasing sales. There are only three ways you can increase your sales: bring in a brand-new customer, which is the most expensive form of marketing out there; get your customers to spend more every time they visit; and get your customers to come back more often.

When upselling is done correctly, you can easily increase the customer spend per visit while also ensuring they have a great experience, making them want to come back again and again. When done properly, upselling is a win for the service staff, too, because they ultimately improve their tip income. When you can sell items that make your restaurant more money and/or reduce your food cost or beverage cost, you have the ability to change your bottom line.

One key to success with upselling is to use words that evoke emotion. For example, “You should try our homemade country potpie. It has a buttery, flaky crust, farm fresh vegetables, and juicy chunks of chicken breast.”

Or you might say, “If you're only going to have one dessert in your lifetime, you need to try a piece of our spice gingerbread cake served warm. It tastes just like Christmas. And I have found that to make it even more wonderful, if you add a scoop of our homemade French vanilla ice cream.”

Who could resist that? Paint a picture in your guest’s mind, and if they see it, they'll want it.

This is a skill that needs to be practiced daily. It's best when you add it to your daily pre-shift meetings as a consistent training tool and as a role play exercise. But I want you to be aware upselling can backfire. When you focus too much on the process of upselling, you can hurt the guest dining experience, so you'll want to avoid the following.

  • Don't bombard your guests with unnecessary information or too many choices early in the selling process. Build rapport, then engage and inform.
  • Avoid blanket phrases like “everything's good here” or “take a look at the menu and I'll be back.” This shows a lack of knowledge and preparation.
  • Don't hand out dirty menus. Menus are a sales tool, and dirty ones are a turn off. You need to keep personal preferences to yourself.
  • Keep personal preferences to yourself. You might not want dessert after a big meal, but your guest might not be able to leave the table without it.

Once the guest takes your recommendation, the next step in upselling is to make sure you they feel good about their order. Teach your team to use validating phrases like, “Great choice. We get a lot of compliments on that.” Or, “That's our most popular beer,” or “Oh, that goes great with an XYZ Chardonnay that we're featuring right now by the glass.”

Upselling is not a bad thing. It's a great thing. Train anyone on your team who has contact with your guests how to upsell without turning off the customers. The art of upselling is not just for service staff but every point of contact. Ensure they come back again and again because they had the best dining experience at your restaurant.

Teach your restaurant staff how to upsell and you will increase your sales and profitability. Plus, your staff will stay with you longer because they're making more money.

If you would like to learn how to own a restaurant that doesn't depend on you being in it to be successful, sign up for my free video course that teaches you three key principles to running a successful restaurant. If you're ready right now to make some serious changes in your restaurant, you can also book a 60-minute call with me where we talk about your challenges and figure out exactly what is holding you back from having a restaurant that doesn’t depend on you being in it to be successful. 

Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.

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