Upselling and cross-selling are two of the easiest methods of increasing your profitability.
However, there is a fine line you must walk to avoid annoying your hard-earned customers. Not everyone will appreciate a sales pitch designed to milk them dry. The goal then, is to study the customer's immediate needs and coming up with non-obtrusive solutions that can improve their dining experience.
Before we deep dive into the actual selling strategies, we'll have to define the difference between upselling and cross-selling. Upselling is when you sell an upgraded or higher-end version of a product or service. Cross-selling is when you suggest relevant items from the menu. To make things simpler, we will be using both terms interchangeably.
With that out of the way, let's discuss the cross-selling and upselling strategies to try in your restaurant.
1. Ask Relevant Questions to Your Diners
There are two benefits of asking questions from your diners.
First, when your server asks questions, it demonstrates your restaurant's commitment to the diner's experience. They're not just another number or statistic, but they're a valued guest. In many cases, it could make or break the diner's experience. Your customers would appreciate knowing the server isn't worried about moving from one table to another in a hurry.
Second, asking questions is the most effective way to ask information about your diners - straight from the horse's mouth, as they say.
Asking the right questions equips your staff to make customized upselling recommendations that can boost sales by several points.
2. Make Sure Your Servers Know About the Product
Your server's upselling techniques are only as effective as their understanding of the products itself. They shouldn't suggest a product for the sake of selling it. Instead, they should take the time to develop a deeper understanding of the menu before recommending entrées to customers.
You can make this process easier by hosting a tasting event for your servers. They will sample most of the items and beverages from the menu and confidently answer questions from customers.
The more servers learn about your menu, the easier it will be to suggest items. So if a guest asks your staff if they've tried the pizza, they will confidently answer, "Yes, but the sandwich is even more amazing. Do you want to try it?"
Diners appreciate earnest recommendations that aren't designed to milk their wallet dry.
So you should encourage your servers to suggest entries from the menu that they have tried - but only if they feel that it is relevant to the diner's overall experience.
3. Learn About Side Dishes
Other than making recommendations, your servers should be well versed about side dishes that have similar taste profiles so they can act as appetizers before the main course.
This level of understanding can make the upselling process appear more sincere and natural, almost as if it were part of the dining experience. Your diners are bound to remember creative suggestions, and they may go so far as to suggest your restaurant to their friends and coworkers.
Pro tip: Try recommending a delicious item that the guest has had their eyes on. So if they've been eyeing up some fries, you could point out the fires on your menu, then recommend pairing them with sauces and dips.
4. Ask Them to Sign up for Your Loyalty Program
A loyalty program is one of the most effective ways to retain a new customer and helps you cross-sell and upsell items. Start by creating a restaurant loyalty program that can encourage your diners to continue visiting your restaurant.
Diners appreciate a good loyalty program because the more they spend at a place, the more restaurant rewards they earn. It's like gamification - it stimulates the reward pathway in the brain and causes customers to come back for more.
Moreover, loyalty programs lay the perfect groundwork for suggestive selling. For instance, your staff can recommend entries that may be a bit more expensive but offer more restaurant rewards to your guests. You can also build this feature into your restaurant's websites so that guests can earn points on takeout and delivery items as well.
5. Use Technology to Maximize Sales
If you're not using technology, such as a point of sale (POS) system and QR codes to facilitate payments, you're missing out on potential revenue streams. In the case of POS systems, you can add prompts in the menu that can automatically recommend items to your guests they may not have previously thought about.
Your POS system lets you take recommendations directly to your diners. For example, if they are on their iPhones, servers can show a photo of any food product to entice your guests to make room for a mouthwatering dessert they weren't considering before.
Bonus points if you can implement self-ordering kiosks that can provide automated recommendations based on purchase patterns.
6. Get Listed on Delivery Apps
Last year's pandemic has increased the popularity of delivery and takeout. It's another lucrative revenue generating opportunity that many restaurateurs have been able to capitalize on. Start by signing up on popular ordering platforms and delivery apps. The best part is that these apps often do suggestive selling on your behalf.
Their clever design encourages guests to consider items off the menu that they would never have thought to before.
These online ordering apps can help you expand your reach. As more people start to work from home and decide to stay indoors for the majority of their time, they're more likely to use delivery apps to order food.
These apps are an effective way to get more eyes on your menu and use suggestive selling tactics.
7. Utilize Storytelling in Your Menu
Put yourself in your customer's shoes.
What happens when you first sit down at a restaurant and blankly stare at the menu? You will probably be a little confused about what to order - this being your first time and all.
This is a great opportunity for upselling, and a bit of storytelling can go a long way in improving sales.
Burgers, for example, are a perfect choice for storytelling. The diner can explain that the beef originates in Japan, that it is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and that it is taken from a special breed of cows.
They can also tell how a side dish, such as fries with a special dip, is a great lighter meal.
You can ask your staff to come up with these stories themselves, or you can prepare a script for them. Either way, the goal is to make the food product stick in the diner's mind. In most cases, it is the stories that generate sales.
8. Use the Diner's Purchase Pattern to Personalize Offers
Many restaurants face huge challenges in an increasingly competitive and saturated market where their services are becoming less of a utility and more of an option, and their margins are also shrinking. They are being pressured to minimize operating costs, enhance customer experience, generate new sales streams, and differentiate their brand.
Many restaurants are sitting on a gold mine of data that can be used to optimize marketing campaigns and skyrocket ROI. Real-time data analytics, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, is a game changer for the hospitality industry, reducing costs, generating new revenue, and scaling up operations.
You can learn customer behaviors, payment preferences, purchase histories, user patterns, consumption levels, customer experiences, and more.
This data can be used to better serve the customer base. It enables you to create specific profiles for your guests that make 'guesstimates' about their beverage and food preferences. So the next time your diners visit you, your server can make a personalized recommendation based on the guest's preferences.
For instance, if your guest ordered burger patties last time, try suggesting a pricier but more delicious steak burger special from the get-go.
The need of the hour is to tailor your cross-selling and upselling strategies to each individual guest. It not only impresses your diners, but it also increases the likelihood that they will accept your recommendations, even if they originally intended to buy something else.
Wrap Up - Don't Forget to Upsell and Cross-Sell Online
Depending on the nature of your restaurant, online sales may form a big chunk of your revenue.
The good news is that you can get away with being more 'sales-y' to online customers with 'in your face' suggestive selling techniques. Most online customers are accustomed to upsells and won't find this intrusive.
You could use simple phrases such as, "this product can feed a group of 3 to 4 people" and "perfect for one person". Make a few simple tweaks to your online menu and gauge their effectiveness with A/B testing. Optimize them and make corrections to improve your sales.
And always remember, the goal of upselling and cross-selling is to improve the customer experience. As long as you can keep diners happy, you should face no difficulty in boosting your profitability.