Every restaurant server should be trained in the art of upselling. This has two major benefits: first, it increases your revenue, and second, it can provide a beneficial service to your diner by offering them a more bespoke customer experience. Upselling done right is a win-win situation for the restaurant and diner.
Here are some nine effective restaurant upselling tips that servers can use to boost the bottom line.
Get a Baseline Measurement of Your Diner's Behavior
A big component of generating more upsells is to recognize nonverbal cues of communication. Servers should start by understanding the needs and wants of the diner by reading nonverbal cues. Are they trying to make eye contact? Are they avoiding eye contact? Do they look like they're in a rush? Are they going through the menu?
These signs are indicative of diners who will not entertain blatant attempts at upselling. However, servers can still try upselling to these diners as long as they are willing not to be too assertive. If the diner has decided to buy something, it's better to back off.
Servers can also use non-verbal cues as a sign that the diner is more predisposed to upselling techniques. Are they looking at the menu all puzzled and confused? Are they indecisive even after having spent 15 minutes glossing over the menu? This diner is looking for more guidance and could use some help.
If anything, it would be a relief for the server to provide them with suggestions. Another sign of a good upselling opportunity is a chatty diner with a more laid-back attitude.
Be Descriptive With Your Food
Buzzwords sell. It's why brands make sure to use them in their ads whenever possible. And the restaurant space has its fair share of marketing-lingo designed to make your mouth water. A great way to do this is by describing the food to your diner in detail.
Start by saying your personal favorites, "What can I get you to eat? I prefer our spinach cream, which uses fresh and locally sourced spinach. It's filling, delicious, and I highly recommend it." While the restaurant may have initially decided to order a sandwich, now they can't stop thinking about the tasty spinach cream you just described to them. By doing this, you've turned a few dollars into a $50 to $100 sale. This technique can be used to upsell just about anything to your restaurant.
Pro tip: Use the restaurant's 'special for the day' as a great conversation starter. You can also recommend this item to the diner while they’re waiting for food or browse through the menu.
Don't Be Afraid to Offer Add-ons and Customizations
Now that your diner has ordered an item off the menu, your servers should be trained to know which complimentary add-ons are suitable upsells. For example, "are we in the mood for some steaks?" should be your server's natural response to someone ordering salads.
If your side dishes offer the option to swap out fires for a slight upcharge, you can suggest, "Would you like to order our creamed mushroom with that?" This will alert the diner about possible swap-out options.
In general, add-ons and customizations feel less like an upsell and resembles more of what the diner wants to order.
Here are a few ideas for add-ons that you can use:
- Single and double espresso shots
- Sparkling water bottle instead of tap water
- Drink refills
- Ounce upselling for wine
This allows us to segue into the next point: menu engineering.
Learn Menu Engineering
By strategically designing the menu (and training your server on all things related to the menu), you ensure your server is better placed to offer upselling to diners.
Try to include all the possible toppings and add-ons for a food item on the menu. For example, if it's possible to add cheese to a pizza, include "$5 extra cheese" under the pizza menu item. If your guests want to add more spices to their pasta, add that option to the menu, and it will get them thinking about the delicious item before they cave in and order! This tactic is especially helpful if your margins are tight.
The best part is that this strategy lets you offer more items with each order without making the diner think they're splurging too much on food. Automatically including all the toppings with a pizza would cause that item to appear pricier. However, letting your customers mix and match to create their ideal meal will give them a sense of ownership and make it appear more affordable.
This will create a great dining experience and keep your customers coming back for more.
In addition, ensure that your server is familiar with the menu inside out so that their upselling efforts don't come across as sales pitches. In addition, it's important to train your servers to recommend add-ons and customization options directly from the menu. This tactic is especially helpful if your margins are tight.
Build Loyalty with Diners
If you don't have a loyalty program in place, you're missing out on a revenue channel and an opportunity to make more money with repeat business. In addition, to encouraging repeat business, collecting more money upfront, and being relatively inexpensive to offer, loyalty cards are a great way to encourage diners to order more.
Loyalty programs prove to the diner that you care about their presence. You can use your CRM system to keep track of customer loyalty and check their progress. An online loyally program will relieve your customers of having to keep track of all their physical cards. Most diners are very eager to earn points, so much so that they're more than happy to buy a ton of food in a single session to redeem their rewards at a later date.
Diners appreciate loyalty programs and boost your bottom line - it's a win-win situation for everyone.
Utilize Discounts as an Upsell Strategy
Most diners do not buy certain menu items because they appear too expensive. You can encourage these diners to spend more by providing them with coupon codes or discounts. Monetary incentives work especially well if the diner has been on the fence about a particular item and wasn't willing to overspend.
This doesn't mean you should give away the product for free. Find a reasonable discount that will help you sell more without cutting into your revenues.
Pro tip: Create a sense of urgency. Make sure your diners are aware that a certain item on the menu is only available during certain months of the year. Tell them why they will enjoy this food item.
Pay Attention to Your Diners' Preferences
Upselling is easier if you know about your diner's preferences. Studies show that upselling to new prospects is relatively more difficult. But things are different with your regular who comes a few times a month and always orders a particular dish. Over the course of their stay, you'll notice they tend to order a few glasses of wine. This provides you with the perfect opportunity to introduce them to a higher quality wine.
By doing this, you now have the chance to talk about the differences between the wines. Ask them what they liked and disliked about the wine to get a better understanding of their taste. If they like the new drink, you just switched a normal $40 sale into a $60 one. This also builds a better relationship with the diner.
Hold a Contest Among Your Servers for Most Upsells
Try having a contest among your servers to upsell a specific item. Make sure that your servers are knowledgeable about the item. You will also need to track the sales through a CRM system. Make sure your kitchen is prepared to accommodate servers when they get more orders for this dish.
Don't allow the competition to get toxic to the work environment. Keep things healthy and always encourage teamwork. Reward winners but don't put down staff who were unable to secure more orders.
A Few Suggestions for Training Servers
Most servers are not really aware of the menu. Never assume that your server knows the menu front to back just because they've been around for a while. Don't believe us? Take a quick quiz about the menu, and you'll know just how 'familiar' your servers are.
Hold regular training sessions with your servers and go over the menu with them. Welcome any suggestions and criticism about the menu and incorporate that into the next menu redesign.
Another suggestion is to give your servers a chance to try each item on the menu. A server can't properly recommend food if they haven't tasted the item.
Whenever you introduce a new menu item or change your recipe, give your servers a taste. This may cost you in the short run, but it will increase your chances of upselling. Remember to quiz your servers about the disk after they've tried it and train them how to describe it to the diner in the best possible terms.
With these essential restaurant upselling tips, your server can provide you with a steady revenue stream while also bolstering the overall customer experience.
At MenuCRM, we can help you maximize your upselling endeavors with a fully integrated restaurant online and website platform. Signup for a quick demo.