Learning how to upsell can give you a competitive edge over other restaurants and help you increase profits, but only if it's done in the right way. Here are some expert tips and ideas to help you train your waiting staff and teach them to use upselling to increase your average order value.
1. Suggest extras
One of the easiest ways to persuade customers to spend more is to suggest additional purchases that don’t cost too much. For example, you can offer extra toppings on pizza or pasta dishes and sides such as curly fries or garlic bread for the table.
Sauces and dressings also act as excellent add-ons that are inexpensive for the customer to order but, done consistently, could give a welcome boost to your profits. As long as you’re not too insistent, customers will appreciate the suggestions.
2. Choose your moment wisely
Upselling only truly works when you do it at the right time. Start by offering a drink or an appetizer when customers sit down. After they’re done with their meal, ask whether they’d like some dessert or coffee. This increases the chances of them saying yes because that’s the natural progression of a meal. It’s also advisable to start upselling the moment the customer sits down because they’re more likely to accept your suggestion if they haven’t looked at the menu yet.
3. Keep your suggestions as specific as possible
It’s always better to suggest a particular bottle of wine or cocktail than just asking the customer whether they’d like something to drink. First, this gives you a chance to upsell more expensive menu items. Secondly, it provides more context for your recommendations.
For instance, you can start by saying a particular cocktail is a house favourite during the summer due to its refreshing mix of berries and crushed ice. If the customer has already ordered, you can go ahead and recommend a drink or a dessert that you know would go well with the meal.
4. Upsell items with high profit margins
It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular upselling techniques involves recommending more expensive items with a higher profit margin. You can do this subtly by suggesting a slightly more expensive bottle of wine or add-on.
However, don’t be too obvious with this tactic, or customers won’t be pleased with your actions. There has to be a concrete reason behind your suggestion, so ensure you let them know why you think they’d enjoy it.
5. Make some changes to your menu
Menu writing and design can also help you sell more. Appetizing descriptions of your most expensive menu items can tempt the customer to give them a shot. Additionally, position the item you want to upsell (such as fries) next to the relevant main dish (like burgers), to provide customers with the necessary push.
Did you know that most people read menus from the top right corner? If you’d like to draw their attention to your highest profit margin items, place them there, so they lay eyes on them first.
6. Upsell on delivery and pickup orders
A large part of your upselling profits can come from online food delivery. Test out multiple online ordering systems and look for one that allows you to upsell automatically by displaying a list of add-ons, toppings, or desserts when people add a main dish to the cart.
This is even less intrusive than upselling in person because customers don’t feel any pressure from the server to choose something. Plus, if you include mouth-watering images in your online menu, they might tempt customers to add that extra side to their order.
7. Make your recommendations with enthusiasm
One of the most important aspects of a successful upsell is the server’s attitude. If they sound like they’re reciting a message they've had to memorise with no enthusiasm, they won’t tempt customers to say yes.
Besides a positive attitude, the more details they can give about the dish, the better. Bonus points if they can speak from personal experience. To that end, make sure all your waiting staff have tasted the menu items they are promoting. If they genuinely love it, it will show in how they’re upselling it.
8. Know when to stop
Upselling can go wrong very quickly if the customer isn’t in the mood or the waiter or waitress is too insistent. If you notice the customer is not receptive to your suggestions or outright says they’re not looking for guidance, allow them to make their own choices and sacrifice upselling for positive customer service. Otherwise, the customer might become irritated and either leave immediately or never return to your restaurant. Ultimately, customer loyalty is more important than upselling once. If you can’t make upselling happen naturally, it’s best not to make it at all.
9. Remember your regulars’ preferences
Take restaurant upselling to the next level by making your regulars feel special. It’s much easier to upsell to them than to new customers because you’ve already built a rapport with them, and you know they enjoy your food.
For example, if a couple usually orders about four glasses of chardonnay whenever they visit you, suggest a bottle for the table. Additionally, if you have a more expensive chardonnay than the one they usually order, offer a taste test on the house. If they like it, they might switch to it from there on, which will boost your profits regularly.
10. Don’t forget about takeout
Finally, if a customer is tempted to buy a dessert but they’re already feeling full, remember to tell them you can pack one to-go. If they are really craving it, they may take you up on the offer.
The same goes for any other part of the meal. For example, you can suggest that your customers supersize their order and if they don’t finish it, pack up the leftovers for them to take home.
Teaching your team how to upsell can have a significant impact on your long-term profits. As long as they maintain professional and respectful behaviour, customers will be more than happy to listen to their suggestions.
About the Author
Laura-Andreea Voicu is an online marketing specialist at GloriaFood (an Oracle company), the first free online ordering system. GloriaFood enables restaurant owners to power their website with an ordering feature and increase profits by offering food delivery and pickup options.