A guide to upsellling

The "do"s and "don't"s of upselling. Tips for servers. Plus, the 10 percent factor.

The key to upselling is awakening a desire in your guest, without appearing pushy. If done well, the practice can lead to higher sales—without any increase in the number of covers done. Service staff is absolutely key to upselling, and so a lot can be said about convincing staffers that the practice benefits them by adding to their income. Sharing the following example with the service staff may help to motivate them.

The 10 Percent Factor

Raising a check average by as little as 10 percent can have a remarkable impact on a server’s earnings—and can be as simple as selling one dessert or an extra glass of wine. Starting with a $60 check average for a four-guest table, here’s what an average performance will net a server over the course of one year:

$60 check average x 15% gratuity=  $9 tip average
$9 tip avg x 5 tables turned 2x/night =  $90 in tips per shift
$90 in tips per shift x 5 shifts per week =  $450 in tips per week
$450 in tips per week x 4 weeks per month =  $1,800/month in tips
$1,800 per month x 12 months =  $21,600/year in tips

Now, consider raising the check average from $60 to $66, and selling with a
confidence that can earn a server an 18% gratuity on average.
$66 check average x 18% gratuity = $11.88 tip average
$11.88 tip avg x 5 tables  turned 2x/night = $118.80 in tips per shift
$118.80 in tips per shift x  5 shifts per week = $594 in tips per week
$594 in tips per week x  4 weeks per month = $2,376/month in tips
$2,376 per month x 12 months = $28, 512 per year

By applying the techniques of upselling with confidence and enthusiasm, a server can potentially realize $6,912 or more in additional income.

Tips for Servers

Start Early: Begin to upsell as soon as you approach the table. Offer a free taste or sip as an opening. Always ask, “May I start you with a first course?”

Follow the Host: Pay close attention to the host’s cues when dealing with a large party. If the host is not receptive to suggestive selling, then simply hand guests the menus.

Read the Customer: Ascertain the customer’s preference before trying to upsell. If customers are unsure of what they’d like, ask leading questions, then make suggestions based on their answers.

Be Definitive: The better prepared you are to speak about menu items, the more effective you can be. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence sells.

Address the Negative: Move customers over to signature dishes and menu items the chefs are preparing particularly well.

Use the Power of Suggestion: Showcase proprietary menu items that make the operation stand out. When carrying a beautiful drink, dish or dessert to a table, take the long way through the dining room so other guests will see it.

Do the Split: Items that present good opportunities to split or share may constitute additional sales, in cases where that course may have been bypassed altogether. Sharing an item implies that the menu item will be presented on a single plate with an extra plate on the side. Since presentation can suffer when items are split into two plates, dividing is done only after the item is presented—and servers should offer to assist.

Set the Stage for Dessert: Once you clear and crumb the table, remove the salt and pepper, then pre-set the flatware and present the dessert menu. This psychologically prepares the guest for dessert and an after-dinner beverage. Your chances of selling at this part of the meal are greater if you prepare the guest for the selection process. The net results will thus convince servers that pre-setting dessert flatware is worth the time and energy even if it doesn’t help to convince the customers every time.

Don’t Forget the Drink: Offer guests a tasting of an after-dinner drink. You’d be surprised how much it will help sell more dessert wines and apéritifs.

Be able to recite daily specials with confidence.
Educate guests on things they may not know.
Make eye contact—and listen.
Make guests feel like they’re your only customers.

Provide excessive descriptions of items.
Simply offer coffee or tea.
Assume guests are not interested in dessert or cheese.
Ignore the empty water glass.


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