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Suggestive selling in restaurants

The sales trainee was trying to explain his failure. "You know," he said to his manager, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

"Make him drink?" the manager sputtered. "Your job is to make him thirsty!"

Our business is the food service business, with an emphasis on the service. In well-run restaurants, servers, hosts and hostesses continually practice the art of suggestive selling. Recommending a signature menu item, and accompanying side dishes, beverages and desserts can result in increased sales of high profit items.

Think of your employees as "internal marketers." With some training guidelines and selling tools, you can create a successful team of marketing professionals.

So, what's the first requirement for successful selling? Know your product. Does your staff know what is special about your menu items? Can they make menu recommendations that are sure to result in a sale? Remember that many of your guests don't know what they want to order when they arrive at your restaurant. Here's your opportunity to guide them to dishes that showcase your talents, and provide the highest gross profit.

Schedule some time during your pre-shift briefing to review the specials of the day, and the descriptions and ingredients that make up an effective suggestive selling script. Take a few minutes to role-play one or more scripts until everyone feels comfortable introducing the item. Also encourage servers to share their successful selling scripts or delivery techniques with each other. The way each server presents the best of your menu should fit their own personality and style. Three of my favorite selling scripts work well with almost any personality.

Effective suggestive-selling means being sensitive to your guests' needs and feelings. Always be reassuring, confident and in-charge. Servers should suggest personal favorites and make recommendations whenever possible. Guests enjoy being served by a professional who knows the food and has opinions on which menu items are the best. Service is about delivering on a promise–about exceeding expectations, and creating value.

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