Your dining experience must be fresh and exciting to keep guests happy and coming back. Sampling is an excellent opportunity to improve sales of high profit menu items and test new menu items. If you're lucky enough have a waiting list for tables, sampling can make the time go by faster for your customers and more profitably for you. Offering samples not only offsets hunger, but it's perceived as a gracious and generous "value-added" benefit by guests to yur restaurant.
Sample to the saff during your pre-shift briefing
Introduce the item to be sampled during a pre-shift briefing, and allow everyone to have a taste. "Hooking" the servers is the first step in successful sampling. If it’s something new and different — and if they like it — they'll sell it.
Designate a server
Choose one person from each shift to interact with the guests and offer the samples. You want an outgoing, friendly person—preferably a waiter or waitress, or a skilled busser or food runner—who loves people, has a ready smile and a generous nature, and likes to have fun.
Purchase a series of attractive serving platters that complement your food and decor. For example, rustic, southwestern-style platters with cactus and chili pepper designs are perfect for sampling Mexican or Southwest cuisine.
Assemble point of purchase materials
Buttons, recipe cards, mini table tents, server scripts, color postcards, and color menu cards are effective sampling "props." Many food manufacturers design these marketing tools and make them available through the distributor. Ask your sales rep.
Be careful what you sample
Sampled items should be served in small easy-to-handle portions. Avoid sticky fingers, gooey sauces and items too large to eat with one bite or one hand. When executed correctly, there's no better way to entice customers to try a new item than through sampling.
Develop, practice and role play the verbal script
This is show business. You should have a script and protocols for how guests should be approached, what should be said, and how responses should be framed. And take the time to role play. Practice the narrative at least ten times with each other before going out on the floor.
My Special Report on Sampling provides additional details and protocols for successful sampling in your operation.
Sampling is a great way to create a personal connection with your guests. It is the practiced art of true hospitality, and is a powerful way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. On the surface you're conducting menu merchandising (and market research) in its purest form. Ultimately you're creating word-of-mouth ambassadors — advertising that no amount of money can buy.