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Help Servers Upsell with Guest-Pleasing Dishes

waiter taking order recommendation

When ordering at a restaurant, guests often appreciate the personal recommendation of a knowledgeable and easy-going server. Creating a menu that facilitates upselling—the suggestion of special menu items or food and beverage pairings that enhance the dining experience and warrant an upcharge—pays off for all involved.

“If it is done correctly, and you can work it into your price points, everyone benefits,” says Brendan McDermott, chef-instructor in the culinary arts program at Kendall College in Chicago. “The customer feels like they have options, the waitstaff gets a better tip and the restaurant makes money.”

Small Plates, Big Money

Appetizers, small plates and side dishes are especially fertile ground for upselling. In fact, grazing, snacking or sharing small plates in lieu of a traditional meal is a growing trend. And 47% of consumers said that ordering small plates is a good way to share dishes when dining with a large group, according to Technomic’s Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report released last year.

Today’s successful menus typically include starters and small bites that are widely appealing and easy to upsell. “If you have a server who can make you feel comfortable and direct you to something that makes you happy, it is very important,” says McDermott.

Do you want fries with that?

Consider french fries. It takes just a few tweaks to transform this familiar, craveable item from a side into an upsell attraction. For instance, offer guests seasoned fries with a trio of custom dipping sauces, such as black pepper mayo, pesto and sweet Thai chili. Another idea is to use seasoned onion rings or fried jalapeno coins as add-on toppers for gourmet sliders.

In addition, operators can leverage the popularity of loaded fries by venturing beyond familiar cheese and chili fries—giving them an even livelier persona by piling on diced grilled chicken, queso fresco, cheddar jack cheese and diced roasted jalapenos.

Beverage Offerings

Food and beverage pairings, samplers and combos offer more opportunities to upsell. Servers should be able to suggest a coffee drink that perfectly matches cheesecake or a craft beer that shines with street tacos. Fans of zesty flavors will relish a flight of seasoned fries, tater tots and stuffed jalapenos paired with complementary sauces and three short pours of trendy brews.

Upsellers should also take advantage of the growth of snacking occasions. Eighty-three percent of consumers snack on a daily basis in 2016, up from 76 percent in 2014, according to the Technomic Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. Snacking is especially popular among millennials, 54% of whom are likely or extremely likely to order appetizers at happy hour in a full-service restaurant, Technomic says. Underscoring the left side of the menu’s likelihood to gain more ground in off-peak occasions involving snacking, happy hours and bar menus.

Upsells keep customers happy with personal recommendation to expanding their tastes where they may not have. And offer a higher income for the establishment and its employees. With today’s increasing trends in snacking, there’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

This post is sponsored by McCain Foods

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