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3 min read

Nearly every restaurant I have served or bartended at I have been told to recommend or upsell certain items; “Try to sell a Perfect Margarita to every table,” “Push the special,” “Upsell the liquor.” Oddly enough however, not one of these places trained me how to effectively do so. We are going to look at how to do that today.

Initially, I viewed upselling as very fake, ineffective, and on some grounds an immoral practice

. I felt like I was trying to purposefully push customers into ordering more expensive items that they didn’t want. I therefore rarely upsold and when I tried to upsell, I did it poorly.

Now, there are restaurants that push this kind of upselling, however it is ineffective, demoralizing, and comes off as an old time car salesman. Hard selling customers rarely works in a restaurant environment. Instead, we are going to take a softer, natural, and educating approach.

One of the biggest ways to help your serving staff is to flip the script from salesperson to educator. You are not actively selling an item, rather you are informing them of its existence, and explaining why it’s a desirable product. Think more marketing than sales. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

You want to sell the feature: A hand-cut prime rib

Poor: We have a hand-cut prime rib on special tonight. It’s served with fingerling potatoes and vegetables for 19.99

Good: Tonight, if you’re interested, we have a tender prime rib that is hand-cut in house. It’s seasoned with our custom blend of spices and cooked to order. We pair that with hand-picked, local fingerling potatoes which look like fun-size baked potatoes but have a bit more fullness to their flavor. It’s also partnered with fresh and buttered asparagus. A 10 ounce cut is 19.99. I got to try it before my shift, and it melts in your mouth.

Customer: What’s good here?

Poor: It’s all good.

Good: We do a lot well, but we are known for our burgers. With our house burger, you get a half pound patty that is cooked to the temp you want, we top it with cheddar cheese, four strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato, a fried onion ring, and our house barbecue sauce that’s both tangy and sweet. We pile all that on top of a pretzel bun and serve it with a heap of waffle fries. You can pair the fries with sour cream if you really want to go all in. It’s amazing! It pairs great with the pilsner you’re drinking as well.

As you can see, using a lot of descriptors helps the customer visualize and almost taste the food prior to ordering.

I know many national restaurants try to push specific products by requiring you to mention specific items such as “a refreshing Coca-Cola” however these required phrases are almost always forced and fake and become almost a joke for the servers.

Instead sell more of your desired products by educating rather than hard selling. Customers will listen better, have a better experience, and will likely end up buying that product more often than with the hard sell. It’s more natural, it empowers your employees, and is better for business.