For those who want to know everything.

Up-selling Tips.

stepsMoney.  Servers want to make it, owners want to make it and manager bonuses depend on everyone else making it, for them to make it.

Money is only acquired through sales and the higher the guest check average is, the better.  That’s great news because everyone has an opportunity to generate higher check averages, but how?

First we have to consider your sales barriers:

Barrier 1: Fear of being pushy

Some people think that sharing information is considered pushy.  This is simply a flaw in perception.  Perception dictates how you see the world. If you can change your perception, you can change your world.  If you’re in the mood, I have two stories to help you:

A business man married a woman.  He had to travel a lot for his job. Every time he returned he told his wife of all the great things he had seen on his trip. “Oh Sally, we stayed at this hotel and the people were so friendly! The yard was gorgeous, and the flowers! The flowers on the patio were great.  We ate at this Steakhouse and it was absolutely delicious”!  Sally was kind of jealous. After years of hearing about these trips, she finally asked if she could join him and have fun too.  He was thrilled and she joined him on the very next one.  They stayed a decent hotel, ate at decent restaurants…everything was decent.  Sally was a little pissed.  It would be her luck that the one business trip she went on, it was kind of lame.

Fast forward a few weeks. Sally and business man husband go out to dinner with a couple friend.  The couple asks how the business trip went that Sally joined on.  Sally rolled her eyes, but before she could begin her husband went off. “It was superb.  Having Sally there was fantastic! Our hotel was so wonderful and the city was absolutely bustling and the energy was awesome.  We ate a great restaurant and had such a great time”!  It was then that Sally realized that she was married to the most positive man with the most awesome life perspective on the planet. His life was great because his perspective of it made it so.

Story 2

I used to be a makeup counter lady for Estee Lauder.  I had to attend a sales/information conference where I learned a valuable lesson that translates perfectly to restaurants.

Everyone got a piece of paper and pen and a question was asked: Your best friend is getting married. How much are you willing to spend on a dress, makeup, nails, shoes, dinner, bachelorette party, etc? Think about it and write down your answer.

Everyone was then asked to stand up.

Sit down if you would spend less than $100.00.  No one sat down

Sit down if you would spend less than $250.00.  A handful of people sat, (myself included…come on, I was broke and 23!)

Sit down if you would spend less than $500.00.  More people sat.

Sit down if you would spend less than $2000.00. More people sat, but there was still a LOT of people standing.

HOLY SHIT!  I was stunned.  The lesson I learned that translates to you and your profession is this: you never know who is sitting down at your table, why they are sitting down or what they are prepared to spend.  Do Not Assume they are cheap like me. 🙂

Barrier 2: no pride in product

You have to, must, gotta work where you feel pride. This can not be remedied with a story.  It may be time for you to find a new job or for you to take the time to appreciate what your restaurant offers.

Managers, you can have a strong impact here. How is pride generated?  DO IT!  Include people on decisions. Ask opinions. Have one-on-one conversations with your staff. Don’t be the micro-manager dictator dick.


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Barrier 3: no knowledge in product

Managers!  Helloooooo!!!  This is your realm.  You have to, must, gotta make sure that your servers are well informed about the products that you offer.  That may take line-ups, quizzes, one-on-one questions and dialogue, it might be trying the special and having people write a 2 sentence description of it to fully process it (then have everyone read their descriptions.  Learning and sharing! Yay!).

Never assume that everyone knows everything.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat,  information, often and in different ways.

You have an army of people that are representing your restaurant. How well are you arming them?

Barrier 4: no comfort (yet) in spiel.

Practice makes perfect. Practice removes glitches. Practice creates comfort. Practice, practice, practice!!!

You should have a template that you use for your introduction and spiels. There is no way to make it great except for repetition and consideration. Re-arrange some sentences. Play with adjectives.  Make it yours!

Part 2. Sales Opportunities

A Lesson from McDonalds

If you go through the McDonalds drive through, the closing statement of the drive through person will be one of two things:

  1. Would you like anything else / is that all for you?
  2. Would you like fries or a large soda today?

Guess which one converts more?  If you said number 2, you’d be correct.

Offering people specific products is a much more powerful sales tactic.

When someone offers a generic “anything else” offer, your brain has to scan all possible options, and who has time for that shenanigans!?!  The automatic response is “no,  just get me out of this drive through before anyone I know sees me”!

Now, when the drive through person offers you fries or a drink, your brain quickly and effortlessly scans those items through your palate and decides if they sound good or not.  If they sound good, McDonalds has just increased their check average.  But that’s okay because you get an item or two that sounded good to you.

The key in restaurant sales is to offer specifics and let them run the flavors through their palate.

It’s the same thing when you are talking to a friend about where to grab something to eat.  You run through the options. “Do you want Chinese”? “No”. “Italian”? “No”. “Mexican”? “No”. “Ummm, Pizza”? “You already said Italian, no”. And on and on…

So, how does this work during your shift?  Think of your sales opportunities. Here are 5 examples.

1.  Greeting.  You MUST create a spiel that flows from your beautiful mouth, glitch free and elegantly.  Choppy spiels are painful to listen to and therefor are often ignored.  That initial spiel is the beginning of the sales process so utilize it. 

2.  Informing guests of specials is a great way to upsell, IF you paint the right picture.

Specials sell for two reasons: Price or Deliciousness, cheap or yum. You can’t control the price or people’s spending comfort level, but you can control the way people see it, therefor how they taste it in their mind.

Look at the 2 differences:

Tonight we have a 6 ounce filet mignon served with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Tonight Chef is featuring a 6 ounce Missouri raised Filet Mignon, cooked to whatever temperature you prefer.  He is serving it with whipped russet potatoes and a fresh french cut green beans with a butter finish.

Paint a picture.  Paint a great picture.

3.  Recommendations.  Sometimes there is no special which is great, now you have freedom to steer your guests.  The bottom line of being a server is to sell and to guide.  You are responsible for guiding the guest through the tastes, flavors and options that your restaurant offers.  Your restaurant is unique, show it off.

“If I may, the chicken is always really succulent and people comment on it a LOT.  Also, if you are in the mood for beef, the Rib Eye is delicious”.

4.  Early mentions. Inform your guests about a product that you will be offering to them later, a dessert special is a perfect example.

If you paint the right picture of the dessert special coming down the pipeline, people will begin to make plans; plans to order it or hear more about it. Beware of timing though, tell people about the dessert special after you have the savory order. You don’t want to lose a $12 appetizer order for a $9 dessert order.

You don’t have to go overboard, but you do have to mention.

5.  Alcohol! This is the cream of the crop in getting your ticket sales higher.  There are so many options here. Make some of these knee-jerk responses and watch your sales grow.

Up-sell spirit:  When someone orders a cocktail, know what the base is and have a knee-jerk auto-response to an up-sell option. Don’t go unfairly high, (they want a cognac and you up-sell them to a $47 one. It may seem great but if they have sticker shock over the unexpected price they will be pissed, won’t tip well and may not return,…and tell their friends that they got screwed at your restaurant). A few bucks is not a big deal, $47 might be.

The goal is to get them out of the “well” option and into a premium option.

Example:I’ll take a Cosmopolitan”. Would you like them to use a Citron vodka?  It’s the classic preparation ingredient and it makes a mean Cosmo!

Up-sell drink: Mentioning an option, like McDonalds, is a great way to make sales.  Will everyone bite?  No, but that’s not the point.  The point is to have a worm to offer in the first place.

You should offer a cocktail or a glass of wine if they have not ordered one.  If they order the steak, tell them the Robert Sinsky Cabernet is a beautiful pairing.  If they order the oysters in the half shell, offer a premium chilled vodka or a glass of Chablis.  (That sounds SO GOOD to me right now!!)

Make it a Special: I love offering a flight as a dessert special, (whether it is a special or not). If you’re uncomfortable with the word “special”, change it to “featured”.

A scotch flight. See example. Mikasa Brewmasters Beer Tasting Flight set

A dessert wine flight.  See example. Dine Art Three-Tier Wine Glass Holder

A beer flight. See example. This one is awesome! Personalized Beer Flight Gift

Flights do a few things. They make people feel special. They educate. They entice others to get in on the fun.  I believe that esthetics are valuable in restaurants.  Showing a visual summation of a “special” has high impact, that’s why I like special flight containers. They get peoples attention and make the one who ordered it feels more special and “big baller”. Look at the examples above to see what I mean.  Carrying these through your dining room will get attention and propel more sales.

It doesn’t have to be a flight.  You can feature anything you want, any drink you love.  Chocolate martini’s, house infused spirits, spicy bloody mary’s, gazpacho martini, 20 year tawny port, etc.

The point is to make it a part of your spiel!  Repetition will remove any discomfort you have in “selling”.

I want you to make a lot of money and increase your check averages. Implement these tactics and watch your tips grow and your guests leave happy.

I hope these ideas inspire you!  Keep me posted on your success and struggles.  Contact me from the feedback button on the left of the screen, or sign up for my newsletter for weekly tips and an easy way to keep in touch with me!

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1 Comment
  1. I really love how you explained everything! Extremely helpful and to the point Thanks a bunch! : )

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