For those unfamiliar with the term, upselling is when a waitress (or any other type of salesperson) can talk the customer into purchasing something slightly better and more expensive than they initially asked for.

The company encourages us to do this because, in the end, it means more sales for them, a higher check average for us, and a more satisfied customer.

Yesterday, I worked an afternoon shift. People don't tend to order as much at lunch, so I had to make the most of the tables I did have.

Upselling is not just about offering the wonderful options. It needs to be done with a little finesse. Servers need to be able to read their guest to gauge the best way to approach the suggestions.

There is a certain stigmatism associated with words like loaded, smothered, king size, super size, monster, etc. So if a customer orders a baked potato, don't ask if they want it loaded. Explain the choice in descriptive words that make it harder to resist. Would you like cheese, bacon, and chives melted on the top of your potato?
You can always upsell by getting the customer to purchase a larger size of the item they already ordered. Many of our appetizers come in a regular and large size. When they are ordered, I don't ask if customers want small or large. I offer them 8 piece or 12. The same goes for our salads and several of our steaks. I offer by ounces. 16 ounces is a respectable size for a meal. But you have no idea how many people can't resist the thought of a 24 ounce plate of steak.

When you offer an appetizer or a dessert, be sure to have a specific one in mind.

Did anyone save room for some chocolate cheesecake?
Ohhh That does sound good. Hmmmm... All right...

It takes a bit of practice, but for the most part, I can raise my sales by quite a bit, just by knowing the menu, and discovering how the customers need to be approached. It definitely shows in my tips at the end of the night...

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Tags: average, check, servers, upselling


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Comment by Paul Paz on July 13, 2008 at 9:22am
Good ideas!
Here's another tactic for upsellfing

"What do you recommend"?

So my customer asks, "What do you recommend"? I instinctively describe in delicious detail the open flamed fresh salmon, my favorite. With furrowed brow and pursed lips my customer replies, "I hate fish"!

Mistake: I didn't research my customer's interests before I launched into my sincere recommendations! I've wasted their time, my time, my other guests' time, and possibly annoyed them because I didn't "guess" correctly,

Try this approach instead:

Do you prefer: beef, chicken, or seafood?
Light or dark beer… import or domestic?
Red or white wine… dry or sweet?
Are you big hungry or little hungry?

Once you've narrowed their interests then make two suggestions.

Remember: by asking the right question (s) the waiter empowers the customer to make choices that best fit their preferences. Be the dinner detective: know your products, ask the right questions, be alert to verbal and non-verbal customer clues. Then make the sale!
Comment by Waitress4Life on July 12, 2008 at 5:57pm
Exactly! Suggesting the most expensive item on the menu usually comes across as a blatant attempt to raise the check average.

What if she were to use the menu as a tool, and point to the steak right below the Porterhouse?
"We have a very tender top sirloin that comes served with mushrooms and garlic sauce, or (as her finger slides up the page) the best steak on the menu - The porterhouse. "
See, I just SNUCK it in there, and you didn't think I was trying to be pushy, did you?!?

My personal favorite to suggest is our Lobster Roll. (Which does happen to be one of our most expensive items.) But I always follow it with some reasoning "Oh, I grew up on the cost of Maine, and I have eaten MANY lobster rolls. This is definitely one of the best."

See, it takes some practice, and I've had quite a bit. Like I said - it's an art.
Comment by Adam R. Cox on July 12, 2008 at 6:55am
So true. My family was out the other night and had a simular experince. I asked what was good. The waitress came back with her ideas. A Ribeye or Porterhouse. Both very large and the most expensive on the entire menu. That shut me down. We split a Ribeye & Ceasar.

Then for dessert she did bring the tray over. We ended up with a Lemon Bar/Cheese cake/ Creme Brulee thing. My 4 yo Daughter wanted something else. The same waitress offered a $3 cupcake. We passed.

Two things here: One the waitress needs more training. She was very nice and I did tip well since the service was great. Second: The restaurant needs to adjust prices. (They were always this high)




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