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The restaurant industry already runs on razor-thin margins, and restrictions due to the current pandemic have made it even more difficult to bring in revenue. Whether your guests are visiting you in house or online, there are a few ways you can upsell and cross-sell to them in order to bump up those average order sizes and increase your revenue.

What is a Restaurant’s Average Order Size?

Your restaurant’s average order size, sometimes also called “average order value,” is the dollar amount spent by your customers, divided by the number of tickets in a given time period.

The Average Order Size Formula is:

Dollar Amount Spent By Customers


Number of Tickets


Average Order Size

As an example, if you wanted to calculate your average order size for the past seven days, where you made $150,000 on 1,000 tickets, your average order size would be $15.

$150,000 Weekly Sales


1,000 Tickets


$15 Average Order Size

Once you calculate your restaurant’s average order size, try implementing some of the tips below on upselling and cross-selling. After a period of time, calculate again to test their efficiency and adjust your tactics accordingly.

4 Ways to Increase Your Restaurant’s Average Order Size

According to Sumo, upselling and cross-selling can increase revenue by 10-30% on average. Upselling and cross-selling are similar – they are both ways to encourage customers to order more than they initially intended – but there are two distinct differences. 

  • Upselling is when your servers guide guests towards purchasing a more expensive version of an item. This includes things like subbing regular fries for sweet potato fries for a dollar more, or upgrading their cocktail from well liquor to its top-shelf counterpart.
  • Cross-selling is when a server suggests an additional item that pairs well with what the guest has already ordered, like suggesting a wine to pair with their dish or recommending a dessert when the guest has just ordered a coffee after their meal.

Both of these methods will help increase your average order size, but the key to making them successful is doing it in a way that seems natural and not forced. Below are some tips on how to accomplish this.

1. Train Servers to Pick up on Guest Behaviors

Understanding your guests is a huge part of increasing average order size. A guest who has a lot of questions on wine may also like to hear about your cheese board and what offerings pair best with the wines they’ve chosen. Someone who orders just ice water but comments on the hot weather could be interested in your homemade lavender lemonade. Rather than making arbitrary suggestions, servers should be observant of guests’ verbal and non-verbal cues when it comes to upselling and cross-selling.

Alternately, if a guest seems in a hurry, your servers won’t want to waste their time cross-selling them on desserts or apps, but this does provide an opportunity to recommend a dish that comes out of the oven quickly (and has a higher profit margin than most other dishes.)

Servers also need to understand that not everyone will be interested in what they’re offering, and that’s okay. You can’t win ‘em all! If a guest is dead-set on their choices and seems uninterested in any suggestions, knowing when to back off is essential for ensuring they don’t feel pressured and enjoy their time in your restaurant.

server with customer

2. Make Sure Servers Know the Ins and Outs of Your Menu

Another key component of successfully increasing average order size by upselling and cross-selling is ensuring that your servers know the ins and outs of your menu, as well as some general food and alcohol knowledge.

Have your servers tasted all the items on your menu? Do they know the names of your top-shelf and mid-range spirits and have some basic knowledge of them? If not, it might be time to hold a training refresher course for everyone on staff. It’s important for your staff to have a working knowledge and understanding of these things so that they can confidently make suggestions that make sense.

3. Optimize Your Online Ordering Menu

Whether you use a native online ordering system, third-party apps, or both, building the menu for it isn’t as simple as copying over your in-house menu items. Since online customers don’t have the servers available to make suggestions for them, you need to upsell and cross-sell to them within your online ordering menu.

Key things to consider are:

  • Editing down your menu items: In short, you should keep your best performing and best traveling dishes on the menu and cut the rest.
  • Including high-quality photos: Online guests don’t have the luxury of peeking over at the next table to see what they’ve ordered, so help them out with some visuals.
  • Use clear and concise item descriptions: Make the names of your menu items simple and searchable (ie change “Aunt Betty’s Famous Burger” to “BBQ bacon cheeseburger”) so your items and restaurant show up in more searches.
  • Make it easy for guests to customize items: This includes all possible substitutions, additions, sides, and allergy restrictions. Your servers have the greatest knowledge of what most people ask for in terms of customization, so make sure to get their input when building your online ordering menu.

Read more: 7 Ways to Optimize Your Restaurant’s Online Ordering Menu

4. Add More Modifiers to Your Restaurant POS System

While you want to ensure that your online guests are able to upgrade and customize their items, you’ll also want to do the same for your servers. While they should all be trained on the menu and how to upsell and cross-sell, it’s human nature to forget once in a while, especially during a rush. By adding more forced modifiers to your restaurant POS system, servers will get a pop-up reminder to ask guests about upgrades on sides, desserts, and alcoholic beverages, giving them an assist on increasing their average order size.

Why is turnover is so high, what is the actual cost, and how do you fix it? Find the answers in our Staff Management ebook.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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