Waitress Takes Order In Restaurant Using Digital Tablet

We all want our guests to buy more, order more and spend more. But how can we convince them to do that in a way that’s not a turn off?

Training your servers to upsell can definitely have these results, but so can training them to sell suggestively. This approach can feel a bit more personal, less aggressive and servers can put their own personality into it. With social media becoming such a big part of running a restaurant, your guests feel a more personal connection with the restaurant they love, and the hard sell can feel impersonal.

Training your staff to be a bit more personal in how they talk to your guests and sell to them specifically can bring a big bump in revenue, while leaving everyone feeling good about the transaction.

Young man ordering food in a restaurant. Handsome man checking his order written by waitress. Young waitress offering tasty dishes options to smiling guests. Waitress writing a order.

Consider these suggestions as you start to work this type of selling into your business.

Start With The Welcome

Whether your guest is being a seated at a table, or just cozied up the bar, welcome each guest personally and with a question that requires a specific answer.

Start a conversation, and learn a bit about the guest so appropriate suggestions can be made. Avoid the generic open ended questions like, “Let me know if you have any questions” and replace them with specific questions such as, “Do you want to hear about the new craft beers we have on tap?”


Customize Suggestions For The Guest

With this type of selling, you definitely want to avoid the canned sales pitches that sound like you’ve memorized a script. People can see right through that.

Instead, pay attention to the guest and make relevant suggestions to them that are personal.

  • If they order a glass of Muscadet, mention how much you like this wine with raw oysters. Bartenders in particular are perfectly positioned to make suitable suggestions since the nature of their position is to engage in conversations.
  • If a stool was just filled by someone who remarked on their love of barbecue, mention how delicious the ribs on the menu are.
  • Is it someone’s first visit to Rhode Island? Let them know your state is famous for its stuffed quahogs.


Train All Employees Consistently

Be sure all employees are trained similarly so that your guests have similar experiences, regardless of who they’re interacting with.

All employees should approaching selling with their own unique personalities so that it feels more genuine, but the basic types of interactions should be consistent. Make your expectations are clear, and train employees specifically on what you’d like them to sell.

If you’re hoping to increase sales through more appetizers being ordered, train your employees to avoid questions like, “Would you like to start your meal with an appetizer?” Instead, try for something along the lines of, “The citrus flavors in this cocktail work so well with the summer salad.”


A more natural selling approach can set a relaxed tone in your dining room, and leave your guests feeling happy with the purchases they made and the amount of money they spent. And hopefully they’ll be back again and again, turning into a loyal guest and a regular income stream.
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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.