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Competition is fierce in today’s restaurant industry. To make your restaurant a success, you need to find ways to maximize revenue — and in many cases, that means upselling. The more items each customer buys, the larger the total sale amount.

The secret to successful upselling? You must understand which additional items will enhance the customer experience and figure out how and when to recommend them. With targeted suggestions and smart upselling techniques, you can increase customer satisfaction and boost your bottom line.

Why is upselling vital to your business?

Upselling is the practice of encouraging each customer to purchase more than they originally intended. If a table decides to order only entrées, for example, your servers might suggest a pre-meal cocktail or a shared appetizer. Another important upselling opportunity comes after the meal — you’ve probably seen restaurant staff selling customers on the delights of the dessert menu.

Done effectively, this type of selling strategy can increase sales and profits. That’s not all; it’s also a great way to showcase your premium offerings, introduce new menu items, and create a more exciting customer journey.

Upselling techniques: recipes for success

Like any type of selling, upselling is both an art and a science. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity; your servers can try out different upselling techniques to find the ones that work best. When it’s rooted in genuine helpfulness and enthusiasm, this type of selling can feel natural and comfortable for both servers and customers. In fact, it can even build customer loyalty and help you retain current customers.

  1. Understand your menu. Before they can upsell effectively, your entire team must know the restaurant menu inside and out. Ideally, they’ll have tried every dish; personal experience makes it easier to describe the items and make better product recommendations. If a customer can’t have a specific ingredient, for example, your servers should be able to suggest similar products.
  2. Analyze customer behavior. Learn to observe your customers closely and identify the upselling techniques they’ll respond to best. If a table is in the mood to chat, your servers might spend a few minutes building a rapport before making friendly suggestions. If they’re celebrating, the server could suggest an additional product that feels special or indulgent.
  3. Tailor your product recommendations. Train your team to identify a complementary product for each item on the menu. Wine pairings are a good cross-selling example — when a customer orders a prime cut of beef, the server might suggest a top-tier red wine that brings out the unique flavor of the meat. If a customer asks a question about a specific dish, your team should be able to suggest relevant products with similar flavor profiles. The more tailored the recommendation, the more receptive the customer will be.
  4. Personalize upsell offers. Do you have existing customers who come in regularly? Make a point to familiarize yourself with their order histories and preferences. That way, you can suggest dishes that are aligned with their needs. It’s an easy way to make diners feel special and increase customer retention — and boost customer lifetime value in the process.
  5. Nail the timing and presentation. Timing is one of the most critical selling techniques; you must catch customers when they’re in the right frame of mind. Ease in with an expected upsell offer, such as a cocktail or an appetizer. Then, you can suggest add-ons for entrées and end the meal with an offer of coffee or dessert. How you present each option matters, too; after a big meal, you might emphasize the restaurant’s lightest desserts. If it’s cold outside, a spiked hot cider might be more appealing than a chilled martini.
  6. Highlight promotions and discounts. Everyone likes to save money; when you’re selling add-ons to the original purchase, show customers you have their best interests in mind by helping them get the most added value. Let them know about specials, promotions, and discounts the restaurant is currently running. This is one of the simplest upselling techniques, but it can boost customer satisfaction and turn a casual diner into a loyal customer who brings in recurring revenue.
  7. Train your employees. Some workers are naturally gifted when it comes to selling; others require a bit of assistance. By investing in employee training, you can help all your servers understand best practices and find the right language, tone, and techniques. Role-playing is a great training tool — it exposes the team to different selling situations and helps them overcome initial discomfort and hesitation. Ask more experienced servers to showcase their sales techniques before inviting newer employees to try out an upselling strategy.

As you’re testing out different selling strategies, give your employees plenty of flexibility. When they have the freedom to develop a cross-selling technique that suits their personality and style, servers can provide better customer service across the board.

Sell more with Grubhub

Of all the selling techniques you use in your restaurant, upselling is one of the best ways to cultivate profitable customers and create real growth in your profit margins. If you want to boost your delivery revenue as well, consider partnering with Grubhub. In addition to professional delivery services, we offer a variety of helpful resources and technology integrations. The built-in rating system provides social proof, so customers can feel confident making a larger purchase. The customer insights dashboard gives you valuable information about your customers to inform your loyalty strategy. Our platform can even use customer data to handle upselling on your behalf — and with custom promotions, it’s easy to turn a potential customer into a paying guest.

Ready to explore all the features that can support your upselling goals? Get started with Grubhub today