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Suggestive Selling is Key to Restaurant Profits

Want to know the trick to bump up the bottom line? We have the answer!

No matter what type of restaurant you have: quick service, fast food, sit-down or delivery, it is easy to make more money for your business and better tips for your staff.  Pushy servers and greedy business owners often use tactics to trick the customer in order to increase the bill, giving suggestive selling sales techniques a bad connotation- like car salesman or telemarketers.   However, if done correctly, implementing suggestive selling can do just the trick to bump the bottom line while still giving customers a great experience.   What exactly is suggestive selling?  It is simply using sales techniques, like up-selling and cross-selling, in order to obtain a higher profit.  Let’s go over the differences:

Up-selling is the simple task of getting the customer to spend more than he or she was originally going to spend.  Cross-selling is a strategy to sell a complementary product that is related to the one they are already buying.  They work hand in hand to add small profits to each ticket.  Chain restaurants up-sell all the time in its most basic form by simply asking to super-size your meal, adding curly fries instead of regular ones that come with the meal, or even adding on fifty-cent sauces.  Those small additions of pennies here and there add up in a hurry as long as every single customer is asked, every time. 

Online ordering is another great tool that should be utilized by every restaurant because of the incredible up-sell opportunities, and the reach of customers you might not have encountered naturally.  Younger generations, for instance, would rather place their order through mobile interfaces rather than face to face conversation.  Online menu features make it easy for singles and even large groups, to customize orders at the touch of a button.  They can quickly add elements, such as toppings or sides, and can easily be prompted to “add this item that other customers have ordered,” which is an effective upsell technique with minimal effort by the restaurant itself.

In a sit-down restaurant, up-selling requires a little more finesse than fast food or quick service chains.  It must be done in a way where the customer doesn’t know they are being sold extra items, and can never be pushy.   The number one key to up-selling is that your staff should know the menu inside and out, and what your best signature dishes are.  It is important to have every person on your team try all menu items too so they can answer questions and offer honest suggestions based on their own taste.  Routinely go over new items or changes in the menu so they know how to up-sell and which items to focus on.  This will also help servers be specific.   Instead of asking “Did you guys want some dessert?”, how about “You know, a piece of our famous chocolate cake would taste amazing after that burger.”   Don’t forget about take-out… customers might be too busy to order dessert there, but you can still convince them that they should take some cheesecake home to share.  

Unsure or hesitant customers are good customers to focus on because they will be more apt to take suggestions.  If they are questioning whether to get a 12 oz. or 20 oz. steak, you might try asking first if they want the 20 oz. steak and most of the time they will just go with your suggestion rather than saying no.  Nodding also helps.  It might sound silly, but nodding while offering an upsell could convince them to also nod “yes” with you.  Give them delicious details when describing an option could convince them to go with what makes their mouth water.  If someone asks about the tilapia, offer something with a higher profit margin:  “That’s very good, but my personal favorite is the smoked salmon covered in a smooth, creamy butter sauce.”  Remember staff shouldn’t think about up-selling as offering customers items they don’t want, but instead, they are helping the customers decide and making their dining experience better.

When a customer asks for a recommendation, this is the perfect opportunity for a server to upsell without seeming pushy or irritating.  Offer one of the more expensive items on the menu, or two types of wine (withholding the fact that one is more expensive).  By giving a better description of the pricier item, it will seem more appealing so the guest will ultimately choose it.  Keep servers in check and remind them to use a 25% up-sell rule: trying not to suggest food items that are too expensive from what the customer originally had in mind.  It can backfire and come across as pushy.  Practice makes perfect when it comes to being descriptive and enthusiastic about menu items, so make sure all your staff members have it down.  Try roll playing exercises so they know just what to say in all types of scenarios.  The more comfortable the waiter, the more comfortable the customer will be with trusting him.

Every business could use some extra profits, but as mentioned, up-selling should not be a pushy sales tactic.  It’s a necessary strategy for your restaurant’s success while increasing the customer’s dining experience.  Being patient will pay off.  Proving your staff is knowledgeable and friendly will keep customers coming back again and again, no matter the type of foodservice.

Author: Samantha
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