Upselling Techniques in Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide

Upselling Techniques in Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide

A strong upselling strategy might be the missing ingredient from your venue. The ability to carefully and intelligently encourage customers to purchase more premium items helps improve their dining experience and increase your venue's profitability.

This guide contains everything you need to know about upselling in a restaurant. Share these tips with your team and watch your restaurants push out chef's specials and wine pairings like never before.

What is upselling?

Upselling is the process of persuading customers to purchase more expensive items in your business. It involves using a range of techniques to subtly nudge customers into making a decision to choose a more premium item.

Don't view upselling purely through the lens of financial gain. You and your staff should approach upselling as a chance to benefit both the business and the customer by delivering more premium service.

Upselling vs cross-selling

While upselling refers to convincing a customer to upgrade a particular purchase to a more expensive one, cross-selling refers to convincing customers to purchase additional products on top of their initial order.

Persuading a customer to purchase the steak instead of the salmon is an example of successful upselling. Successfully ensuring a customer orders an item on the dessert menu is an example of successful cross-selling.

It is useful to understand this difference, but you should implement both upselling and cross-selling techniques in your restaurant. Our guide will include tips focussing on both of these tactics.

Why is upselling important in a restaurant?

Upselling allows you to increase your average order value per customer. When a customer is in your restaurant, the hard work you have done with establishing and marketing your restaurant has paid off. Upselling allows you to maximise your ability to profit from customers that are already in your venue.

If your sales are down or your average spend per customer is too low, upselling is one of the most easily actionable steps you can take. Your customers are already in the venue, and upselling allows you to maximise the amount of revenue you can generate from their visit.

The steps you can take to implement upselling techniques in your restaurant are also relatively simple. Training your staff or altering your menu are often much simpler tasks than implementing a major marketing strategy or expanding into online ordering.

Upselling can therefore be an excellent shortcut to achieving high profit margins in your restaurant. A higher profit margin leads directly to a more financially successful menu.

10 upselling techniques for restaurants

We have assembled 10 of the best upselling strategies you can apply in your venue to increase your chances of securing upsells and cross-sells.

1. Prioritise sincerity

It is important to have the proper perspective on upselling in your restaurant. You should view it not as a way to bolster profit margins, but as a way to improve your customer's dining experience in a way that benefits them as well as your business.

You should establish this perspective from the beginning of your training procedures. Rather than repeatedly referring to upsells or cross-sells, use terms like "enhanced dining experience" or "culinary upgrade" to emphasise the more important aspect of your strategy.

When framed in this manner, upsells aren't just a way to increase revenue in your restaurant. They are a way to offer a more tailor-made dining experience that will boost customer loyalty and satisfaction. When approached in this way, most customers will be far more willing to add a bottle of wine to their dinner.

2. Train your staff

Training is critical for the effective implementation of upselling techniques in your restaurant. Take the time to educate your staff on the fundamentals of food, such as the five basic tastes, balancing of flavours, wine pairings and more.

Providing this education within the context of your menu will provide a helpful launchpad for their improved understanding of cuisine. You should also take this opportunity to go over other elements of your upselling strategy with your staff, including any targets you have and the other tips assembled in this guide.

If you want to go the extra mile to secure upsells and cross-sells, you may need to invest in some more extensive staff training. For example, paying for a staff member to take a sommelier course will allow them to more effectively implement wine pairings on your menu, and suggest other wine choices to customers.

3. Ensure your staff has tasted the menu

It is crucial for a successful upselling strategy that your staff is well-versed in your menu. If they aren't, how can they give educated guidance for customers?

Customers will have much more confidence in investing in more expensive menu items if your staff can offer authentic, genuine advice.

When conducting a staff tasting, give your chefs the opportunity to discuss the dishes with your front-of-house team members. This will provide even more education for your team, and might even help them improve their cooking at home!

4. Offer samples

Offering free samples is a low-cost way to secure upsells and cross-sells. What better way to convince a customer that they will enjoy a menu item than to give them the chance to taste it?

Giving customers the chance to sample a dish shows that you are confident that it will be a complementary addition to their meal. It also helps a customer to feel valued and make their dining experience more memorable.

5. Chef's selections

A great chef is one of the best assets a restaurant can have. Show off your chef's knowledge by preparing a menu of "chef's selections". If given the opportunity, your chef is sure to populate this menu with high-end dishes packed with premium ingredients.

Chef's selections naturally carry an air of exclusivity and special care which are sure to draw the customer's eye. It should not be difficult for your staff to convince any foodie to give the chef's selections a try.

6. Wine pairings

Wine pairings can be one of the most effective upselling techniques for your restaurant to implement. Foodies the world over know the best possible way to enjoy a meal is with a glass of vino in hand.

Develop a logical menu of wine pairings and have your team's sommelier (either official or unofficial) educate the rest of your team about wine and how to complement the food with it.

Other tactics for maximising wine pairings as an upselling technique include selling wines by the half glass or having options for different price ranges.

If you want to get really creative, you can create course pairings with other alcohols as well. Advertising beer or whiskey pairings is a rare treat some customers won't be able to turn down.

7. Get descriptive

The more information you can give about your dish, the better. Use language that appeals to all the senses so you can accurately describe how it tastes, looks and smells.

Think back to your high school English classes and consider which verbal techniques you can employ to make your venue's dishes sound as irresistible as possible. Unleashing your inner salesperson develops skills and will help your venue secure more upsells and more money.

8. The power of body language

It is often said that 93% of communication is non-verbal. While that exact figure is up for debate, there's no question that there are plenty of ways you can influence others without ever opening your mouth.

Here are a few forms of body language you can use to help secure an upsell or cross-sell:

  • Smile: A nice smile is one of the key indicators of friendliness and positivity. It is an important way to begin to establish a connection with your customers.
  • Nod: Nodding is important for active listening and indicating that you are attentive to what the customer is saying. It helps to convince the customer that you are attuned to what they are expressing to you.
  • Lean in: Leaning in during a conversation helps to establish a connection and indicates interest and attentiveness.
  • Eye contact: When making strong eye contact, there's no doubt as to where your attention lies. It is therefore helpful in establishing a connection and trust when trying to secure an upsell.



9.Offer takeaway

Your diners may find themselves unable to consume that dessert or add-on you're trying to upsell, no matter how much they want to. In this case, suggest to them that they can take it home.

Remind your customers about this from the outset of the meal. For example, if they're unsure whether a side dish will be too much food for them, tell them that they can take any leftovers in a takeaway container.

If they still refuse to order the dish in question, there is a way to turn the situation to your advantage. Reiterate just how delicious the menu item is, and tell them that they'll have to return to your venue in order to try it out!

10. Know your target

Understanding your target audience is an essential component of a successful upsell. Different types of diners will naturally have different desires when they arrive at your venue.

Here are a few common scenarios you may find yourself dealing with in your restaurant, and how you can maximise the opportunity for upselling:

  • Large celebrations: If you have a large table in your venue celebrating a birthday or other special event, offer to start off the evening with a bottle of champagne.
  • Romantic dinner: When a couple comes into your venue to celebrate their anniversary, it's time to mention your most decadent bottle of red. During events like this, customers are likely to be willing to spend big to make their night even more special.
  • Kids: If you're serving a family on a night out, mention kids' menu add-ons like chips or ice cream. The parents will likely soon give in to their pleading children.

Improve your restaurant's performance with ResDiary

If you want to achieve the highest profit margins possible in your restaurant, ResDiary is the perfect tool to help. We understand how difficult and unforgiving the restaurant industry can be, which is why we aim to make your job as easy as possible.

Our table management functionality makes acquiring and handling your reservations simple. We also offer over 60 integrations enabling you to maintain many of your operations through our service, including EPOS systems.

You can even utilise ResDiary to expand your offerings to include pre-orders, takeaway and more. Book a demo today and find out how ResDiary can boost your restaurant's performance.