A Server’s Guide to Upselling


It’s 7pm on a Friday. Your section went from zero to one hundred. You’ve just been triple sat. Your first table, they like to chat… about everything: their day, your day, their dog’s day, and every single menu item, in detail. Your second table, well, let’s just say they’re a tad curt. Straight to the point, no dilly-dallying. If they had their way, you’d be a mind reader. Then there’s the two girlfriends, super low maintenance, just ordering apps and drinks, happy to be in each other’s company and in it for the long haul. They’re so absorbed in their conversation, they forget to look at the menu and every decision is made lackadaisically. You, meanwhile, flutter between them, trying to unstick yourself from the first, keep up with the demands of the second, and remember to check in on the third, all while shuttling food, drinks and waters like a well-oiled machine.


The challenge for anyone in the hospitality industry is to adjust serving, bartending, or management styles to deal with every customer type, simultaneously. It’s no secret: in the restaurant industry, it’s hugely beneficial if you’re empathetic, flexible and, of course, a people person. In this post, we’ll look at a few customer types, discuss how to cater your service to please them and, of course, how to score the upsell. 


The Chatty Cathies

Who They Are

Real salt of the earth kind of people, the Chatty Cathies are interested in learning about you, the menu, the history of the restaurant, your specials, events, and even the floor varnish. They like to be romanced and good service is integral to their dining experience.


How to Serve Them

Chat with them, ask them questions, make them feel at home. Make your dinner recommendations personalized, tell them why you like a specific dish. If you find yourself getting stuck in conversation, politely excuse yourself and tell them you’ll be back in a moment. 


The Key to the Upsell

If you like it, they’ll like it. Squeeze your upsells into the conversation. This customer type is likely to be most receptive to your suggestions. Why? Because they’re looking to you to shape their evening. 


The “Three’s a Crowd”

Who They Are

This is a couple or group who likely wish to be left to their own devices. They’re not really interested in lavish or overly enthusiastic explanations of features or recommendations. Usually, they’re very into their company. 


How to Serve Them

Anticipate their needs as much as possible, in as few visits as possible. Keep your contact with them to the point. Of course, do your usual quality checks, inform them of the day’s features and keep their glasses full, but be mindful that these folks appreciate when you give them their alone time and act more as more of a fly on the wall than an addition to the table.


The Key to the Upsell

When they’re first seated, you’ll have their attention before they get too involved in their own conversation. Thus, your golden opportunity will be in your initial contact with them and in the brief moments of contact once their order has been taken. 


The Modifier

Who They Are

“I’ll take the chicken jambalaya, no shrimp, extra rice, extra chicken, no pepper, but red peppers flakes are fine, medium spicy, and oh, can I add broccoli? Wait, is this dish gluten free?” 


How to Serve Them

Prepare for your patience to be tested. While a laundry list of modifications might cause the kitchen to scoff, an error to those modifications might cause the customer to be unhappy. A mobile POS does wonders for dealing with high maintenance orders. Rather than having to run back to the computer and decipher your hurried scrawl, you can read it right back to the customer tableside, before you press send. Once their dinner has arrived at the table, check in within the first few bites to ensure everything is up to their satisfaction. 


The Key to the Upsell

Add-ons and upgrades are key with this one. Be careful though; when this customer supplements one ingredient for another, like say they nix chicken and add avocado, they might expect one to replace the other. Be upfront about add-on costs.


The Suits

Who They Are

While they might not always be wearing a suit, this typical lunchtime patron has two personality types, with some commonalities and some differences. Chances are, if they arrive at lunch, they’ll want their bill with their meal. They’re on the clock and need in-and-out service, with restaurant quality food and experience. If they venture in for a dinner meeting, they may expect you to pick up on their professionalism and act accordingly. 


How to Serve Them

Similarly to the “three’s a crowd”, they expect you to anticipate their needs not linger too long or be too colloquial. Keep their waters full. Take note of their beverage levels. Take special care to ensure all meals are delivered at the same time. Come around often, but not too often. Your quiet attention will be rewarded. 


The Key to the Upsell

It can be as simple as asking, “And would you like Grey Goose, Belvedere or Smirnoff?” The key to upselling this customer type? Booze and specialty items. A dozen oysters and upgraded vodka can do wonders for the bill’s bottom line, especially when a business deal is occurring as you’re serving. Both you and your guest are seeking to please, so make sure they know what options are available. 


The Squatters

Who They Are 

The “no big deal” table. With them, time is no object. They’re dining style is super leisurely. Some might even say they’re a Godsend on a busy night. They’re relaxed, slow-eaters, who go through the entire dining motions. Sometimes they might indulge in the whole enchilada: appetizer, dinner and dessert. Other times, they might pick at appetizers between drinks and conversation. Either way, this is their night out and they’re ready to get cozy and sink into the experience.


How to Serve Them

Just as they’ve relaxed into their evening, you can relax when taking care of them. They might fancy a bit of light conversation and will be receptive to your suggestions, but at the end of the day, they’re there to kick back, relax, and enjoy some delicious fare at their own pace. Once their order is in, check on them periodically. They might decide they want another appetizer, or break with waters between glasses of wine. 


The Key to the Upsell

These guys love to pick and sip. Appetizers, finger foods, shared dishes. They might order a glass of wine, but you can easily sell them on a bottle. They might order a couple appetizers, but would be open to a platter, and maybe even a second round. Since they’re so laid back, let them know their options – specials, shared plates, etc. Always ask if they’d like dessert.



Through understanding each unique customer type and their reason for being at your restaurant, you can successfully cater to their needs, increase the bill size, and most importantly - provide them with the perfect customer experience. 


About the Author

Dana Krook

Dana is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.

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