Imagine: a group of people come into your restaurant for dinner and drinks. They know they’d like to order a bottle of wine, but are uncertain about what direction to go so they ask their server for a recommendation. The server quickly engages them by delving into customer discovery questions, "Do you like your wine sweet, semi-sweet, dry or semi-dry? What flavors do you prefer? What would you like to pair the wine with?" Engaged and informed, the group chooses a higher-priced bottle than they would have selected on their own.
By learning about and understanding the customer, your servers are better able to cater to and ultimately upsell them because they are selling directly to the customer’s taste buds, rather than their wallet.
Upselling is an art, and when done correctly it can maximize your bottom line as well as your guest experience.
However, when done incorrectly, upselling can backfire big time and end up costing you customers and money. Unknowledgable and improperly trained servers can come off as overly pushy or aggressive when they try to upsell, ruining the guest experience.
Here are three ways aggressive upselling can turn your customers off, and what to do instead.
Every customer has been there — trying to enjoy a nice meal and drinks, but an overeager server constantly interrupts the dining experience trying to sell another round of drinks before the first round is even close to being finished.
This kind of behavior is detrimental to your business because even if everything else about your venue is wonderful, customers may feel uncomfortable and pressured into buying something they aren’t ready for, ultimately leading to the potential loss of repeat business.
Coach your staff on how to be present and attentive without acting like stage five clingers. Train them understand when the appropriate time to approach tables is, for example when they notice dishes need clearing, or one or more of the customers’ drinks are getting low. Guests should never feel ignored, but they shouldn’t feel overwhelmed either. There is a finite balance that must be achieved in order to offer guests an optimal dining experience.
Talking too much while taking an order
If your servers are divulging their life story while taking an order, or sounding off the specials like an auctioneer, then chances are your customers will get annoyed and probably not retain the majority of the information being relayed to them. This means that one-of-a-kind gorgonzola-walnut bruschetta dish with truffle oil you are offering this week may not sell as well as it could.
A simple fix for this is to brief your staff on tableside etiquette and appropriate conversations. Use your point of sale to help your staff upsell. Consider a tableside iPad POS which will allow your servers to sell to your customers eyes, rather than their ears. Your staff will also have access to a cheat sheet of information containing ingredients, allergens and anything else customers might ask for, thereby eliminating any potential back and forth with the kitchen to verify dish information.
Upselling without consent
This is one of the worst offenses your staff can do to your customers because it is akin to stealing. A table orders a round of vodka sodas, rather than asking them what kind of vodka they want, or listing the venue’s options, the bartender serves them the most expensive brand. After a few more rounds, the table asks for their check and when it is dropped at their table they gasp in disbelief. The group is angry and feels swindled so they vow to never return.
In order to avoid this catastrophic customer scenario – that will likely lead to a negative online review and potential loss of future business – train your staff to ask for explicit customer permission and to never assume the upsell. Though they may think they are doing the guests a favor by bringing them the best the restaurant has to offer, the standard is to start with the basics and then move up the premium ladder. Not the other way around.
When upselling is done correctly, it will have a positive and lasting impact for you, your customers, and your staff. Ideally, guests will leave your venue feeling satisfied and gain more than just full bellies — they will also gain new preferences and knowledge, while our restaurant’s bottom line increases and your staff enjoy higher tips.
Benefits all around. Cha Ching!
About the Author
Antasha is an Online Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she spends her days advising restaurateurs on their point of sale systems and her nights writing hospitality-related content. A veteran bartender and server, Antasha enjoys bringing her industry experiences to life through blogging. Her three-year-old son and BFF, Elijah, is her self-proclaimed muse for all things creative.More Content by Antasha Durbin