Increasing Average Spend: A Guide to Restaurant Upselling

31st August 2021

Posted in: News

The hospitality sector has taken a sizeable hit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and unfortunately with continuing restrictions and lockdowns, it seems we still have a way to go before tourism can return to normal. Therefore, it has never been more important to implement a successful upselling strategy within your restaurant to ensure that every opportunity for extra sales and profit is made. 

What is Restaurant Upselling?

In simple terms upselling is a technique used to encourage a customer to spend more money at your venue. The aim is to persuade customers to opt for more expensive or higher margin items and add ons. It is important to create an upselling strategy which can be utilized in the everyday operation of your restaurant, if you are looking to draw the greatest potential out of your business.

In the remainder of this article, we share restaurant upselling techniques to successfully increase average spend per head. 

Always Offer More

When it comes to restaurant upselling, whether it is fine dining table service or casual order at the bar, additional items can always be offered to customers to increase spend per head. This can be easily initiated with a simple recommendation by staff when taking an order.  For example, ensure staff recommend side dishes which would pair well with their meal and offer extra sauces. When taking a food order, if the customers opt straight for a main course take this as an opportunity to encourage entrees beforehand or perhaps something for the table to graze on whilst waiting for their main course. It is critical that your wait staff know their audience and can gauge when is best to offer extras and which extras are suitable. This is easily achieved with regular training which we will discuss in further detail later in this article.   

Encourage Alcohol & Beverage Sales

With regards to beverage sales there are countless ways to increase average spend per head by using simple upselling techniques. The opportunity to upsell starts from the moment customers are seated. At this time, wait staff can simply ask if the table would like to start with sparkling or still water, by not mentioning tap water this increases the likelihood of selling bottled water.

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, you might like to try strategically placing a cocktail, wine or craft beer menu visibly on the table. With something to refer to, servers are immediately able to suggest an aperitif for guests for whilst they browse the menu. It is advisable to have a short concise list rather than being overwhelmed with choices, as it is easier to read and increases the likelihood of customers picking a drink on the spot.

Communication Between FOH & BOH Teams

Communication is key when running a successful business and is very important when it comes to implementing a restaurant upselling strategy. Ensure front of house team members communicate with the kitchen team. Our top tip is to have a weekly meeting where opportunities to upsell and increase profits can be discussed. During these meetings, the kitchen team can inform FOH staff about menu items that they should be recommending to customers. In the case that an item has been over-ordered (perhaps because it has come in at a lower cost than normal), communication can help to avoid wastage and can result in higher profit margins.

Regular Restaurant Staff Training 

As we previously mentioned, regular staff training is essential and perhaps the most important strategy when it comes to effective restaurant upselling. Wait staff are your point of contact to customers and with a simple strategy in place, they can apply upselling techniques and greatly increase your revenue.

Upselling needs to be a part of staff training from the very beginning. Implement it into staff training days and create scenarios where staff can practice techniques. You might also like to introduce initiatives which will encourage your team members to upsell. These initiatives could include offering bonuses for selling the most ‘add on’ items within a week, for example.

It is also important to make sure that wait staff understand the importance of having a genuine conversation with customers and that they naturally upsell within the conversation. It is crucial that customers don’t feel constantly bombarded with suggestions as this will leave a bad impression and could result in them not returning to your restaurant. Therefore, during training sessions it is important that you don’t only inform staff about what to sell, but how to communicate and deliver their message.

Don’t Miss Any Opportunities 

Applying a streamlined structure to your guest dining service is a great way to ensure that no opportunities to upsell are missed, and all staff members are aware of the key items they need to mention when serving a table. We have suggested a structure below for general elements staff should offer during table service: 

  • Bottled Water 
  • Aperitifs/Drinks 
  • Starters 
  • Mains 
  • More Drinks 
  • Desserts
  • Coffees 

Dessert sales are often one of the opportunities restaurants miss out on. This can be due to wait staff either offering them too early or forgetting to go back and not offering any at all. Providing wait staff with a structure should help to avoid those missed opportunities. We also recommend offering desserts as a takeaway. This way, if your customers are too full, they can still take a dessert home for later and you don’t miss out on a sale!

Know The Menu 

A valuable yet simple restaurant upselling strategy is maintaining excellent food and beverage menu knowledge amongst staff. An example of this is excellent knowledge of the wine list. If team members are aware of premium wine options, they can suggest these instead of lower priced house wines.

It is essential that your wait staff can offer an excellent description of the item they are trying to upsell, because when they are truly passionate about the menu, can describe items in detail and genuinely understand what they are selling, this is noticed by customers, who are more likely to go with their suggestions.

How can 1834 Hotels help you?

1834 Hotels is an experienced Food & Beverage operator. Currently managing around $40,000,000 of food and beverage sales across our group, we specialise in:

  • Activating sales,
  • Costing menus and products appropriately and
  • Using our business intelligence tools and reports to ensure cost of goods, wastage and overall satisfaction is maximised.

If you would like more information about how 1834 Hotels can help you to draw the greatest potential out of your food and beverage venues, please contact us here.