3 Suggestive Selling Techniques in Restaurants

By: Ginelle Testa

5 Minute Read

Feb 06, 2018

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suggestive selling in restaurants

Suggestive selling and upselling are how you can convince your customers to add more to their order.

Training your servers and cashiers to say “would you like fries with that?” is a great place to start, but there are many other techniques you can utilize to promote suggestive selling.

The key here is that the selling must be suggestive. In order for the selling to be suggestive, you must properly train your servers and cashiers to offer tailored, customer-focused, supported-by-tech, upselling options. I’m not going to offer you a script or give you the perfect formula for increasing profit, but what I will offer is how to create a restaurant environment filled with servers who are trained in meeting customer needs and tactfully up selling your menu items.

Let’s dive into the three ways you can create an environment that promotes suggestive selling.

Tailored Suggestions

There are two pieces that make up tailored suggestive selling techniques: extensive menu knowledge and customer CRM-informed offerings.

Let’s say you’re a customer ordering from a burger joint. If the cashier gushes about what a delight sweet potato fries are with the caramelized onions on the gorgonzola burger, aren't you more likely to say yes to the upsell? I think so! Thus, menu knowledge is tremendously important.

According to Service That Sells, your servers should be confident about the four P’s: portion, preparation, presentation, and price.

restaurant suggestive selling

To continually boost the success of your servers and cashiers, you should have a POS system with a restaurant CRM software.

Fun fact: a CRM platform’s ROI is $8.71 for every $1 spent! Having a powerful CRM system enables you to aggregate guest preferences to offer a data-driven and tailored experience. Instead of shooting in the dark by telling your servers to attempt to upsell one of your favorite wines, you can see that your merlot is commonly ordered alongside pasta primavera.

My money's on more upsells happening with the data-driven suggestions!

Customer-Focused Staff

In hiring, soft skills like a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and good communication skills are not always considered to be the most important. However, in the restaurant industry, a customer’s interaction with staff can make or break their experience.

According to Help Scout, “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”

Given the importance of the customer interaction, important soft factors of suggestive selling are customer happiness and employee helpfulness.

RELATED ARTICLE: Hire the Best - Creating Value-Driven Restaurant Job Descriptions

91% of unhappy customers are unlikely to visit your restaurant again, so customer happiness should be a central focus when hiring and training employees. Suggestive selling is secondary to making sure a guest is enjoying their time at the restaurant, so servers should be trained in how to be tactful. Simple gestures like an upbeat attitude, smiling, good eye contact, and a focus on a positive first impression go a long way in showing the customer they care.

restaurant suggestive selling

A focus on employee helpfulness encourages effective suggestive selling because the customer feels like the focus is on them having the best experience instead of the restaurant making money.

For example, reciting the specials menu can feel rehearsed and can put a customer to sleep. Or the server can tactfully ask if the customer likes seafood or is a vegetarian.

When approaching the upsell in a way that feels directly helpful to the customer, they’re more likely to have a positive experience and choose the (upsold) meal that was suggestively sold to them.

Suggestive Selling Supported By Technology

Tech can be an asset or a liability, depending on your POS system. Your POS partner should be hip on restaurant trends like handheld devices and menu programming. They should also offer extensive system training.

If the timeliness of your server is hindered because of a slow system, disorganized menu, or lack of training, your customer is going to be increasingly more hangry by the second (read: hungry and angry). This diminishes the chances that they’ll be willing to hear about the opportunity to “combo up,” kissing additional sales goodbye.

It’s inevitable for a new server or cashier to be a bit slow-moving; they’re just learning the ropes. But, to bring them on board with line-busting and turning tables quicker, partner with a POS system that has a comprehensive customer training resource center.

Relevant Suggestions (2).png

While servers are taking advantage of those handheld tablets, your POS menu should be programmed in a way that makes timely order taking possible. Partnering with a POS system who will help you strategically lay out your menu for maximized order taking will greatly cut down on the time it takes for servers and cashiers of all levels of experience to take customer orders.

According to a National Restaurant Association survey, “95% of consumers say good service is key for choosing a table service restaurant,” and a huge component of good service is timeliness from when a guest is welcomed into the restaurant throughout the whole process of eating and closing their check.

If the timeliness when just talking through the menu is dragging, this is sure to leave customers unimpressed.

Take training seriously and season your servers well before throwing them on the floor to see an increase in suggestive selling success.

Restaurant Suggestive Selling In Sum

It may sound like I’ve talked about everything but suggestive selling here, but the keys to increased sales - specifically upselling - are menu knowledge, CRM information, proper POS training, and soft skills that promote customer happiness and employee helpfulness.

When all of these factors are in place, you’ll leave your customers feeling like you’re there to serve them the best meal and experience possible, no matter the cost.


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