Your Guide to Strategic Restaurant Upselling Techniques

By: Kendal Austin

4 Minute Read

Nov 14, 2017

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Restaurant Upselling

Restaurant Upselling

“Do you want fries with that?”

It’s the most cliché phrase in the business, but there’s a lot of power in that simple question.

Restaurant upselling is the process of persuading or influencing a guest’s purchase by enticing them with more expensive or higher margin items and add-ons. With a little effort and strategizing on your part, it’s an easy way to increase average check size and get more out of every customer.

Here are a few strategies for upselling in your restaurant:

How to Train Your Staff to Upsell

Your employees are perhaps the greatest asset for upselling in the restaurant. Almost every interaction they have with a customer is an opportunity to influence their purchase. Whether they’re serving guests at a counter or at the table, nothing beats the power of suggestion.

One of my favorite tips about upselling comes from Eleanor Frisch of Foodservice Warehouse. She says, “Upselling should seem like good service rather than a sales pitch.”

"Upselling should seem like good service rather than a sales pitch."
- Eleanor Frisch, Foodservice Warehouse


Talk to your staff about why upselling is important and coach them on how to do it gracefully. By taking a consultative approach, like “That particular cut of steak goes really nicely with the blue cheese crumble,” or simply “Would you like some fresh-cut fries with your sandwich?,” your staff is forming a relationship with the customer and doing good for the business financially.

Build Upselling into Your Technology

Restaurant technology can also be of service when it comes to upselling. The POS system can supplement thorough staff training by reminding employees to ask guests those crucial upsell questions.

I spoke with Darryl Leff of Great Plains Burger Company in Ann Arbor, MI about how modern restaurant technology has helped his business grow. Darryl found that simply implementing an automated reminder into the POS system had a significant impact on sales per customer.

“We train our staff to ask if the customer would like fries and a drink with their meal,” Darryl said. “We also set up our system to automatically prompt that question before the cashier can complete the transaction. We’ve seen a 15% increase in fry and drink sales since implementing that step.”

"We've seen a 15% increase in fry & drink sales since implementing upselling in the POS system" - Darryl Leff, Great Plains Burger


Offer a Gift Card Program

If you’re not offering gift cards at your restaurant, you’re missing out on a new revenue channel and an opportunity to make more money on every guest. In addition to encouraging repeat business, collecting money upfront, and being relatively inexpensive to offer, gift cards are a great way to encourage guests to buy more.

On average, gift card holders spend 20% more than the value of their gift card; 75% of them spend 60% more than the card’s value! Gift cards are more likely to be used on “high ticket” items because they’re, well, a gift! Finally, gift cards are “free money” for the holder, so there’s a good chance they’re even more open to upsell efforts than the average guest.

Bonus points for offering digital gift cards, which average 10 -15% higher value than the plastic ones.

Influence Purchases with Strategic Menu Design

While it helps to have some tact when upselling to guests in person, there’s no reason to make your menu options subtle. Make guests aware of all the upsell options available by writing it directly on the menu.

If it’s possible to get that burger with bacon, be sure to include “Bacon $2” under or around the burger menu item. If there’s a chance that your guests might want chili on their nachos, put it right there on the menu to at least get them thinking about how delicious that app would be with a little something extra.

Your Restaurant Upselling Techniques

Most customers aren’t aware of how tight restaurant margins are or how important every additional drink sale is, but they’ll appreciate the ability to customize their order and the personalized service they receive from your helpful and knowledgeable staff.

Upselling the items you’re currently selling is an impactful quick win and one that can really impact your bottom line.

What are your restaurant upselling techniques? Share below!


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