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What does the word “upsell” mean to you? If you’re a restaurant owner, more opportunities and expansion efficiently come to mind.

Restaurant owners are looking to hire eligible and intelligent servers to expand their territory.  But yet, many servers view upselling as a sales tactic that draws panic. Upselling is essential in any business. It’s one of the most effective ways to increase profits and ticket size.

What is Upselling?

Upselling is a technique used in restaurants to encourage a customer to spend more money. This can be done in a variety of ways. The goal may be to get a customer to switch from your house red to the higher-end cabernet. Or, it may be adding just a few extra toppings to increase sales. In the end, you want to get your guests to spend more but also get premium items at the same time.

Let’s go over 3 easy universal strategies to upsell your customers – and boost profits.

1. Use Descriptive Language

It’s one thing to know what’s in a dish, but it’s a whole other to describe it. When a guest asks “How would you describe this sushi roll?” they don’t want to hear, “Well, it has rice, cucumber, spicy mayo, avocado, and lemon.” They can see that on the menu for themselves. Instead, a better response would be, “It’s a super light and refreshing roll. It has thinly sliced lemon on each roll making it bright and easy to eat.  The spicy mayo on top gives it a little kick at the end.” By the end of that description, the guest is sold. Using words like fresh, flavorful, and rich are enticing. If servers aren’t using descriptive words they will lose your customer’s interest.


During pre-shift, consider bringing out a dish and asking each server to describe it. Ask them to describe it as if they were selling to a guest and give them helpful tips after each one. Point out words that you would recommend they use and those they should stay away from. Yes doing this can make servers feel uncomfortable, but that’s what practice is for.

It would be helpful for your servers to have quick descriptions of everything on the menu. This is particularly true for wine and specialty cocktails, the extra moneymakers. Keep the descriptions short, sweet, and simple. It’s the best way to go.

2. Add-ons Menu Items

Would you like to add salmon to your salad? Here’s a classic example of an upselling opportunity. Add-on items give your staff more chances to upsell. Whether it’s adding avocado or an extra patty to a cheeseburger, every little bit counts.

Here are a few areas for upselling that are often overlooked:

  • Sparkling water bottle instead of tap.
  • Single versus double espresso shots.
  • Flavoring for coffee drinks (vanilla, caramel, chocolate, etc.)
  • Adding truffle to a dish.
  • Drink refills.
  • Ounce upselling for wine by the glass and on-tap beers.

One proven upselling tactic is putting enhancements on the actual menu. This way guests can read add-ons offered even before their server recommends them. It’s important to keep add-on recommendations limited to a certain extent. We mention this because too many choices can lead to overwhelming your customer. In this case, the possibilities are not endless. Make your add-ons well-targeted to each dish to maximize flavor and sales.


A verbal reminder staff can use when selling wines by the glass and beer is starting off with the largest size. Would you like to do a 20 or 14-ounce pour? Generally, by hearing 20 oz first they are more likely to go for it. If that doesn’t work, staff can suggest would you like the larger size for just an additional $2 dollar extra. Well worth it, your guests will most likely adapt to it.

3. Pay Attention to Your Regulars’ Preferences

Did you know that upselling is easier with your regular customers? In the book Marketing Metrics, they share that the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. This is extremely low compared to the probability of selling to a regular customer at 60-70%. This upselling strategy works hand in hand with delivering great customer service.

Let’s say you have a regular who comes in a couple of times a month and always orders your house chardonnay. Over time, you begin to notice they tend to have around 2 to 3 glasses. This is the perfect opportunity to bring by a tasting of your higher-quality chardonnay. By doing this, you now have the chance to talk about the differences between the wines side by side. Ask them what they liked and disliked about it to get a better understanding of their taste. If they make the switch, you just turned a normal $20-30 ticket into a $45-50 one. You get the upsell, make more money, and build a better relationship. It’s a win-win situation. Upselling doesn’t have to be all about sales. Instead, look at it as a customer happiness tactic. This is built off of delivering value and forming relationships.


Offer upsells seamlessly

As a business owner or manager, I’m sure you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve reminded staff to upsell. But, when you do this, it’s important to explain to them what upselling really is. It’s about educating your customers and making them aware of superior options.

It doesn’t have to be a scary sales tactic. With proper training, your staff can easily make the best-personalized suggestions. Not only that, but you can also use our technology to pick up where their training ends.

You can add prompts into our intuitive POS system so you never miss the chance to upsell. This makes upselling easy and a natural way to enhance your guests’ experience. Make the switch today and upselling will be easier than ever.


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