Mastering the art of upselling


Mastering the art of upselling

Jason Horn

Upselling is a strategy that should be embraced by the restaurant industry, but there’s a very fine line between upselling to be helpful and upselling that comes across as salesy.

Timely, appropriate and subtle upselling not only showcases front-of-house knowledge, but can genuinely help enhance the customer’s experience. And this is what teams need to understand from the word go – that the aim is to make sure the experience for the customer is as good as it possibly can be. It’s not about trying to get someone to buy something from you, it’s about making it really simple to do so.

Confident recommendations

Ensuring the team understands the restaurant’s products and knows the menu inside out is crucial: what dishes go well together? Which ones do guests usually like at certain times of day? Which make a higher gross profit for the business? Take five minutes at the beginning of each day to share experiences, either individually or as a team – passing on knowledge to each other is really important to be able to recommend something confidently.

Appropriate recommendations

Staff need to become attuned to individual diner’s needs. It’s important that you read and understand your guest while adding to their experience. Make sure suggestions are appropriate for them (for example, for non-drinkers, recommend an unusual soft drink), rather than sticking to a generic script and sounding robotic.

Read the situation and gauge it by the way the table responds – they may not want to engage in much of a conversation. If they don’t, keep it polite and simple. Offer them items they don’t need to pay for like bread or tap water – this will make them feel instantly more relaxed that you’re not trying to sell to them and, as a result, they’ll be more receptive.

The most effective way to gain an understanding of your customer is through talking to them, but you could also offer them a little taster of a product to gain a fuller picture of what they like.

Appropriate timing is important too – don’t pounce on them immediately. It is possible to be attentive from afar; seeing when a glass is empty, for example, and topping it up to show you’re attentive and present without being in the way.

Genuine recommendations

Through upselling in a genuine and personalised way, it will make your guest feel valued and increase the chance that they’ll take you up on one of your offers.

Most guests love hearing what your own favourite menu item is, and this opens up the conversation at the same time. When you talk with enthusiasm, this really comes across. Even if it’s a dish that you don’t eat – you may be a vegetarian selling a steak – you can still describe what makes it unique or how popular it is, which will really capture the diner’s interest.

As I’ve said before, it’s ultimately down to the training – being clear and making everything easy to understand will mean a team has the foresight to be able to upsell effectively. Customers have come to your restaurant to have a good time so will generally be open to suggestions – as long as they feel it’s their choice. As you soon as you try to sell, the barriers go up. As soon as you try to enhance the experience, people are all-ears.

Our mystery visits can help you to measure and improve the success of your upselling, contributing to the overall guest experience. Get in touch with the team today to discuss how we can support you on 01225 470999 or email

Back to Blog