The Restaurant’s Guide to Good Upselling

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What is upselling and why is it important?

Upselling is a very important weapon in a business owner’s armoury when looking to increase sales and profits. Upselling can be described as a sales technique whereby a salesperson induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale.
It can involve marketing more profitable services or products, but can also be simply exposing the customer to other options he or she may not have considered previously. It is definitely about increasing the customer spend but is it also about giving the customer a better all-round experience, giving them something they might have forgotten to order or hadn’t realized you had on your menu.

McDonald’s, as is so often the case, are the masters of this – have you ever not been offered fries or a drink to go with your burger? If it works for the biggest restaurant chain on the planet there’s a good chance it will work for you. In an independent quick-serve, sides and drinks are the most obvious and profitable route to go down.

When upselling is done correctly you can easily increase what customers spend each visit, all while ensuring they have a great experience and want to come back for repeat business.

The best part of upselling is that when done correctly it should feel practically effortless. The hard part of the transaction has already been done: the customer has decided to pick your restaurant and has decided to make a purchase; all you’re doing is allowing the customer to see the full range of what your menu offers. After all the number one mistake in upselling is not making any attempt to upsell.

There are three parts to upselling:
– First, having the right products on the menu – sides, drinks, desserts – which complement the core offering;
– Two, training staff to upsell so that it comes easily and naturally to them, and they do it with warmth and politeness;
– Three, incentivize customers – this generally means giving them a bit of a deal

How to implement upselling

As with comedy, the most important factor in upselling is …. wait for it …. timing! For example, when selling desserts if you ask too soon, people might say they are still too full and go straight on to coffee. If you ask too late they might have gone off the idea and want to head off home. In a quick serve take-away the time to ask is when they are ordering their main menu item and will be tempted by additional items.

In order to upsell effectively, you need to determine which are the products you wish to promote, which are the most profitable and which are the most popular with your loyal customers. There’s no point trying to upsell a large battered fish to go with a quarter-pounder. With a main item, it’s best to focus on the sides.

Another useful technique makes meal deals part of your upselling strategy. For example, if you normally price a side at €2.50 you can offer them at €2.00 if part of a meal deal. This is a slightly disguised method of upselling but has the same potential result – more sales. Take a look at all your side offerings, drinks, and desserts, and work out what you can offer them at as part of a deal. The saving does not have to be large – the important things is that the customer feels they are getting a bit of a bargain.

After you’ve targeted the products you are going to upsell you need to get your staff on board!

How to get your staff to buy into upselling

You need to get your employees to strike the perfect balance between being positive and enthusiastic and being perceived as pushy or annoying.

Staff not buying into the concept is one of the biggest obstacles to making a successful upselling strategy. A small amount of preparation and training is the solution to this problem.

Too many servers are, quite frankly, afraid of upselling. They don’t want to come across as pushy or as if they are trying to fleece the customer. It’s easy to understand why they feel this way since nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold things they don’t want.

You need to show your staff that when upselling is done right, it shouldn’t feel like a sales experience, more like a natural progression when they are ordering. Owners and managers have to teach employees the “art of upselling” and why it’s so important to your restaurant’s success.

The mindset needs to change from the idea that you’re trying to hustle more money out of the customer to one of trying to give the customer the best eating experience they can have – if profits increase as a result, it’s a win-win situation.

If you’re introducing new products, get your staff to taste them so they know exactly what they are like, are excited about promoting them and can precisely describe them to customers – you could have a fun training session where the employees try the items and practice upselling them to each other. Get them to work out what goes with what – e.g. you probably wouldn’t add mozzarella balls to chicken curry (although as any fastfood restauranteur knows, there’s no accounting for tastes! ) – but natural taste alliances, like Jalapeno Poppers with a burger – generally work best.

You could also incentivise your staff to upsell by rewarding the server who achieves the most sales in a given month – a scheme like this will make your employees see upselling as a rewarding and fun part of the job and not something they do reluctantly.

How to prevent upselling from annoying your customers

Finally, make sure to observe your counter staff in action to make sure the upselling is done in a positive and relaxed manner. We’ve all been at car hire companies where they try and upsell to you by scaring you into buying additional insurance by listing the huge possible costs of damage to your vehicle – this method it to be avoided!

If you and your employees aren’t trained on effective ways to upsell, chances are you either offend customers by being too pushy, or leave money on the table that customers would have willingly spent with you. Either option is costly.

Up-selling is just presenting the information in a relaxed and informative manner. You’ve got to assume that the customer will naturally want this item, that they will naturally want a side order and then ask them for their choice – if you phrase it badly they might feel they are being over-indulgent and refuse. Don’t try to sell the customer something you wouldn’t buy if you were in their shoes. It is totally irrelevant whether or not this purchase suits your needs – what is relevant is whether it suits the customer’s.

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