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Restaurant Operating Tips, Uncategorized

Want Your Staff to Smile? Train them in the Art of Suggestive Selling

Suggestive Selling: More than Simply Asking “Do You Want Fries with That?”

smiling_waitressCustomers want new and unique experiences when they go out to eat. For many, it’s why they choose to give your restaurant a try. But are you fully delivering on that expectation?

A knowledgeable wait staff that’s trained in how to provide your guests with the best possible experience will go a long ways towards gaining repeat business, and even increased business from the customers you already have.

They’ll also smile more when they see the results.

Suggestive selling is much, much more than just asking “Do you want fries with that?”

Deploying a consistent strategy of suggestive selling can have many benefits for you and your customers. When done properly, suggestive selling can:

  • Introduce guests to unique menu options.
  • Provide a higher satisfaction level.
  • Create trust and repeat business.
  • Strengthen employee morale through higher tips.
  • Increase guest-check averages.
  • Increase revenues.
  • Increase profits.

We’ll discuss different ways of how to tap into this powerful tool in future blog posts. But in this post, we’re going to focus on when to tap into it.

To begin deploying an effective practice of suggestive selling, first identify where the opportunities present themselves. We’ll discuss the four main windows of opportunity below, but every table touch or interaction provides a chance for success.

While Seating Guests:

This is a great time for your host/hostess or server to inform your guests about any drink specials or special offerings.

Example: “Just to let you guys know, we’ve got a great deal going on our Bloody Mary’s right now. I might even be able to find some extra olives for you. Do you want me to bring a few while you get situated?”

Framing the sell in this way informs, provides value and helps service them quicker. If your restaurant doesn’t have a bar, tell your guests a new batch of ice tea just finished brewing. If it’s cold, suggest your creamy hot chocolate can help warm them up right away.

If you gauge their mood right away, it should also be a good guide on if they’ll be open to enjoying further suggestions. If they resist, or don’t take you up on an alternative, it’s best not to continue to push. But when done correctly, suggestions won’t come across as ‘being pushy.’

When Drinks Arrive:

This is a great time to inform guests about special appetizer offerings. It’s also a great time to encourage questions about the menu.

Example: “While you’re looking over the menu, I just wanted to let you know the kitchen created some great potato skin appetizers for today. I tried them earlier and I highly recommend them. (Add the description of your special here.) Did you have any questions about the menu?”

In the above example, the server isn’t being pushy or asking for the sale, they’re just being informative and helpful. You might be surprised at how effective a simple endorsement works. The server also takes on the role of qualified consultant, able to satisfy any curiosities your guests might have about the food.

Taking the Order:

Obviously, this is a great chance to deploy suggestive selling strategies. It’s also the time to let your servers’ knowledge shine.

Example: When someone orders a steak, tell them many of your guests really enjoy it when topped with your sautéed mushrooms. If they order a burger and fries, tell them you just started offering Cheesy Cheddar Fries and getting great feedback from your other guests that ordered them.

Letting them know other guests enjoyed the recommendation gives it extra weight. You can go ahead and ask if they want the option, but you’ll find that in most instances you won’t have to go that far. If your guests are the type that craves unique experiences, they’ll usually respond with a quick “Yeah, let’s try that!”


This one is self-explanatory. If your restaurant offers dessert, deploying the dessert tray is a great visual temptation. But you don’t need to go to that extreme if that’s not your style. Simply inform them what you have, ask if they’d like to see the menu or tell them what other customers have claimed as they’re favorite dessert.

If you’re successful even half the time, you’ve gone a long ways to increasing check averages, revenues and profits without necessarily increasing business levels. You’re simply getting more from the business you already have. Read more about the proof in profits here.

And you’ll be delivering a great customer experience in the process.

Want more tips and tricks that can help your business reach its full potential?

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Next: 7 Suggestive Selling Techniques that Work

Feature image by: Mr. Theklan – Flickr Creative Commons

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