Ensuring your staff have the ability to upsell to customers is a great way to boost your business profits, but it’s important they know how to do it effectively. That’s why it’s important to educate them — not only about what menu items to focus on, and when, but also how to upsell in a manner which is both subtle and customer-focused. Otherwise, they may end up becoming an annoyance to your customer, which is certainly not good for business!

If you want your staff to engage in truly effective upselling, the first point is to ensure they are educated about which of your menu items have the highest profit margins. They can then recommend these to customers when prompted — but it’s a mistake to focus on this factor above all others.

Remember that when it comes to ordering food, the customer’s perception is of paramount importance. Any meal suggestion that your staff makes needs to be appropriate to that customer’s needs — and for that reason, they need to be armed with comprehensive product knowledge of all menu items. In the event that the customer provides some information about their tastes and food preferences, staff will then be equipped to offer suggestions which fit their criteria.

In familiarising staff with the menu, it’s a good idea to give them the opportunity to sample the food themselves — this makes it easier for them to offer recommendations in a genuine manner. You can further assist this process by training staff to recite appealing descriptions of menu items which provide additional information to that provided on the menu.

Staff should also be on the lookout for opportunities to recommend side dishes, beverages or other accompaniments that complement the customer’s menu choices. For example, suggesting an entrée which goes well with a particular main, or a drink which complements the cuisine style — like a medium-bodied Italian style Pinot Grigio or Shiraz to serve with a pizza or Italian style meal.

Not only does this approach provide a chance to upsell, it also reassures your customers that your staff have a level of expertise which can assist them in making the most effective choices for their meal — and hence getting the most out of the dining experience. This can encourage repeat business.

Naturally it’s important that staff don’t seem overly eager to ‘push’ meal suggestions onto customers. Therefore, encourage staff to pay attention to customer interactions at the table and listen closely to any expressions of food preferences or tastes. Staff should only attempt to make suggestions as and when an appropriate moment arises, and never try to force a suggestion on a customer.

That said, it’s also important that staff don’t wait too long to make suggestions. Most of us have had the experience when eating out of finishing a main meal and then debating whether to order dessert. If there are no staff around to bring a dessert menu or take an order, then that sales opportunity is lost. Instead, staff should ask customers whether they are interested in dessert as soon as the main meal is finished and as the utensils are being cleared. This places the idea in the customer’s mind and gives staff the opportunity to suggest high profit items before the customer has looked at the menu.