The main objective of any restaurant owner is exceptional customer service. According to a recent survey, 95% of customers feel that great customer service is a major factor in choosing a restaurant. Upselling and cross-selling are two techniques that double as ways to provide exemplary customer service and increase restaurant profits.

Though upselling and cross-selling both encourage an increase in purchasing behavior, they require slightly different techniques. Upselling involves the employee selling additional items or “add-ons” to increase the price of a particular selection. For example, a customer orders a basic cheeseburger that comes with minimal toppings; however, additional specialty toppings such as avocado, bacon, or coleslaw can be added for additional cost. Upselling in this case would involve the server asking if the premium extras were wanted, to make that cheeseburger sell at a higher profit margin. Cross-selling in this situation, would encourage the purchase of “extras” to go along with and compliment the customer purchase. This could include upselling some fries or a quality beer instead of a water to go along with the burger.

 To help boost sales and improve guest experiences, here are four ways to effectively upsell and cross-sell to build relationships and increase profit.

Teach Sales (and Social) Skills

Employee are the face to your business; and armed with the proper tools will make them the best asset. Employees should be trained across all spectrums of serving. This should include menu knowledge, selling techniques and social skills. These skills will allow them the opportunity to connect with customers and provide them truly individualized service – without sounding pushy. Training employees on a regular and ongoing basis is essential. The most important skill from training should include how to naturally provide specific product recommendations in a way that is transparent and casual.

Employee training should also consider social skills, cues, and body language. For example, a couple on a date may be more likely to buy into the upsell vs a table of execs in a lunch meeting. Teaching these social skills, along with ongoing menu training, selling high-profit margin items, and complementary products, can help nurture relationships with customers. It can be used with technology and analytics to help subtly personalize additional suggestions in a way that ultimately creates higher profit margins.

Counteract Customer Menu Hacks

Restaurant employees must also consider that “menu hacks” are a “thing.” What this means is that your amazing customers are always looking for a deal. At the same time, they value quality and trust that you will bring that to them at an affordable price. One way for servers and waitstaff to continue to maximize profits and work on upselling and cross-selling is to personalize high profit items. In this way, focusing on a higher profit item will still increase sales; but it will also satisfy the customer’s wish of good value and experience.

For example, maybe a couple wants to split a steak entree. In this scenario, the server can personalize their choice by recommending a higher profit steak. Say they were going to split a 12 oz sirloin and two sides; but the server suggests the 12oz rib eye with one side and an appy instead. In this case, the profit margin is higher, but the guests’ experiences are still personalized.

By keeping in mind what they were going to originally choose demonstrates an effort to get to know the customer. This adds value to their experience while validating their choice to “hack” the menu.

Sell the Value

Be clear about the value that you are providing to your customers. There are several ways to integrate selling value with upselling and cross-selling. One way is demonstrate this value is to leverage off previous praise or testimonials from past guests. This doesn’t mean you should only sell the things that previous guests have liked. Rather its about recommending something that previous diners, who are similar to your current guests, enjoyed. A great cross-selling technique would be recommending guests share popular dishes or offering a tasting menu for new guests.

An upselling technique for a new guest could be if they are debating between a dinner special with a higher profit margin vs. a recurring menu item. Your server could sell the exclusivity of the dinner special! When customers demonstrate uncertainty when making a decision, employees can take this opportunity to help them come to a decision on their own by getting to know and providing them with personalized recommendations. When customers are unsure of a decision, they will be more likely to allow help in  if they trust the person recommending an option. Building trust is essential to selling value.  

Understand Purchasing Behavior

Customer behavior can be understood using technology and tools that analyze purchasing behavior.  In turn, this information can be used to tailor technology such as e-menus and tabletop ordering, which have actually been found to increase appetizer and dessert profits.

A general question that can be asked at the beginning of a service is if a guest has dined with you before. In this case, you can gauge why they’ve chosen to visit your establishment. Perhaps they’ve come in to try a dessert dish. In this case, you can suggest a wine pairing.  Or if you find that a number of guests are coming in for a cocktail that they saw on social media, maybe create a special dish to accompany it.

Another benefit to understanding purchasing behavior is the more you know your customers, the better you can market and reach them in a way that demonstrates your brand authority. If a dinner special consistently sells out, try adding it permanently to the menu. You can also recommend wine pairing with it. In this case, returning guests will feel valued, and cross-selling a wine pairing is made easy,

Cross-selling and upselling techniques do not have to be obvious, blatant or annoying. In fact, the more natural the process is, the more helpful it is in not only adding profit in the long-term, but helping build valuable customer relationships, causing them to return regularly. They not only will feel important and loved, but they will experience true value in visiting your brand.