How Not to Upsell Restaurant Guests

The fact is, the more waiters and waitresses sell, the higher their income is. Professional servers know this, and they do their best to upsell restaurant guests.

But there is a right and wrong way to upsell that will not only increase their wages but also provides a better guest experience. The problem is, all to may servers get it wrong and aggressively push the most expensive things on the menu.

I recently had such an experience dining out, and it wasn’t good for the restaurant, waiter or myself, the guest.

While waiting for a friend who was fashionably late, I ordered a $10 glass of wine. When my company arrived, the waiter approached the table for her drink order. She ordered a Cabernet, which they didn’t offer by the glass. The server then aggressively pushed a glass of Merlot, which he falsely claimed was the next best thing to the cab. She trusted him and ordered the wine (actually three glasses of the wine)

At no time during his pitch did he even slightly allude to the fact that it was the most expensive glass on their list and more than twice as expensive as my wine — a point I discovered when I paid the bill.

While I don’t think it is appropriate to tell the guest the cost of the glass (without them inquiring), there is a way to alert them, without offense, that is a costly glass of wine. For example, “We have an excellent Merlot... it’s our finest wine by the glass, but guests love it.” In this way, you are subtly alerting the guest that it is an expensive glass. At that point, it is on them to inquire about the cost.

That said, as a general rule, I don’t agree with recommending the most expensive anything on the menu unless it is genuinely spectacular. And even then, it is a questionable strategy. Why put yourself so far out on a limb? Something a few dollars less will mean little to your bottom line, but it will not make you appear like you are suggesting items based solely on their price. Doing so will likely impact your restaurant, the guests' experience, and your tip. It did with my server. He only got 15%.

 

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