restaurant upselling techniques
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Are you looking for effective ways to promote your most profitable menu items and increase the average check value? Then you need to start upselling.

Below, we’ll tell you what upselling is and why you need it and go through ten restaurant upselling techniques you can implement.

What Is Upselling in Restaurants?

Upselling refers to the process of persuading customers to order more expensive menu items using subtle techniques such as making suggestions and asking questions.

Upselling should be a win-win situation in which you increase your profits while the customer enjoys premium items.

The Importance of Upselling in Restaurants

Why should you employ upselling techniques in restaurants? Because if done correctly, upselling is a simple way to increase the average check value.

It can also help you get to know your customers and their preferences and provide a more personalized service that will foster loyalty.

You can upsell both in person and online, which makes this a flexible technique that can help you get higher profit margins.

10 Restaurant Upselling Techniques for Food and Beverages

1. Offer free samples

Especially when it comes to pricey dishes, customers might not want to order them unless they’re absolutely sure they will enjoy them.

One of the most common restaurant upselling techniques is that of tempting customers with free samples of dishes they might want to try but are on the fence about.

They will appreciate the effort you put into ensuring their meal choices are exactly what they were looking for.

2. Suggest food and beverage pairings

If you’re looking for beverage upselling techniques, look no further than food and drink pairings.

Whether you create a wine pairing menu that customers can browse or have your waiter suggest a glass of wine that would pair wonderfully with the dish they just ordered, this will elevate the dining experience at your restaurant.

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to wine. Learn how to upsell drinks in a restaurant by offering unique pairings such as steak and beer or pasta and cocktails.

3. Train your staff to identify upselling opportunities based on the target audience

Upselling is an art, and it can easily fail if you don’t get to know your target audience and anticipate what they might be open to.

For example, if you see a couple celebrating an anniversary or out on a romantic date, you can suggest a bottle of red wine for the table.

If there’s a large group of friends out for a good time, suggest meal combos and shared appetizers that they can enjoy together.

Make suggestions based on who you’re serving and the special occasion they might be celebrating, and your upselling will prove much more successful.

Customers love a chef’s choice menu because it feels exclusive, as if their favorite chef created a selection just for them.

Dishes that have your chef’s stamp of approval are more likely to sell, so this is your opportunity to include high-profit margin items featuring premium ingredients.

examples of upselling in restaurants: chef’s choice menu

5. Place high-profit margin items in the middle and top right corner of the menu

According to the Golden Triangle theory of menu engineering, when customers scan a menu, their eyes go first to the middle of the page, and then to the top right corner.

One of the easiest restaurant upselling techniques is to place your most profitable items there, so they’re the first thing customers look at.

This simple trick will help you increase food and beverage sales alike with little to no effort.

6. Create meal bundles or combo deals

Food combos featuring one or more high-profit margin items are great for increasing the average order value while still giving your customers a good deal.

how to upsell in a restaurant: use food combos

Fixed price bundles can offer customers a full meal including an appetizer, main course, dessert, and drink, which would have cost them more if purchased separately.

Additionally, you can display the menu on the screen, making it easier for customers to choose their preferred combination.

Not to mention combos are also great for couples or friends who want to share a meal at your restaurant.

Add a food combo to your menu to sell more Increase the average order value & provide customers with a great deal

Want to learn how to create a combo offer and add it to your menu in minutes? Check out this video tutorial:

7. Suggest dessert to go

Oftentimes, when customers have had a full meal, they’ll be hesitant to order dessert in case they won’t be able to finish it.

Train servers to let clients know you can wrap their dessert to go, and they can enjoy it at home if they so desire.

This is where knowledge of your menu items comes in. To upsell a delicious dessert, for example, you have to be able to describe it, from the flavors to the texture.

That means every one of your servers should not only know the menu inside out but also have tried every dish themselves, so they can give a more accurate description to the customers.

8. Know your regulars and their preferences

This is a good rule of thumb in general, but it also comes particularly in handy when trying to upsell. Customers appreciate small details that show you care.

For instance, have your servers greet regulars by name and write down their usual order so they can make relevant suggestions.

For example, let’s say one of your regulars always gets a glass of white wine with their meal. Let them know when you get a new type of white wine and suggest they might want to try it based on their usual purchase.

9. Organize restaurant upselling games to motivate servers to sell more

Are you wondering how to upsell more food in your restaurant? Give servers something to look forward to if they upsell the most, such as an extra day off or a bonus.

When training servers on how to upsell, make the entire experience more enjoyable by turning it into a game. Player 1 must face off against Player B while they both describe a menu item, trying to get the “jury” (the rest of their co-workers) to buy it.

Treating upselling as an opportunity to learn or a competition with fun prizes will make it seem less of a chore and more of a nice part of the job.

10. Know when to upsell and when to stop

When employing upselling techniques in the food and beverage industry, it’s vital to be timely and subtle. Being too pushy or salesy will not only deter customers from taking your suggestions, but it might also cost you a return client.

Some people are simply not open to upselling, so if they say no, don’t insist. If you hear them being unsure of what to order or talking amongst themselves trying to decide while you’re waiting for the order, you can interject with suggestions.

It’s all about reading the customer and knowing when upselling will work and when it won’t.

That’s a Wrap

Upselling is a tried-and-tested practice in the restaurant industry. It’s an excellent way to increase your daily sales by providing customers with tailored suggestions that they’ll appreciate. The restaurant upselling techniques above are easy to implement and test out until you find the best ones for your business.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.