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How to Train Restaurant Staff to Upsell

Zac Francis
Zac Francis

When you hear the word "upsell", your brain may conjure up the image of a businessperson in an expensive suit trying their hardest to charm their client into purchasing something they can't afford. In reality, upselling is a legitimate and valuable skill that can benefit both the customer and the business.  

But what exactly is upselling? And how can restaurants optimize it to improve their business? Read on to find out.

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What is Upselling and Why is it Important?

Upselling is a sales technique designed to persuade consumers to purchase something more expensive or additional—or both, if you’re really good. The ability to upsell is especially important in the highly competitive restaurant industry where customer persuasion can determine whether your business survives and thrives.

But the benefits of upselling extend beyond sales and profit. It can provide a source of motivation, not just in the form of tips, but also by creating some friendly competition among your workforce and pandering to our desire to win. 

And increased employee motivation improves employee retention— motivated employees are 87% less likely to leave their job. 


5 Ways to Train Your Restaurant Employees to Upsell

Now you know upselling plays an important role in many business areas, how do you train your staff to master this form of persuasion? Read on to discover some useful tips for upselling in restaurants.

1. Teach them sales techniques

Upselling in restaurants is different from other industries. Your customers are partaking in an intimate experience and your sales technique should reflect this. You’re limited in your approach—there’s no script to fall back on or test drive to offer. 

Teach your staff basic sales techniques. Encourage a perceptive approach that will help your employees understand the people they’re serving. For example, a group of friends who are taking their time to eat and catch up may be more inclined to say yes to dessert, whereas work colleagues out for lunch are time conscious, so skip the add-ons and recommend the more expensive items on the menu. 

Pair this approach with a good understanding of timing. Look for moments to jump in and offer your services. Be careful, appearing too often can annoy customers and leave them less receptive to upselling.

Upselling should seem like good service rather than a sales pitch

- Eleanor Frisch of Foodservice Warehouse

2. Update them on new menu items

Your staff can’t upsell if they don’t know what’s on offer, or what items to push. Make sure to routinely go over the menu, emphasizing new items and whatever it is you want promoted. 

Knowing the details of the menu is only half the task—how to present the menu to the customer is key to improving your chances of a sale. There are a number of things to consider when communicating with customers, and the more abstract elements can only be fine-tuned through experience (think adjusting your tone to match someone’s mood). However, teaching your staff to speak clearly and concisely—so the table isn’t inundated with information—is vital to the upselling process. 

Then there’s the importance of the service aligning with the brand. If you’re a high-end French cuisine restaurant, you may want your staff to communicate in a more formal manner. And if you’re a low-budget burger joint, then servers may need to come across as laidback and easy going.

3. Promote continuous learning

To really optimize your employee’s ability to upsell, you’ll need to promote continuous learning. With the consistent introduction of new products and sales techniques evolving, one-off training during the onboarding process won’t suffice.

The only way to keep up with change is to carry on learning. Find a way to integrate updates into your staff’s workflow and provide them with the time to absorb new information and put it into practice. This well-rounded approach can be applied to many forms of training, including leadership, soft skills, and customer service. Upskilling your staff will then provide opportunities for career progression, which, in turn, boosts staff retention. In fact, 40% of employees with poor training will leave the company within the first year.

4. Add incentives

Incentives are an excellent motivator and there are a variety of creative ways to push your workforce to upsell. Arguably the main benefit of upselling is increasing the size of tips, but your incentives don’t need to end there. 

Gamification is pivotal to motivating restaurant staff and encouraging them to implement the training they’ve received. Consider introducing a friendly competition between staff—such as who can sell the most specials— that fosters intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Team members will naturally want to finish top of the leaderboard and you can offer rewards for winners that include favorite shift preferences.

5. Leverage technology

Technology can be a great asset when training your staff, offering alternative methods which are better suited to the on-the-move role of restaurant staff. 

In-person training offers a solid foundation for new employees, but it doesn’t provide real-time updates or allow staff to revisit material further down the line. This is especially vital in the restaurant industry where menus and customer demographic are constantly changing. Additionally, it’s far from ideal to keep dragging staff off the floor to provide ongoing training.

Instead, invest in something more practical—like mobile learning—that can provide the right information to your workforce when they need it most, such as during their shift. Technology also provides the opportunity to collate customer feedback which can then be applied to training, and you can tailor your training program to prepare your workforce for seasonal and special events. 

eduMe is a mobile learning platform that specializes in providing your workforce with role-relevant information when they need it most. Utilizing gamification to motivate users and enhance their performance, eduMe seamlessly integrates into existing technology, ensuring an optimal experience. One of our clients witnessed a 66% increase in sales following the integration of eduMe. 

Get in touch now to find out how eduMe can help train your staff to upsell 👇