a waitress is making recommendations for restaurant guests

How to Upsell in a Restaurant without Annoying Customers

Today, the competition in the restaurant sector is high. Business owners are still having a hard time finding ways to break through and grow revenue for their restaurants, especially during the pandemic.

Upselling is the key to bringing in high sales for your business. In other words, how can you encourage customers to spend more without hesitation?

Check out our tips below on how to upsell in a restaurant and try applying to your own!

What is upselling?

Upselling is a sales technique whereby the seller or waitstaff convinces customers to buy products and services that meet customers’ exact needs and are more expensive to increase sales. The essence of upselling is to encourage customers to spend more money than they originally intended.

Job positions that are often in contact with guests such as reception, restaurant service, bartender, waitstaff, etc. should be equipped with upselling skills.

How to upsell in a restaurant

Keeping in mind the psychology of customers who like to have a bargain and benefits, your employees can ask questions such as “Do you want to add a side dish?” to motivate customers to spend more money than the original plan.

If you know and adopt upselling strategies, good chances are your restaurant can get more sales and earnings. Check out the tips below!

Use descriptive language

To fully introduce menu items and motivate customers to pay for them, the waitstaff needs to know exactly everything about the dishes. Let them taste the food!

You can provide your staff with a list of appropriate descriptive language. Let them describe the dishes to you first as part of a training process, to guarantee that the descriptions sound appealing.

Adopt an enthusiastic attitude

If the wait staff sounds bored or uninterested, the customer will have a negative impression and will not want to try the recommended food. So, encourage your team to adopt an enthusiastic attitude when upselling.

Have your staff express how excellent the food is when making recommendations to customers, as if they had had it earlier in the day. Customers will be more likely to trust the suggestions and pay more if the servers can demonstrate them well.

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Strategize your menu

While it’s important to be tactful when upselling to guests in person, don’t be subtle with your menu offerings. Inform your guests of all the possible upsells by writing them clearly on the menu, and train your staff to mention them in conversations.

For example, if a burger can go with an egg, you can have the egg option right next to the burger. You’ll get them thinking about how delicious the burger would be with an extra sunny side up.

This technique allows customers to customize their own dishes. People may prefer a burger without bacon, so having the option to have it in their burger or not gives them a sense of ownership instead of paying a higher price for something they’re not interested in.

Make the right recommendations at the right time

When your waiters are taking orders, they should know what appropriate items to suggest and when to suggest them. Customers are unlikely to want dessert before their meal, so suggesting dessert when they first sit down will be ineffective.

If you train your servers on what upsells well at what times, you’ll be more likely to boost extra revenues. When a customer sits down, offer them a drink or an appetizer from the bar. Once they’ve finished eating, recommend dessert or tea before you bring the bill.

Take wine, for instance. When customers first sit down, they love to sip a glass of wine while perusing the menu. And because they haven’t looked carefully at the menu yet, they’ll be more receptive to the wine recommendation you make. This can be a good time to upsell a highly profitable bottle.

Mention takeout option

Customers are either full by the end of the dinner or don’t want to overeat. It can be hard to upsell them with some desserts at this time.

If customers don’t want desserts, offer them the option of taking desserts home to eat later. If they accept the option, you can prepare the desserts while printing the bill to save time.

Train your staff

Your staff are the key when it comes to upselling. Almost every interaction they have with customers is an opportunity to sway customers’ decisions.

Train your employees about the importance of upselling and techniques on how to upsell in a restaurant without bothering customers.

Make sure your servers are familiar with your restaurant menu, specials, and that they’ve tried the dishes, so they can make more personalized recommendations to consumers.

Upselling training should be an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. Update your staff on new techniques, new items and deals on a regular basis so they always have the most up-to-date information to deliver to customers.


“Right time, right place, right need” is the principle to help you upsell successfully. You’ll start to see a positive impact on your bottom line once you start talking to your staff about upselling and how to upsell in your restaurant.

Your staff will need some time to get used to upselling, but with enough practice, it should become their second nature.

To learn more about how to manage your restaurant more effectively, check out our restaurant management guide.

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