September 1, 2023
Devn Ratz

From Servers to Software: Upselling Techniques to Elevate Any Restaurant

If you know what upselling means and how to upsell, you should subtly flavor a constantly improving customer experience, whether on-premise or online.

Because, when you look at upselling, what cross-selling is, and sales generally‒your purpose centers on convincing customers to buy more items, for more money, on a more frequent basis. Once you see this, it's a matter of deciding which tactic (upselling vs. cross-selling) fits your brand's personality and restaurant technology stack.

This post is designed to help you marshal the appropriate upselling techniques to fuel restaurant revenue and brand expansion. We also have the complete guide to upselling vs. cross-selling for restaurants.

The story is this: to have customers buy more at higher prices, begin with proven upselling techniques like those for in-house servers, print or digital menus, online ordering platforms, as well as the personal, psychological interactions that define your restaurant.

Explore how servers can inspire adventurous, new, and advantageously priced ordering. Then, see why menu management (or restaurant menu design) helps with complementary personalization (a form of "cross-selling").

Key Takeaway: Proper upselling techniques improve average spend, restaurant revenue, order accuracy, loyalty program engagement, operational efficiency, and other business needs.
Learn the right upselling techniques for your business through restaurant data intelligence tools and tips, included free in our downloadable guide.

On-Premise Upselling Scenarios

Perhaps there's no substitute for selling than the well-trained, wit-ready server who interacts with customers through a gentle rapport. As staff servers suggest the added items, upgrades, or premium ingredients that match that person's or group's behavior and expressed interests, valuable inventory turns to rewarding revenue.

The Importance of Sincerity

The basic need for on-premise upselling techniques is sincerity. If a server successfully enhances the customers' experience, they usually do so in earnest, through a positive connection focused on the customer. When these diners feel cared for by their servers, they slide easily into buying "suggestions."

The key to higher averages is then, mostly, to listen actively, closely, and attentively‒before responding with a fitting recommendation. Knowing this, let's turn to more complex situations for upselling, like menu management.

Menu Engineering Upselling Examples

When you learn how to make a menu‒you'll likely notice that you're as open to menu upselling techniques as the next person.

Consider Color Choices

Most menus feature intentional and specific use of colors like red, yellow, and orange. These tones draw attention and stimulate the appetite and drive for more. Applying these hues to your menu in target sections can push high-profit, high-cost items as a bold, built-in upsell offer. Introduce new and loyal customers to those high-margin items with bold, appetitive color choices.

Highlight High-Profit Dishes

Restaurant menu design asks that we think categorically and with a customer's mind. By placing high-value items in strategic, eye-centric real estate on your menu, you prime customers to notice. Customers are particularly fond of sustainable menu items which sport premium pricing in exchange for guiltless value.

The best choices for these pricey dining options are at the very top and corners of your menu. Here the eyes of patrons dance and delight in colorful sections, pop-outs, and graphics. In such prime positions, the profitable recipes featured get silently marked as premium foods: easy to trust, order, and enjoy.

Restaurant Technology Upselling Methods

With online ordering integration of customer data, you can introduce a whole new world of upselling techniques for your restaurant. Explore technologies that emphasize streamlined features

Integrate Data Insight

Combine restaurant data intelligence with your POS system, CRM software, and even inventory management solutions. If you do, you'll quickly spot trends in your customer data about their true tastes and tendencies. Then, engage them on a personalized "flavor journey," aiming at higher order volumes and averages.

Between your customer and restaurant food data, integrated systems can automatically entice customers with the upsell items relevant to their individual online food ordering process. At the same time, you stay aligned with each customer's order history and profile information.

Segment and Sell More

You shouldn't neglect the potency of your collective CRM data, especially multi-location restaurants with delivery. Many enterprise eateries actively and aggressively leverage this information to segment their customers, offering tailored and targeted promotions to increase ordering.

You'll have to firmly grasp customer preferences, order histories, and interaction sentiment in order to effectively sell this way. But, statistically speaking, restaurants who put in the work to listen to their customers (as we noted before) will see quick scaling in revenue. Try restaurant AI tools to speed up the process of reporting and analysis.

Psychological Upselling Tactics

Ultimately, upselling is psychological. The drives (and fears) triggering the need to buy more, spend more, or order more often have been demonstrated‒time and again.

Fear of Missing Out

For instance, famed FOMO (or "fear of missing out") abounds in restaurants as customers easily see other patrons enjoying the imagined taste of a signature cocktail on its way through the dining room. Menu formatting often games this factor when teasing the look and feel of recipes through words, graphics, or animations. But, there are other forces more powerfully at work in the minds of diners.

Now or Never?

Scarcity, urgency, and rarity often motivate the successful upsell. Custom countdowns, limited-time offers, and expiring promotions obviously still engage through integrated online ordering that offers customization for your particular food brand.

By getting into the headspace of your restaurant's customer, you can design digital menu experiences that strengthen your upselling strategies. Adding visual cues, personalized offers, and a hint of psychology ultimately energizes your brand with engaged customers‒sold and supported by a magnetic staff.

See how upselling techniques fit naturally into a streamlined online ordering experience through a personalized demo of our restaurant tech.

Frequently Asked Questions About Upselling Techniques

When you step into the world of restaurant sales tactics, you also bring up a learning curve. Here you’ll find the best responses to common upselling situations in restaurants.

Let the types, examples, and best practices for upselling in restaurants guide you practically toward selecting the right strategy at the right time for the perfect customer.

Are there four types of restaurant upselling?

To boost revenue and enhance customer experiences, these four basic categories of upselling form the foundation of most, if not all, restaurant sales:

Add-ons. Adding items to your customer’s plate, so to speak, ignites their desire for adventure and new experiences.

Upgrades. Inspiring your diners to try new premium offers is a great way to express value, relevance, and appeal.

Cross-sells. When purchases become a bundled package or combo, your cross-selling brings variety and curiosity.

Substitutes. Swapping one ingredient or dish for another often means sparking a new interest in fresh, undiscovered fare.

What are the best examples of upselling in restaurants?

Mastery of upselling stems from a combined understanding of digital and hands-on tactics. As an example of excellence in each, take a look at about the possibility of dessert after dinner:

On your digital menu, you can automate a suggested meal upgrade or sweet treat at the end of the entrée ordering process.

Whereas on-premise, pairing a signature vegan cocktail with notes of coffee and truffle might work.

In both strategies, servers and software appeal to the customer before them, elevating the sales figure as well as the delight of the dining experience. This is the best meaning of upselling possible.

What is the “rule of three” as an upselling technique?

When deciding how to help customers choose their dish, you can rely on the “rule of three” which proceeds like this:

Option #1. This should be the most normal, natural, and casual choice for the customer.

Option #2. Their second choice should present a little more sophistication, class, or scale at a slightly higher price.

Option #3. Then, the third presentation is the most deluxe, robust, and rich solution to customer hunger.

By presenting a range, service covers the demographics of most customers while optimizing for spend. In other words, you help customers spend most when they're presented with different plates at rising prices.

To learn even more about the latest sales strategies in the modern eatery, explore free resources on all things restaurant management, innovation, operations, and streamlined service.