Suggestive Selling Sells Itself!
By Susie Ross Founder, Waiter Training | October 28, 2008
Do you want your restaurant to be people's favorite place to enjoy a meal? Is your food consistently good? Is your wait staff truly interested in your guests' best dining experience? Or are they going to the tables and "taking an order?" How many times have you heard one or your entire wait staff say, "I'm going to take table thirteen's order now...be right back!" The answer is every day, of course.
And what's wrong with taking an order anyway? It's become the expected standard to just shuffle over to the table and ask what people want. That's everything that is wrong with it! Servers should have enthusiasm when they approach tables. They don't have to be bouncing off the walls on a sugar high, but they should be alert and focused on the task at hand. If your staff is complaining that they don't make enough in tips, it's highly likely they're the very ones who "shuffle" and "take orders." People don't just give their money away to servers like this. Your guests are looking for personality, soft-selling techniques and accurate, attentive service.
Soft-selling is suggestive selling. No one likes to feel like they're being "sold" anything, including food. Suggestive selling is an art form. Guests should never feel like they're being pushed into buying the most expensive item on the menu. When done properly, guests never know the server is artfully guiding them toward a higher check average, which is actually excellent customer service. Quite possibly, the best marketing line ever created was, "Would you like fries with that?" Fries go with a burger; therefore it's logical to ask a guest if he would like fries to accompany his burger! It works the same in any kind of restaurant, burgers or steaks, fries or baked potatoes.
We can learn a lot from the fast food chains. Employees were trained to ask, "Would you like fries with that?" Now that the chains, in their infinite wisdom, have created meal packages, where the fries and beverage come with the burger, where could they possibly go from there? Not to worry! You can super-size, biggie size and basically enlarge every bit of your order for a little up-charge. Bigger is better. True, fast food workers don't have a huge menu to learn; they just have to know to ask the right questions. It's by design. And the design for all restaurants should be to make sure all employees are asking the right questions.
Your staff should have complete knowledge of your menu. Part of knowing and understanding the menu is knowing what items can accompany entrees and other dishes. It should be an automatic response to almost any entr'ee on the menu. For example, if I order a BLT, a service/sales-oriented server would counter with, "Good choice; our BLT's are great! You know what's really good on that? Avocado! It's the best! Would you like to try it?" Everyone has a different personality and those words can be said many different ways. The point is they should know the menu well enough to "ask the right questions." They should also know the bar and the premium alcohol you serve. Servers should automatically be up-selling to your premium lines of alcohol.
The person who asks the questions is usually the person in control. Diners are going to have questions; your staff should have answers and be able to maintain control of the process. The questions they ask will reveal what kind of foods they like and dislike; the server should be able to work with that and suggest accordingly. In order to establish and maintain control of the table, servers should approach a new table with a question to get the guests thinking the way we want them to think. The obvious question pertains to beverages - specific beverages. One example is, "Good afternoon, Ladies! Can I bring you some iced tea or a glass of Chardonnay to start with today?" There are many ways to offer specific beverages; a good server will read his table and know how to proceed.