How to maximize revenue in your independent restaurant through upselling and cross-selling techniques

Dec 18, 2023

As an independent restaurant owner or operator, boosting revenue is a constant goal. One of the most effective strategies to achieve this objective is through active upselling and cross-selling techniques. By implementing these practices, you can increase the size of your average bill and enhance customer satisfaction. It’s a win-win, and with some effort, it’s completely achievable.

Morton Food Service is dedicated to providing resources and support to food service operators here in southern Ontario. Today, we’ll look at some easy to implement strategies designed to maximize revenue by upselling and cross-selling in your independent restaurant. To learn more or for personalized advice from our team of food service experts, please contact us. Our reps are always glad to hear from you and be of service.

Train and empower your staff

A confident, empowered group of servers is an incredible asset to your organization, and it starts with you. Effective upselling and cross-selling can only happen with well-trained and knowledgeable staff. Train your servers and front-of-house staff to understand the menu thoroughly, including all available add-ons, upgrades, and complementary items. Encourage them to recommend suitable options based on customers’ preferences without being pushy. You want customers to feel enticed and encouraged but not pressured!

Customize the dining experience

Encourage your staff to engage with customers and actively listen to their needs and preferences. While one customer may want something rich and indulgent, another may be looking for lighter options. There will also be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and nut-free requirements to consider, plus good old-fashioned likes and dislikes. Ask a few questions, then tailor your menu recommendations to suit individual tastes and dietary requirements. By personalizing the dining experience, you create a sense of care and attentiveness, which increases the likelihood of successful upselling and cross-selling.

Highlight specials and signature dishes

Make your restaurant’s specials and signature dishes stand out on the menu. Use appealing descriptions, eye-catching graphics, or symbols to draw attention to these items. Your staff should also be able to describe these dishes in an accurate and appealing way, and be able to answer questions about each item. Knowing this, your staff should be tasting specials before a shift whenever possible. This will help them advocate for those items in an authentic way and allow them to tell customers they’ve tried it themselves. Customers are more likely to be intrigued by unique offerings and may be more open to trying something new with a bit of encouragement.

Pairing and suggestive selling

The power of suggestion is real! Train your staff to suggest suitable food and beverage pairings to complement customers’ main choices. For instance, recommend a specific wine with a particular dish or a delectable dessert to finish the meal. Suggestive selling can enhance the overall dining experience and boost sales. It also helps customers feel well attended to during their dining experience.

Offer add-ons and upgrades

Sometimes a simple strategy is the most effective one. Consider providing enticing add-on options or upgrades that complement the customers’ original selections. For example, offer premium toppings, extra side dishes, or a larger portion size for a nominal fee. By presenting these options as value-adds, customers will perceive them as enhancing their meal rather than a sales tactic. Ideally, these upgrades will be viewed as a bonus that adds value. When appropriate, you can suggest that customers order one meal with a number of value add-ons and upgrades to make it shareable and leave room for dessert.

Utilize tableside or digital menus

Convenience is king and in an increasingly digital world, a screen-based menu can be very well-received. Incorporate tableside tablets or digital menus that display mouth-watering images of your dishes and suggest complementary items or daily specials. Digital menus make it easier for customers to visualize their choices and encourage exploration of other offerings. Be sure to offer paper menus as well—some people embrace technology more than others, and you want to have options that appeal to all different types of guests.

Know that timing is key

A key part of staff training, know that timing is always important to sales. Strategically time your upselling and cross-selling efforts during the dining experience to get the best possible results. Avoid bombarding customers with offers when they first sit down or are in the middle of their meal. Instead, present additional options at appropriate moments, such as after taking their initial order, while presenting beverage options or before dessert. Once your servers find their rhythm and master this well-timed sales technique, they’ll be unstoppable! Be sure to acknowledge their efforts and successes to ensure that they continue taking this approach.

Loyalty programs and incentives

Everyone loves a little bonus (or a free appetizer). Consider implementing a loyalty program that rewards frequent customers with exclusive offers or discounts on upsell and cross-sell items. Incentives such as complimentary beverages or desserts for certain spending thresholds can encourage patrons to explore more of your menu. After all, if they’re spending $85 on two dinners but know they’ll get a free dessert if they spend $100, they may be encouraged to add an app or a bottle of wine. Determine which offers work best for your establishment and introduce them to your customers—we bet they’ll be warmly received.

Contact us to learn more

Upselling and cross-selling techniques present excellent opportunities for independent restaurants to increase revenue and enhance the overall dining experience. By training and empowering your staff, customizing the dining experience, highlighting specials, and offering add-ons and upgrades, you can effectively implement these practices and increase your bottom line. Remember, the key to successful upselling and cross-selling lies in striking a balance between promoting additional items and ensuring that customers feel well-cared for and appreciated—never pressured to spend more than they want to. However, when executed thoughtfully, these techniques will contribute to the growth and success of your independent restaurant. Thanks for reading and please contact your local Morton Food Service rep for more information. We’re here to support your success and would be pleased to discuss whatever’s on your mind.