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5 Reasons Why Your Servers Don’t Upsell Consistently

Updated: Jun 21




Upselling can make a big impact on your sales when done consistently.


Just imagine how a hundred dollar additional average ticket every day can turn to $52,000 yearly profit when you make sure that each of your servers does upsell.


And that you may be losing that big amount of money every time your employees missed out on the opportunity to do so.


That's why you should be obsessed with reminding and ensuring every server you have in your restaurant to do upselling vigorously.





You as a restaurant owner or manager need to identify what are the common problems your people are facing why upselling consistently seems to be hard for them.


Here are 5 things we found out why servers don't upsell:


1. It’s not a daily priority - it's not a priority for the owner or the managers.


You are bombarded with a lot of more important things, like an AC not working properly, staff not showing up, someone sends a wrong order, etc.


If you don't make upselling a priority, you're stuck.




If you don't manage the servers and model it like you go out and do it yourself for some time, it conveys the team, regardless, that it is not a priority. The team gets to absorb this, and they get distracted.


2. It’s not a habit - you as the manager have so much on your plate.



You have to figure out and give time to make upselling a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes so much easier, it's like a part of your routine.


Money generating activities are very important, and this simple one of following a script, that is going to upsell, is definitely one of them.


The customer may say yes or no, it does not matter. It's about following the system consistently to get consistent results.


So if you're going to make money out of doing it, then it is just so wrong not to do it. You just have to be focused and dedicated to practicing it persistently.


If you are overwhelmed, you might have someone on your team who is pretty good at this. The one who may get better results than the others, and you should know who that person is.


Hold that person accountable and manage the rest of the team. Let that person share what he or she usually says to the customers and put him or her in-charge in keeping her colleagues consistent in doing the upsell.


For example in our restaurant, one of our servers was using the phrase, "Your dessert stomach is not yet full because it's a separate stomach for dessert for upselling."





We found out that this has been very effective in making the customers say "yes", so this was shared among us and indeed, it works.


For something to become a habit, statistics say that you have to do it in 21 to 218 days, depending on what kind of practice it is.


For upselling to become a habit, it takes an ugly amount of reminders. You have to do it over and over. You need to follow-up with your people from time to time.

Sometimes you give up and become tired. You tend to forget. This should not be the case. Always remember that it really takes a long time for something to become a habit.


It requires loads of follow-up, accountability, tracking, encouragement, and recognition, weeks after weeks. But again, it's all worth it.


It can be exhausting but it is money generating activity. No profit, no business. You need to turn it into a habit, reminding your people over and over again.

3. The wrong mindset - your staff may think that all the managers are just saying to do it, or it's just something they ought to say. They sound like a robot.


For some, it's something that they don't understand or never thought about.


Some may think that they are just trying to charge customers more or the owner just wants to make more money.


Most of them, if they don't understand, they don't understand.




Our job as the owner or manager is to teach them. Turn those thinking into a Win-Win-Win concept:


👉A win for the servers - Let your servers do the Math of upselling to show them that's it's a win for them.


When we talk about how a staff wins with upselling, it's when the average ticket goes up, tip percentage by default goes up.


👉A win for the customers - It's a win for the customers.


For example, you offered tiramisu. Then, you discovered that it was your customer's favorite because it reminds her of her brother who works in Italy.


Why would you rob that customer of an even better experience in your restaurant by not offering her a tiramisu? She might have not noticed it on the menu and all she needs is someone to tell her about it.


She may have had a bad tiramisu in another restaurant and she's thinking about the taste of that one versus the one in Italy and just can't imagine how yours can be any better.


So if your server takes the time to explain to her, the customer wins.

👉A win for the business - Upselling is also a win for the business, obviously, because sales go up.



It's an add on sales that is not too challenging. Usually, you upsell desserts and other foods like a brownie that is pre-packaged or might be something that has relatively low cost like tiny donuts.


As long as the kitchen can deliver, do the upsell and it's a win for the business.


When sales go up, proportionally, labor goes down. A lot of times, servers may not understand the impact of labor going down as the sales go up.


That means for restaurant owners, it's time to give some raises to the kitchen crew because the servers make their own tips, and they can control how much money they make.


The servers need to understand that if you would like your team in the kitchen to get some raises, they need to help us out there.

For example, we need to upgrade the equipment, the AC for instance, since everybody is suffering because it's hot, and it will cost us thousands. Or we talked to our leadership department about plans for having a new location.


We want to build a saving because we will need $50,000-$70,000 to open a new one. We need to explain these things to them for them to understand the impact of upselling.


Everybody must contribute and this mindset of win-win-win may be lacking. It could be the reason why they are not upselling consistently.


4. The fear of rejection - another possible reason why your servers do not upsell consistently is the fear of being rejected, and they will never tell you that.


What happens is in their minds, they're thinking, "Oh no, what if I ask the customer, he would say no."


Another example is, you tell them this is how you do it and then they go, and the first customer they ask would say, "No, I'm fine".



But then on their heads subconsciously they will say, "Oh no, they rejected me as a person, I'm horrible", just because somebody told them "no".


No one enjoys rejection. Maybe your servers don't have a thick skin yet.

So the first thing to do when you observed these things, you may directly ask them how they feel when a customer rejects them.


Let them talk, for you to identify the problem. Acknowledge how they feel, give them a tap on their shoulders, and encourage them.


Help them realize the problem, let them be aware of it. Usually, the answer comes down to the lack of mastery of the script, the system.


Perhaps they don't have confidence in the kitchen that they will deliver accordingly because if they don't, they will look really bad in the eyes of the customer.


Mastery of the script requires constant practice and role-plays for it to come naturally. Help them master the script.


Tell them to stop taking it personally when customers say no to them. Customers are not rejecting you as a person.


Perhaps they say "no" because they don't want it, or maybe they're on a budget. Maybe they are allergic to dairy. Tell them to set aside their emotions and always be professional.




5. The "what" versus the "how" - Managers tend to tell servers what to do all the time like "go upsell this and that."


And then servers come back and they don't do it. But they never come back to say, for example, "I don't know what's in the cannoli."


It is important that you just not tell them what to do, but show them how to do it. Demonstrate to them how to do it. Verify if indeed, they know how to do it.


You may try asking them, on a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are they with upselling the cannoli?


And then from there, analyze what could be the most effective solution to resolve their difficulties. If that means showing the actual thing, like how cannoli is being done, then do it.



We're going about these reasons for you to observe and realize why is that your people are not upselling consistently.



One of the reasons maybe is that they don't know how to do it. Or you don't turn it into a habit or you don't ask them and verify.


By the end of the day, as a restaurant owner or manager, it still lies in your hands-on how to make your people upsell.






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