Upselling Techniques – how to become a Top-Seller!

upselling techniques

Why the waiters should perfect their selling and upselling techniques?

Will you agree with me that the waiters are the face of the establishment and the only people with direct contact with the guests who can influence their decision-making and choice?

Here is a brief account of how important it is to train your waiters well:

If one server sells today to 10 tables, 20 dollars more worth of food or drinks, he will increase the revenue by 200 dollars. This is an extra 6000 dollars for the month if you work seven days a week, and 72 000 dollars for the year! Assuming we have five waiters in an average size restaurant, this is 360 000 dollars extra revenue from the abilities of the waiters to sell! Each waiter will earn an additional 12 000 dollars for themselves (in the USA)! 20 dollars a table makes a huge difference!

Remember, selling and up-selling is good for us only if it brings value to our guests – delicious taste, great new experience, etc. Selling for profit will eventually push our guests away, and finding a new guest cost five times more than retaining an existing guest.

What should we try to sell and how:

  1. Daily (Chef’s) specials upselling techniques:
  • Knowledge – learn everything about the specials in detail. If the guest sense that you don’t know what are you selling, you lose their trust 
  • Talk with confidence – it is better to taste the product to sell it with confidence, but that is not the case with us every time. You know your chef, and if you have faith in him, sell his special with the same confidence to the guests. 
  • Bring sparkles to your eyes, be passionate about the specials and describe them in a personal way. For example: “Oh, it’s totally amazing. Our chef is from Perugia, Italy, and he prides himself on doing everything authentic Italian! “, or “I will just tell you that our pizza Chef is called Gerardo Pizzi, and he is a fifth-generation pizzaiolo from Napoli. Everything this guy is doing comes from the heart!” 
  • Make sure that you can answer any question the guests ask about the food or the preparation! 
  1. Aperitifs upselling techniques
  • The easiest way here is if the management has thought about daily cocktails, we can suggest and sell. If not, we should ask the guests if they want a cocktail or a drink as we name a few of the best aperitifs we serve in the restaurant: – May I offer you a cocktail or a drink? Maybe a glass of prosecco, a glass of champagne, or would you like to start with a bottle of water? 
  • Many guests don’t know what they want to drink until they hear it from you. In an Italian restaurant, a glass of prosecco is the most ordered drink once you say the name! 
  • Don’t feel bad about selling drinks! The people go out to eat, drink and have fun! We try to enhance their experience by giving them ideas and options they might not think about at the moment! 

Appetizers, salads, and soups upselling techniques

  • Here is where we have to be careful not to come as pushy! Not everyone can eat a three-course meal! The best approach is to ask! If the guest orders the main course directly, we ask: “You are not having a salad or an appetizer?” – just to make sure we have not missed something. Then when everyone has ordered the food, and only one or two people from the party have ordered appetizers, I apply a simple but effective trick. I tell the guests what is going to happen next! 

(Ladies and gentlemen, I will bring the appetizer for the gentleman first, and after that, all the main courses will be served together! Is that fine with you?) 

50% of the time, a guest will order an appetizer because they just realized they have to wait while someone else is eating, and they don’t want to!

  • Only once (in my entire career), the person with the appetizer has given up on it, so the others don’t wait!

The wine is the most important thing we sell as waiters.

  • A nice bottle of wine increases your check average and enhances your guests’ experience like nothing else!
  •  To be able to sell wine, you need knowledge! Learn the wine list in the restaurant very well! 
  • Bring the wine list to the table but don’t suggest you help the guests choose! Some guests have better knowledge than us; some get offended that we think they cannot select their wine! Here is what I exactly say: (Here is the wine list, sir. We have some excellent local wines in there and, of course, some hidden Italian gems!) This tells the guests that you know the wine list well and are ready to help them. Believe me; they want to find those excellent local wines or those Italian gems for their dinner!
  • When the guests ask for your suggestion, you can start with some of the best bottles you have on the list, without really suggesting them; then move to lesser, more affordable wines: 

(Guest: What would you suggest for us tonight? 

Waiter: Well, I would love to suggest the Sassicaia 2006, which is one of the best wines ever made, and we just happen to have a bottle of it here, but if you are not looking for something so special I would suggest you try some of the local wines. What kind of wine do you like to drink?) Always acquire the guests’ preference before you really offer a wine! Maybe they want to drink only white wine, or only red. Perhaps they prefer full-bodied, aged red wine or just a fresh, light, easy-drinking wine.

Dessert and coffee upselling techniques.

Those are very profitable items, and the management loves to see we sell them to increase the profit! The best time to engage the guests is while you are removing their plates after they have finished their main course. Ask them if they are satisfied and let them know what an exceptional dessert is awaiting them next! Choose one dessert that you think is world-class in your restaurant and concentrate on it. Talk about it with passion and excitement:

 -How was the food? Did you enjoy it? Is everybody happy and satisfied?

-Oh yes! It was wonderful!

-Excellent, now it will get even better once you try our world’s best tiramisu! I have never eaten anything like that before, and I love tiramisu! No matter the guests’ decision, you suggest espresso or cappuccino and mention that they could end the dinner with a pleasant digestive. Name a few of them: Limoncello, Grappa, etc.  

How Selling and Upselling works?

To be able to sell something to anyone, you need their trust! As waiters, we don’t have much time to earn the guest’s trust, so the first impression is crucial! 

-Dress to impress – the guests judge by the look first 

-Smile and greet the guests with a positive attitude – be confident and passionate when you talk about a product you want to sell 

-Be creative in your choice of words and your approach



Body language – 55%

The tone of voice – 38%

Content of speech – 7%

Selling and upselling techniques:

  • ask open questions: What, When, Who, Where, Why

(What kind of wine do you like?)

  • use the magic words: modern, excellent, popular, favorite

(My favorite dessert in this restaurant is the tiramisu)

  • sell the difference: tell the guests how much more they will pay for a better product, not the total

(This wine cost 25 dollars more, but it is three times better)

  • use the guest’s name: naming guests by their name increases sales five times

(Mr.Smith, I have a fantastic daily special today that I know you will love)

  • praise the guests for their choice:

(Great choice, sir! This is one of the best wines you could order in this restaurant)

Five principles of selling:

1. Take pride in what you do! See yourself as a provider of joy – all you do is try to enhance your guests’ experience. You are not a salesman.

2. Be familiar with everything you offer – learn your menu, wine list, and the chef’s special in detail. Knowledge reduces stress and gives you confidence.

3. Be confident with what you offer – if you really believe that your suggestion is worth buying and it will enhance your guests’ experience, you will have the confidence to sell it.

4. Encourage your guests to buy – just being passionate and using the correct words is not enough to turn yourself into a best seller. Give the guest encouragement: This is the most popular dessert in our restaurant. You have to taste it, even if you split one portion for all of us. You will love it.

5. Use words that sell – excellent, modern, popular, etc.

Training staff takes time, effort, and resources. Unfortunately, a lot of restaurants overlook that side of the business, and part of the excuses are legitimate:

-those people will quit in a few months anyway. Why would I waste my time and money to train them?

-they won’t do it, no matter what I teach them!

-it won’t make a big difference

The truth is that training your waiters helps earn their loyalty and reduces turnover. It is also true that if you teach the staff and then don’t follow up daily to control if everyone is applying the knowledge, they won’t do it. You have to create a system that ensures every waiter is doing the right thing and clearly sees the benefits for themselves from doing it.

And as the numbers above show, the multiplying effect of consistent effort of your waiters to sell will have a significant impact on your bottom line and, ultimately, your success!

I appreciate your attention! 

Thank you so much, and best of luck in 2022!

For Free Comprehensive Waiter Training Visit:

The Online Waiter Training Course

The Basics of Wine Course

The Busser Training Course

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  • Darshan
    September 21, 2022


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