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Yes, you’ve guessed it.  The festive season is here and with it comes good news. People are willing to spend more of their cash. This especially means your guests.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that people eat more during the festive season. But it takes a bit of research to work out that people dine out more on the few weeks leading up to Christmas and the week in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, not discounting the two big days themselves: Christmas Day and New Years Day


The Leisure Spend Tracker shows that while leisure activities like going to the cinema and gym memberships fall sharply in December, leisure spending on eating and drinking out increased at Christmas time.


This is great news for restaurant and bar owners like you of course. Clearly, the festive period is probably the most profitable time of the year for your restaurant, bar or cafe.


But how can you increase your profits even more during this festive period? Up-selling is the answer, and it’s not as hard as you think. But it will take a bit of planning and you’ll need to act now.


Your team must be ready


And when I say ‘team’, I specifically mean your servers, since they are the ones on the frontline directly upselling to your customers. Therefore, it makes complete sense they should be well trained in dealing with your customers.


It also means provide extra training in up-selling techniques. But to do that effectively, you need to focus on the following:


  • Product knowledge


Your servers must fully understand each of the products and services your establishment offers. This includes knowing:


  • High profit items (see our blog on Menu Engineering)
  • The component of any packages like Christmas formulas
  • Dish ingredients
  • What the dish tastes like
  • The best accompaniments to have with a specific dish


If you want your servers to explain your products and services to your diners in an authentic way (and you do of course), then your servers themselves will need to experience all your products and services first hand. First, it helps them to memorize them, but here’s the important part, it gives your servers the confidence to talk about what’s on offer to the diners and, therefore, have an increased chance of selling or up-selling


  • Spot the opportunities

Train your servers to identify all the situations that lend themselves as an opportunity to upsell. This can include:


For restaurants

  • Starter suggestions
  • Accompaniments
  • Side orders
  • Desserts and dessert wines
  • Specialist coffees
  • After dinner drinks


For bars

  • Branded beers
  • Snack items


For cafes

  • Pastries with their coffee


Ask yourself what is more specific for your own operations and start adding to the above list.


Teach your servers about timing. If severs try to up-sell a dessert too soon, diners might refuse since they are too full from eating their mains. Ask too late and they have gone off the idea.



  • Practice practice practice


You’ve trained your staff to up-sell and they are ready to go…but are they? Knowing what and how to up-sell is one thing but actually doing it is another.


Provide role-playing sessions where your servers can practice in a safe environment and get used to the art of up-selling. Present challenging situations and ways they can get past them.


Practice makes perfect. A cliché maybe, but true nevertheless. You really can’t practice enough.



  • Dealing with objections


Severs need to be able handle these kinds of situations.  They need to know:


  • How to tell the difference between a definite ‘No’, and a simple request for more information before buying.


  • When a diner/customer wants something more, but you’ve just offered the wrong thing.


  • How to identify the nature of the objection through asking open questions rather than yes/no questions.



  • Guidance and feedback


You’ve trained your staff to up-sell, but don’t just leave them to it. Watch how they upsell, how they talk to the customers, and then provide feedback on what they did well, what they could do more of, and provide support on areas where they need more help.


So, what should you be promoting?


High profit items should be up there on your list, right? Well yes…but also no. Many F&B owners use this as their ONLY criteria.  But you must also think about what is of value to the customer so the up-sale can be achieved.


Also, up-selling your most expensive item might seem like a good idea but does that item meet your customer’s needs? Plus, is that item the most profitable? Probably not.


Small Bites and Side Dishes


You don’t need me to tell you that starters and appetizers are the margin makers for your F&B business, right? But did you know that millennials are shaping food and beverage offerings?


According to this Forbes article , the trend is for guests, especially millennials, to order small bites rather than a full course meal. Mixed platters that can be shared are highly popular for this reason.


Your servers, therefore, should be up-selling appetizers and low cost yet high margin items like side orders of French fries, onion rings, and so on, not to mention that extra cheese, bacon, mushrooms…to earn more on the total check.




Obviously, your diners are going to order a drink with their meal. But ask your servers to take a more personalized approach and soften up the guest to suggestion.


So, for example, the server could suggest a particular drink that goes well with the order, especially festive drinks.


This could mean pairing your house beer with your burger offering or making wine suggestions for any pasta order. Or more importantly, your house champagne with that Christmas meal.


You’ll know what works best for your menu and diners. But make sure your servers do too.


Happy Hours


Happy Hours are always good for attracting attention to those scrummy side dishes and starters. And this is what your server should be focusing on since most people prefer a small order while they are drinking.


No doubt, you’ll have some extra festive side dishes and snacks that need upselling, right?


You already know that the F&B scene is fiercely competitive (even more so during the festive season) and your business cannot depend solely on guest orders.  Up-selling is one way in which your restaurant can maintain a healthy profit margin…but only if you do it right.


Wishing you all a prosperous 2018.



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John Balian

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