Up sell to enhance your guest’s experience!

 In Operations

Authored by Fred Langley

So many servers are afraid to make suggestions because they don’t want to seem pushy.

Address this attitude by pointing out that you want your guests to have the best possible experience that they’re in the mood for. It is for the guest’s experience the server educates and informs. Here are some guidelines for enhancing the guest’s experience by up selling:

Read your customer

  • Understand the context of the visit. Three men loosening their ties late on Friday are likely in the mood for beer or happy hour. Women with shopping bags will likely want sparkling or coffee drinks. Guests doing business do not need to hear a description of sauces or desserts. Know your audience.
  • Ask guests if they have been here before, guide newcomers through the menu and point out changes to repeat diners.
  • Knowing birthdays and anniversaries will help sell sparkling and desserts.
  • Keep personal preferences to yourself, you might not want dessert after a big meal, but your guests might.
  • Suggest sharing and then talk about your favorite or “our signature.”
  • When finished, follow up and seal the relationship, not the deal.

When up selling can backfire

  • Don’t bombard your guests with unnecessary information or too many choices early in the selling phase. Build rapport, then engage and inform.
  • Avoid blanket phrases like: “Everything is good here!”or “Take a look at the menu and I’ll be back.” This shows lack of knowledge and preparation.
  • NO DIRTY MENUS! Menus are sales tools and dirty ones are a turnoff.

Selling Spirits

  • Fact, 65 percent of people have no idea what to order.
  • Gauge the mood. If they are looking at a drink list or wine list, it shows they have interest.
  • “Are you in the mood for something fun?” This opens their minds to an up sell.
  • “I’ll have a vodka and tonic.” This begs for an up sell, ask “what’s your preference?” Then suggest brands.
  • On reorders say, “if you liked brand X then you may want to try brand Y, it has a smoother finish.”
  • If a guest specifies a $30 bottle of wine, suggest three with one under that price. Explain the qualities and what food they go with.
  • Prevent sticker shock with phrases like, “it costs a little more” or “our premium scotch.”

Face-to-Face Attention

  • Everyone wants to be noticed so touch tables and remember anyone who approaches a table has the opportunity to up sell.
  • Connect people to the experience they are having and use it to invite them to come again. “If you liked the scallops, next time try the salmon.”

Remember, we are in the business to serve and exceed expectations. Approach your guests with this attitude and you will avoid breaching their trust.


Fred Langley is the executive chef and owner of Langley’s on the Green, www.langleysonthegreen.com, a fine dining establishment in Windsor, Calif., located in the heart of the Sonoma County wine country. Fred believes fine dining is about more than food, but about the entire experience. He is a part of the Smile Button coaching team and his unique restaurant set-up, family involvement and high standards make him an incredible asset and coach.

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