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Published 11.01.2017

Three Ways to Encourage Servers to Sell the Menu

A well-trained staff is essential to the success of your restaurant, especially because foodservice is a customer contact–intensive business.1 The staff needs to be attentive to customer demands while clearly demonstrating the restaurant’s concept and unique attributes. From day one, managers should take the time to properly train servers and set expectations while teaching them how to best sell the menu.

Here are three ways to encourage your servers to sell the menu.

1. Communicate High-Value Attributes

With a growing focus on ingredient transparency, it’s important that your staff is well trained on the menu and where you source ingredients. There’s no doubt servers will be questioned about ingredients and allergens, so make sure your team is prepared with accurate responses. When it comes to meat consumption, consumers have started to inquire about animal welfare, shifting their preference toward animal proteins with NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, no hormones and no preservatives.2 Demand for organic proteins has also increased, with 40% of meat eaters citing organic as important.2 Even if the menu includes high-value claims, servers should still make a point to reinforce premium ingredient attributes, especially since high-value claims can impact customers’ purchasing decisions. When servers understand the profit potential of selling high-value menu items like organic chicken or NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER turkey, they may be more inclined to communicate them. For example, an entrée made with organic protein can command a price point that is almost double the price of an entrée made with conventional protein.

2. Leverage the Power of Upselling

All servers should know the basics of upselling, from offering starters and desserts to knowing how to give a mouthwatering description of menu items. Upselling not only increases restaurant sales, it makes for bigger tips for servers and it shows customers that your staff is knowledgeable and friendly.3 When training your staff to upsell menu items, make sure to demonstrate the importance of enthusiasm. Servers who are enthusiastic about the menu items and seem genuinely happy and excited about how they taste will be able to get the customer more excited to try the items they are suggesting. Also, be sure your team is knowledgeable about the menu, so they recommend extra items to accompany the guests’ orders and suggest items with the highest profit margins.4

3. Activate Incentive Programs

Incentive programs can help motivate servers to sell more premium items and at the same time improve revenue. Cash bonuses, gift cards, free meals and event tickets can help encourage staff. Consider developing a points program that rewards employees who accumulate the most points over a period of time. This gives an advantage to those employees who frequently perform well over those who have a one-time good performance.5 While praise and acknowledgement from managers is critical, measurement of individual employee success is even more essential for keeping workers engaged, motivated and eager to grow with you while reaching and exceeding their own goals.6

Providing employees with the tools they need to succeed benefits everyone and helps set your establishment apart. With the proper training, you can help maximize overall efficiency and boost customer satisfaction, driving return customers and potential profits.

1 Fowler, Shaun, “Methods for Training Restaurant Employees,” Houston Chronicle, 2015

2 Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, “Study: Restaurant Patrons Want Menu Transparency for Meat, Poultry,” 6/16/16

3 Mealey, Lorri, The Basics of Up-Selling Menu Items, The Balance 7/13/16

4 Caruso, Francesco, The Top 10 Tips for Upselling in Restaurants, Forketers, 11/8/16

5 Briceno, Daniela, Motivating Your Staff to Upsell Menu Items, Marketing Vitals, 4/3/14

6 Olgreen, Ward, “Modern Day Motivation for Restaurant Employees,” Incentive, 3/10/17

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