Designing an upselling strategy to increase your restaurant’s revenue

By Elizabeth Kelly

In the world of sales, upselling is often considered an art, but in the restaurant industry, you need to get it down to a science. For successful upsell programs, consistency is key.

Here are four steps to designing an upselling strategy that will increase your restaurant’s revenue:

Step 1: Decide on your pairings

Put thought into designing your pairings or meal deals. The menu item you are upselling should pair well with the menu item your customer ordered, and be a high-margin item.

Go through your menu and determine which five menu items are ordered most. For each of those menu items, you should have something you can offer to go with them. This could be offering a larger portion size, a drink that pairs well with the meal, a popular dessert, or a side.

Step 2: Build a script

Ensuring your staff ask the right questions to encourage customers to purchase more goes all the way back to hiring. When hiring staff, outgoing, likable people are more likely to successfully upsell. Why? Because they are able to read your customers and build a connection with them. A monotonous “do you want fries with that?” is not nearly as appealing as a happy “do you want guac on your sandwich? We make ours from scratch.”

If you are scripting the questions you want your staff to ask during order-taking, ensure that the questions are specific and genuine. Teach them multiple variations of each question, pointing out any details that need to be mentioned, like price or size.

A few examples:

● “Make that a large for only $1 more?”
● “Would you like a cold Pepsi with that?”
● “And that’s with extra cheese?”
● “Can I suggest one of our famous brownies? I can heat it up for you.”

By being descriptive, you create a craving, which is much more powerful than a suggestion alone. Think of writing these questions like writing your menu.

RELATED: Restaurant Branding During COVID-19: Developing your brand guide

Step 3: Implement

For restaurants that offer delivery, it’s just as, if not more, important to upsell. Upselling high-margin items can offset the increased cost of delivery. When we surveyed pizzerias across North America, 52 per cent of them reported increasing average ticket sales by 10-20 per cent using upselling and cross-selling methods.

In that same survey, 64 per cent of pizzerias admitted that they weren’t upselling on online orders. On online ordering sites, you can consistently offer something for every order by adding prompts to upsize or add modifiers whenever a certain menu item is added to the cart, or by offering to complete the meal on the checkout page, before the order is submitted. That is a huge opportunity that most restaurants are missing out on.

While it’s easy to ensure consistency online, it may be more difficult in-store. Listen to your staff take orders from customers, and ensure they are remembering to ask if customers want a larger size or an add-on. If they aren’t, talk to your POS provider to have reminder prompts built into the order-taking process.

Are your staff competitive? Design employee engagement competitions that reward them for upselling. Most POS systems will allow you to measure the number of a specific menu item that each order-taker sells.

Step 4: Improve your process

Every marketer knows that you need to test everything, especially sales copy. Go through your best and worst-performing upsell combinations, and examine the wording you use, at what point in the order-taking process you ask, and anything else that may be influencing their success or failure. Then, make adjustments to your worst-performing ones, and measure their improvement over a set period of time. Do this regularly, at 3- to 6-month intervals.

Upselling isn’t difficult, it just needs to be done consistently in order to increase your revenue. If you’re looking to create entire meal combos to upsell, you can find information in this download.

Elizabeth Kelly is the Marketing Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions, as well as serving as Managing Editor for On Point: The Restaurant Technology Blog.