Upselling: 20 ways to extend the spend

22 August 2011 by
Upselling: 20 ways to extend the spend

When guests visit hospitality businesses they want the best - and most affordable - experience possible. This is your opportunity to make the most of their custom so that both of you benefit. In the first in a series of articles, industry professionals give us their tips for extending the spend

1. Make it a soft sell

If someone visits a restaurant for a special occasion but it is at the very top end of their budget, they can be made to feel very inadequate if they are continually being asked to upgrade or pay for more add-ons. If upselling is relentless, then regardless of the customer's budget, they will not have enjoyed the service. Make it a soft sell, not a hard sell!

Hilary Mosedale, founder, Cherish the

2. Train staff in product knowledge

Your staff should know the food and wine menus inside out. They should be briefed and sample the specials everyday so they can confidently make recommendations without appearing too pushy. Rather than simply offering the most expensive bottle of wine or cocktail when a customer asks for a suggestion, train your staff to pair drinks with dishes or a customer's taste preference.

Natalia Di Palma, marketing manager, Drake &

3. Good will on tap

Serve tap water in an elegant bottle rather than a school dinners jug as soon as diners are seated and handed a menu. It won't increase profits but will certainly enhance the dining experience.

Lesley Williams, Tap to

4. Give clients a taste

In event catering, use tasting sessions to present alternative premium rated options available for dishes, menus and wines to demonstrate the differences between price points. Provide customers with inspiration for their events through visual presentations, showcasing luxury ranges of cutlery, crockery, table presentations and food displays that you can offer and facilitate.

PB Jacobse, managing director, Rhubarb Food

5. Plan in advance

A wonderful way for hotels to upsell is before the guest arrives. Modern online booking systems allow "dynamic packaging" so that extras such as chocolates, champagne and spa treatments can be ordered at the time of booking. There is no pressure on the customer, just an easy opportunity to impress their partner by having thought of these things in advance. If properly presented, such extras can really boost a hotel's profits with minimal effort.

Peter Hancock, chief executive, Pride of

6. Sell the specials

It doesn't matter if a customer is spending £5, £50 or £150, they still want to feel that their money was well spent and that they made the right decision to drink or eat there. Specials are a really positive way of encouraging customers to spend more and they usually add to the consumer experience rather than distracting from it.

Ann Elliott, managing director, Elliott Marketing &

7. Remember your regulars

Remember regular customers names and if they have a preferred table. If the customer has shopping, use the name on the bags as an entry point of conversation. Research has shown that regular customers spend more money every time they return and they will tell more people about their experience if they are made to feel special.

Neil Morris, group executive head chef, Ego

8. Think like a retailer

Make the most of your food offer. We bake all of our cakes on site and encourage our customers to buy them to take home to their family or for special occasions. At one of our sites in Derbyshire we hold a monthly Farmers' Market and invite our local meat, vegetable and cheese suppliers in to sell directly. Our customers love it and it underlines our strong local sourcing ethos.

Andrew Wilson, managing director, Wilson

9. Split your wine by style

Split your wine list into different styles rather than ordering it by price. This will encourage people to choose what they want rather than the second on the list (one up from the house bottle), which usually is the most popular choice in pubs.

Mark Reynolds, co-owner, Renaissance

10. Make sure there's something for everyone

Small bags of fruit, nuts and sweets at tills are great impulse purchases and entice extra spend from people who want to snack at their desks in the afternoon. The old tricks are still as valid as ever too - offer different sizes and portions to make sure there's something for everyone; always have an appropriate accompaniment with main courses at an extra price - eg, garlic bread with pasta and onion bhajis with curry.

Phil Roker, commercial director,

11. Every penny counts

Even though we all want our customers to spend a whole lot of cash, we need to be very conscious not to alienate them by pushing them to part with too much of it. Things like quirky and great value appetisers on the menu before starters; extra special side orders; and special evenings with great value multi-course menus, all help to drive business and keep the loyalty of customers. Especially when they leave happy with enough money in their pockets to return very soon to do it all over again.

Ajay Barak, executive development chef, Le Bistrot

12. Keep it simple

Don't try and outsmart the customer - just present them with the right deal at the right time. If someone books a room-only stay, give them a voucher at check-in so that they can get a reduced-price breakfast. That way they are saving money but still spending with you.

Peter Montague, regional director, Barceló

13. Use signage to entice

Staff restaurants and food outlets need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Use signage to clearly direct your customers to your restaurant and food offers. Entice them into your restaurant with beautiful imagery and enable your customers to clearly access the information they need to quickly choose the meal they are looking for, before they decide to go elsewhere.

Nathan Sandhu, creative director, Jazzbones

14. Great up-selling starts with the menu

Offer bundle packages. Making (starter + main) cheaper than (starter) + (main) increases revenue at the same base running cost. In Japan I saw a barman who used two dice - score over seven for a free drink, but roll under seven and you pay double! This is a brilliant upsell loaded in the house's favour. If clients are out partying, give them a complimentary round of shots to get them started on rounds - if they then buy a single round, you're in!

Mark Wood, restaurant director, Grand

15. Make it natural

Recruit personality because skills can be taught. But don't heavily script your teams - let them be themselves. If you let them experience your products and services, up-selling will come naturally.

Marianne Brown, operations manager, Thistle Kensington

16. Recognise an occasion

Often the small things make an experience memorable, leading to a repeat visit or recommendation. If a restaurant booking is made for a special occasion such as a birthday it can be a great opportunity to surprise the guest. A celebration cake or champagne can work well here, especially if it wasn't formally requested.

Chris Talbot, managing director, Assured Customer

17. Link to local events

Use themed promotions to stimulate increased demand in staff restaurants. Look at each site and tailor offers ranging from sporting event tie-ups to encouraging meal deals with premium products and the lure of free or discounted drinks and fruit. For example, a promotion linked with the Wimbledon tennis championships, offering strawberries in a range of desserts can see a big increase in dessert sales over those two weeks.

Liane Kerbouche, operations director, Talkington

18. Be well briefed

Encourage staff to "paint the whole picture" by describing the food in detail and giving the guests 100% attention at all times. It's about smiling, talking and loving the food you are serving, and the customer will too.

Diane King, marketing director, Spaghetti

19. Offer incentives

As well as staff training, offer your team incentives to upsell. Run monthly competitions with prizes for staff who meet their targets. We also do daily fun "bingo" where staff must sell one of everything on the card throughout their shift to win.

Hannah Bass, operations director, ETM

20. Offer the personal touch

Miss one dessert off the menu. This means that the staff must give a personal description and recommendation of the missing product when they're at the table. The results for us have been amazing. Not only do dessert sales increase but the customer nearly always buys the one that has been described.

Josh light, learning and development manager, CH&

How to engage your team in extending the spend

â- Rather than revolving around sales skills - the last thing we want within the business is the fast food ‘Do you wanna go large?' approach - the session revolves around how our teams can use descriptive words when talking to our customers to sell products using the M&S adverts as inspiration.

â- It turns into a really fun session with some great results and gives the guys much more confidence to upsell without them even knowing that this is what they are doing. It also provides them with a vocabulary that they can use when talking to customers about our products.

â- The way we sell it to front of house staff is that our chefs spend time and effort making the product, so it is only right that we give it the same respect when selling it. We also include the chefs on these training sessions as it gives them a sense of pride. And of course the higher the bill the higher the 10% tip!

Josh light, learning and development manager, CH&Co

Don't ignore the power of children's meals

Kids Menu
Kids Menu
Britain's culinary reputation has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years - you'd be hard pushed to find a melon boat starter these days. But according to the anonymous author of the blog Adventures of a Working Mum, not enough has been done about children's menus. She gives restaurateurs a stern talking to and reveals a gap in the market that has yet to be satisfactorily filled.

"Apparently London has been confirmed as the gourmet capital of the world after a record 53 restaurants were awarded Michelin stars in the 2011 guide. Really? Well here's an idea for you Mr Michelin Inspector: try eating out with a toddler. Go on. I'll loan you mine if you like.

Take a toddler out to eat and you'll soon find a whole new area of the restaurant scene. Introducing the dreaded ‘children's menu'. The main menu may be full of ‘seared breast of this' and ‘tartare of smoked that' but ask for a children's menu and the options are somewhat limited. All together now mums: ‘Fish fingers and chips; sausage and chips; or pasta with tomato sauce'. We all know it - it never changes.

We, as mums, are being blasted from all sides about our overweight children, the ‘junk food generation' who don't know what vegetables are. So why do chefs think it's acceptable to put zero effort into the children's menu? And zero taste? And zero goodness?

I have started asking for half portions of ‘real food' for my toddler, but you'd be surprised how many places won't do it. It should be easy - half the portion, half the price. It's not rocket science.

Restaurant owners and chefs, I'm begging you: please ditch these awful children's menus and just introduce mini-portions. It doesn't have to be across the whole menu, just a selection of dishes offered in miniature. Happy children, happy mums. And trust me, if mum isn't happy, then no one's happy.

So come on chefs, bring on the mini portion. And Michelin; let's see the launch of a Mini-Michelin guide."

Edited from a guest post on Britmums Blog ( Read more at

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