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Theatre of the mind - the art of suggesting and selling

Posted by Roger Beaudoin on Oct 17, 2018 4:15:00 PM
Roger Beaudoin

Effective suggesting and selling is an art and much like any worthwhile endeavor; requires practice, experience and a desire to serve. But restaurants cannot leave this critical element to chance or a staff member’s own initiative.

Owners and managers must consistently lead by example, nurture, train and develop their team to elevate the guest service experience. This approach is a powerful competitive advantage that leads to happier customers, word of mouth, glowing online reviews and increased sales.


So, how can you ensure your staff effectively suggest your menu to your customers? We’ve done some research and found some key techniques to help your staff get that sale.

Begin with product and restaurant knowledge

The first step in any successful training program is knowledge and accountability. If the restaurant’s objectives are clearly demonstrated by both management and veteran staff, new team members can rise to this challenge in order to exceed guest expectations. 

The most effective ways to elevate staff members personal performance are by shadowing best practices and independent study of both the menu and the restaurant. Truly professional staff know not only their menu’s choices, preparations and flavor profiles, but just as importantly, what makes their restaurant unique, special and stand out from the competition. Knowledgeable staff are not only able to intelligently answer guest questions, but also make suggestions they know the customer will enjoy and appreciate. This leads to elevated service, positive impressions, and higher check averages.

Teach them how to sell

Effective owners and managers should not just train staff on the basics of hospitality and service, but they should also teach them how to sell. Many restaurants miss this critical distinction, allowing staff to potentially leave thousands of lost dollars on the table each month as a result.

Once selling becomes an integral part of the service equation, it is vital for management to routinely test the knowledge of all staff, as well as observe and monitor staff/guest interactions. In this business of 1000 details, failing to properly train staff leads to sabotaging the customer’s experience, as well as the future business of the restaurant

Fun, engaing and interactive training is 'key'

Nothing is more important to increasing sales and providing paramount service than effective daily ‘pre-shift’ exercises. This plan keeps product knowledge front of mind, a theme to focus on for each shift and staff on their toes when it comes to suggesting and selling. But not just any exercises will work. Try to keep things interesting and staff continually engaged by adding a bit of fun, healthy competition, and a few simple rewards. For example, whoever can learn the specials of the day first wins a special treat.

The power of 'Theatre of the mind'

The restaurant business has always been about entertainment – it’s show business! Customers dine out for many reasons, but even if they didn't feel like cooking, they’re really looking for something more - a memorable performance they will want to see again and again. Train your staff to be actors on stage so that when the front door opens each day for business, the curtain goes up and it’s ‘Show Time’.  

Radio stations are also about entertainment and they have mastered one effective concept that can be executed in restaurants. Imagine that you’re listening to your favorite station. Through the wonders of technology, the on-air personalities push a few buttons and use sound effects to put an idea in your mind that you actually believe is happening, even though it’s fabricated in the studio. That’s ‘Theatre of the mind’ and this technique can be a powerful sales and service tool.

Remember the importance of product and restaurant knowledge? Well, staff are the experts and every day, any restaurant anywhere will serve first-time visitors that know nothing about the place, what makes it special or what they might enjoy. By educating, informing and entertaining each customer, the dining experience is taken to a whole next level.

Restaurants are a captive audience and everyone that walks through your door is not just looking, but a customer that’s ready, able and willing to spend. Don’t leave this situation to chance or that potential sale on the table. By training your staff to bring the food, drink and overall experience to life so that the guest can see it, smell it and taste it before it comes out of the kitchen or bar, the all-important ‘suggestive sale’ will be made.

Customers appreciate inside knowledge, personal recommendations, and glowing descriptions. Combined, each adds to the dining experience. By training your service team to creatively use ‘Theatre of the mind’, you’ll soon be watching your customers smile, the cash register ring and online reviews bring in new and repeat business. Now, that’s a true competitive advantage.


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Roger Beaudoin_170x170 Roger Beaudoin is the founder of the Sales Stars Staff Training Program and author of Rock Your Restaurant, a game-changing guide to restaurant financesHe is a successful restaurant entrepreneur who founded and operated four high-volume restaurant/hospitality companies for over twenty years. Roger is also a noted industry speaker and the host of the Restaurant Rockstars PodcastLearn more at www.restaurantrockstars.com.


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Topics: Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff