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How to use up-selling and cross-selling in your venue

Posted by Mike Walmsley on May 17, 2019 3:30:00 PM
Mike Walmsley

Upselling and cross-selling are two basic but critical strategies for increasing sales. At it's most basic level, it’s about changing the selling behavior of your staff members and servers as well as the buying behavior of your customers. Customers often visit F&B establishments because they want to treat themselves, as a waiter it’s your job to suggest the best food and beverage options for customers to ensure they have a great satisfying meal and experience in the process!

Ins and outs of pos

So, what’s the difference between Upselling and Cross-selling? Two quick examples can highlight the differences, but also the similarities between the two.
Let's look at a pizza that comes with regular toppings. The upselling comes in with the addition of premium or gourmet toppings with each set at an additional price resulting in a higher average on your guest cheques. Often a couple of things happen when upselling is done well, as noted the average spend increases and the customer gets the opportunity to try something new or different than usual. 

On the other hand, cross-selling is suggesting a draft beer to go with the pizza. After all, it’s pizza! Who doesn’t like pizza and beer? So that the cross-sell would be beer, the upsell would be a premium beer! The potential is huge, the combinations endless.
These two strategies are made all the easier because we are in the food and beverage industry and not retail. In the retail situation, customers come in, browse around and leave without making a purchase. In the food and beverage industry people come in and sit down, they are already primed and predisposed to making a purchase and often look to staff members for helpful suggestions and guidance as they work through the menu. It’s a golden opportunity, and we should be honored to take it and provide the service our customers expect from us.

Now you know the difference, here are our five top tips to ensure your staff is pros at upselling and cross-selling.


Ensure your staff know your menu

Train your staff on which specific menu items have the highest and lowest profit margins. In an upselling situation, it’s important to know how these interact to help achieve better profit margins. Increased sales are always great but being able to maximize profit doesn’t hurt either!

Can you offer any specific menu items? Customers come to us for our expertise in food and beverage service, they tend to rely on our ability to make helpful suggestions that enhance their dining experience, suggesting wine or a glass of wine to match a menu choice is just one example of this.

Time it right

Timing is everything! Offering dessert ideas or options in the first five minutes of when a customer sits downfalls pretty flat. We should be talking about coffee and dessert after dinner, or a special beverage to help set a complimentary tone to the meal, like a liqueur or cognac for example.

And go back to the beginning! Develop a training mentality, regularly connect and train your FOH staff on upselling and the options that can increase the customer's enjoyment and at the same time increase the average spend.

Never annoy your customers! Sometimes it takes a bit of time to correctly gauge a customer and their willingness and openness to receiving suggestions from servers. Done poorly and aggressively will quickly turn off even the most congenial of guests. 
Upselling v Cross-selling by Victor Antonio

by Victor Antonio


Know your pairings

Make sure your offer to the guest makes sense and isn’t incongruent with the items they have already selected. Beer with pizza is natural, rye and coke aren’t. Whatever your offer, it needs to be complementary to the menu item your guest selected, so know your food and beverage pairings.

Time is of the essence

Like upselling, timing is everything in cross-selling, ill-timed it will sound forced and derail any attempts you may have at cross-selling. Customers are generally more open to servers cross-selling suggestions as they place their order with the server, not after you leave and come back with a drinks order.

Make it good value


Cross-selling is intentionally designed to increase the size of the order and the guest cheque. Like upselling, the more familiar a customer is with your menu and menu items, the more receptive they can be to your suggestions.

Guests want to feel happy about their menu choices and dining experience. They feel better when they feel that they have received good value for the prices they pay and at the same time had a great experience at your establishment. Your job should be to help enhance their experience through your expertise and knowledge of the menu items on offer for both food and beverage.

Bundle it

Can you use bundling? Many industries use bundling as a cross-selling strategy. The classic example is a burger joint that offers a burger, a side of fries, and drink for a set price, from here it’s generally easy to upsell - add bacon, cheese, or avocado to the burger, (or all three), upsize the fries and drink and you have a higher average spend on your hands!

Remember the concept of probability. If you have regular customers that have run the length of your menu, upselling and cross-selling strategies will likely be much more successful than say a new customer that has never been to your establishment before. Your regulars are generally your biggest fans, treat them special and make sure they have a great positive experience in your establishment!

Be reasonable with these strategies! If a customer orders a $40 steak dinner it likely makes sense to offer grilled mushrooms or chips on the side, but it wouldn’t make sense to try and sell them a $40 steak if they only ordered a Ceaser salad for $10!


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Mike Walmsley, is the author of '69 Tips For Better Food & Beverage Profit'Stay tuned for the next book in the series, '101 More Tips For Better Food & Beverage Profit', coming out soon on Amazon!



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Topics: Hotels, Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff, Restaurants, Bars