Your Guide To Food & Beverage Upsells: How To Boost Tab Size

Upselling: what is it, what are the benefits, and how to do it well. This is your comprehensive guide to upselling!

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Guest grabbing a bottle of beer to go before he closes out his tab.

The food and beverage industry recognizes the value of upsells as both an enhancement to the guest experience and a benefit to bottom lines. But upsells offer far more than just boosted tab sizes, and doing them well requires thoughtful strategy and staff training. 

Below is your comprehensive guide to upselling: Discover all the benefits, types, necessary staff training, and technology that helps along the way!

Benefits Of Upselling

Here are the primary 3 business benefits to upselling in your restaurant or bar:

1. Upsells Maximize Revenue

If guests are encouraged to order more than they initially set out to, their tab size is bigger. Bigger tabs mean more revenue, which means an earlier retirement for you!

While this benefit is pretty self-explanatory, it should be a driving force behind training and incentivizing your staff to upsell. Imagine what 10 additional dollars on every tab would do to your business’s revenue! 

Keep reading for specific tips on training and incentivization. 

2. Upsells Improve The Guest Experience

Let’s banish the negative connotation that upsells are money grabs. Sure, you’re trying to get guests to order more things, but you’re running a business and that’s showbiz, baby! 

Instead, position upsells in your mind as opportunities to further delight guests and showcase more of your amazing products

Here’s how upsells better a guest’s experience:

  • Decide for the indecisive: First-timers may be overwhelmed by a new menu with so much good to choose from. Offering genuine suggestions on what you think they may like is simply good service. It’s a coincidence if that suggestion is a high-priced short rib plate!
  • Enhance staff-guest interactions: Instead of a server simply taking orders and leaving, upsells give them an opportunity to wholly engage with guests. Staff can learn what they like, what kind of experience they’re looking for, and make recommendations from there. 
  • Keep the good time going: A staff member swinging by to ask if guests would like another round of drinks prompts that conversation among a table that may be too shy to suggest it themselves. If the answer is YES, your server just inspired guests to continue enjoying. 

3. Upsells Push Inventory

Lastly, upsells give your back of house an opportunity to push inventory you have too much of or that have a short shelf life remaining. 

Say there was an accidental order of cream and you have a surplus taking up precious fridge space. It’s time to whip up some ice cream and push the heck out of it during dinner service!

Types of Upsells

An upsell is more than just another round of drinks!

Upsell 1: Additional Menu Items 

One upsell strategy is simply inspiring guests to get additional food that they may not have originally ordered. This can be food outside of the traditional entree order, like appetizers and desserts.

It can also be upsells on their existing order. Add-ons to a meal, like a fried egg on a burger for $2 more, is a perfect example.

Sure, these options are typically visible to guests on the menu, but servers should prompt the additions in order to maximize tab size and maximize guest enjoyment.

Here are some examples that aren’t too pushy and convey a server’s genuine intention to delight guests:

Would you like to add protein to that salad? Our salmon is my favorite. 

Can I interest you in the elk patty instead of beef? We’re famous for it!

Upsells Can Extend A Guest’s Stay

Another round of drinks or some coffee at the end of a meal extends a guest’s stay, which is good for your business and good for the guest experience. Perhaps their tummy will start growling eventually, and they’ll order some dessert after all!

Too Full? Menu Items To-Go Are A Great Option

When guests are already unbuckling their strained belts from being too full, or simply have someplace they’ve gotta be, to-go items are the perfect upsell. 

A 6-pack of your homebrew, or that key lime pie that they don’t have room for right now, make great souvenirs for guests. Once they enjoy it at home, they’re reminded how much they love your restaurant or bar!

Upsell 2: Merchandise

Upsells don’t have to be edible! Your guests can likely be persuaded to take merchandise home, too.

Wearable Merchandise

Once your menu has made a new lifelong fan of your business, that guest would be glad to rock any branded merchandise of yours. Having plenty of shirts, hats, and other wearable merch on hand is a good idea. 

Plus, merchandise doesn’t just boost tab size. Outfitting your guests with your brand name is free advertising around town. Win, win, WIN!

Gift Cards

Just like items to-go are great for guests that are stuffed, gift cards are a great item to offer guests that simply can’t take another bite onsite. 

Consider offering a deal like a free $10 gift card with every $100 purchase. That way, you ensure repeat business since they have $10 to spend, and they’ll likely come back and spend more than the gift card balance. 

Upsell 3: Community

Now, this isn’t a typical upsell and doesn’t necessarily boost existing tab size. But, “selling” guests on your community presents the perfect opportunity for future sales! These are two ideas:

Event Invites

Whether it’s Disco Night or your Annual Pumpkin Carving, a personal invite from staff for an upcoming event dazzles guests. Worst case scenario is they can’t come, but now they know that you host amazing events and they’ll likely keep an eye out for the next one. Best case scenario, they come and bring their friends!

Loyalty Program Membership

Have a table that licked their plates clean? They definitely want to come back, and inviting them to join your loyalty program accelerates their mission to do so. That way, they can be rewarded for spending money with you and join a community of fans equally as obsessed with your product line.

Your POS system can support these efforts by collecting email addresses at checkout and tracking rewards collected and redeemed. With your POS handling the admin stuff, your staff can focus solely on hyping up the program! 

Training Staff On How To Upsell

We know why upselling is so beneficial and all of the different types. Now it’s time to figure out how to train your beloved staff to do it well!

Staff Should Taste Every Menu Item

Your staff won’t be able to make genuine, thoughtful recommendations unless they know exactly what products they’re selling. Any time you onboard new team members or add new menu items, make sure that every server has a taste for themselves.

When servers can describe menu items authentically and provide a true answer to the question What’s your favorite? your guests can tell. Plus, servers will know exactly which drink pairs best with which entree, improving the guest experience even more. 

Menu Items In Mind > A Rehearsed Speech

When it comes to making recommendations, train your servers to engage with guests first before diving into a rehearsed speech of all the specials you have on deck. While of course there can, and should, be several dishes staff have in mind to push, it’s not as enticing to guests when they can tell the server shared the same monologue with every table that night. 

The upsells staff suggest should be dependent on the table. To a table with a parent and 3 kids, suggesting your appetizer specials makes a lot of sense to get those young mouths fed. On the other hand, to an obvious table on Date Night, the bottle of wine on special is a surefire sale.

Provide Samples To Fence Sitters

Skeptics are among us at every food and beverage establishment. Ease them up with a bite of something they can’t refuse more of!

Upselling isn’t a one-and-done strategy. So, if guests don’t take the first bait, train your servers to keep trying and to be creative. 

Bringing a beer taster or a small bite to the table is a great way to sway a fence sitter. How could they refuse an appetizer order after that arancini nibble totally rocked their world?

Always Suggest & Never Assume

Even if your nachos menu item lists every upsell possible, servers should never assume a guest has already weighed all of their options. A simple Would you like to add guacamole? takes no time on the server’s part, and instantly adds $3 to that bill. 

And remember, any resistance to upselling from staff can be fixed with a simple sentence: Higher tabs mean higher tips!

How POS Technology Helps Your Team Upsell

Of course, your savvy POS system is there to assist you and your team with upsell efforts. Here are some helpful features courtesy of Arryved POS that support boosting tab size through upsells:

POS System Reporting Quantifies Upselling Success

Everyone loves a little friendly competition. In addition to training staff, you can incentivize them to upsell by offering rewards and recognition for the team members that do it best. This encourages everyone to try!

And, with comprehensive POS reporting, you’ll be able to quickly quantify successes and identify the winners. Specific reports like the following from Arryved will inform which staff had the most upsells:

  • Daily Sales Report: This report shows a list of all closed tabs from any certain date or range of days. The tab information includes day, time, employee name, a breakdown of the tab total, and more. You can see here which employees sold which specific menu items!
  • Item Type Sales Report: This report shows sales totals of unique items. This is a great place to see if and when menu specials are selling.
  • Added Modifiers Report: Searchable by a specific day or range of days, this report shows all Modifiers added to orders. It includes the total count and total cost of modifiers that have an upcharge, meaning you know exactly how many people added a fried egg to a burger or protein to a salad. 

Speaking of modifiers in your POS service interface… 

POS System Modifiers Remind Staff To Upsell

Your staff are hard working people, oftentimes in the midst of chaos, so it’s helpful for your POS system interface to remind them to upsell. That’s where Arryved modifiers come in!

When a server enters a menu item with optional modifiers, Arryved POS devices prompt them to ask guests what they’d like to add. This can be upsells of toppings on a sandwich, additional sides, etc. The tool serves as a great reminder to staff to offer upcharges when they can, and gives guests an opportunity to customize dishes to their liking. 

POS-Supported Menus Inspire Guests To Indulge

Digital menus supported by your POS system also serve as helpful tools to upsell. Because they’re easy to edit and automatically update across staff and guest devices, these strategies can be fruitful when luring guests in to high-profit menu items:

  • Positioning: Guests read menus exactly how we all read books: The top left corner is where the eye goes first! That means if you want to immediately catch a guest’s eye, you’ll place those menu items there. 
  • Icons/Images: Icons and other imagery are good ways to catch a guests’ attention. Call out the Chef’s Favorite with an icon next to the menu item, or include a mouthwatering photo of it.
  • Customization: When dishes call for customization (and therefore possible upcharges) make sure your menu makes it obvious what all of the options are. People are far more likely to pay those extra $2 for sweet potato fries when the choice is right in front of them!

Does Arryved’s helpful tab-boosting tools have your ears perked? Request a free, custom demo today to see the entire POS system’s functionality in action. 

Tab-Boosting Success Stories

Boosting tab size is the name of the game in food and beverage. Check out these businesses that found success using other POS tools to do just that:

How Pop-Up Bars Boosted Tab Size by 11% For This Music Venue

Self-Ordering Technology Generates Bigger Tabs & Tips For This Brewery

Flexible POS Tools Boost Tab Size By 17% For This Cidery

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