The path to success for any food and beverage operation is really quite simple: Drive customers through the door and get them to spend as much as possible once they’re in.
Some would argue that a focus on tight operational controls is really the key to success in the industry.
I am a firm believer that you can’t cut your way to success. If that old adage is true, then a majority of your efforts should be focused on maximizing revenue.
The most effective and efficient way to maximize revenue is by suggestive selling.
Suggestive selling is a sales technique used by employees that encourages guests to include purchases that are in addition to the purchase involved in their original transaction. In most cases, the additional purchase is of less value than the original transaction, and, in all cases, if suggestive selling is applied correctly, an item that compliments the original item or items purchased. And it works.
Getting Comfortable with Suggestive Selling
For many of us, the term suggestive selling (or even worse, “upselling”) is fraught with negative connotations and images of annoying salespeople following us around trying to sell us things we don’t want. Many bar and service staff have been in this position and cringe at the prospect of having to play the role of salesperson in this uncomfortable scenario.
The fact is that most of the bad experiences we have had as customers involve salespeople employing the hard sell — or, at the very least, badly applying suggestive selling. Service staff may be anxious because they don’t know what it is or how it’s done. Getting them to apply suggestive selling techniques is very much about convincing them that they are good for everyone and then showing them how.
Here’s how suggestive selling is, in fact, a win-win-win:
Suggestive selling is good for the owner. This is the easiest scenario to understand and benefit to identify. A higher check average results in higher revenue. But the benefits are not limited to increased short-term sales. Getting customers into a bar is expensive; getting them to spend more once they are in results in a higher return on those spent dollars. Lastly, suggestive selling can lead to higher customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and future repeat business.
Suggestive selling is good for the server. The benefit to the employee is also pretty easy to understand and identify. When the average guest check goes up, tips go up. The magnitude of this increase may not be so apparent. A simple example can help illustrate it: Two steaks at $35 each result in a tip of about $14. Two craft draughts, two premium wines by the glass, a dessert to share, and two cappuccinos increase the total check by about $50. That increases the tip by $10, or about 40 percent. Increase a server’s annual tips by 40 percent … that’s the benefit of suggestive selling and the magnitude of the increase!
Suggestive selling is good for the guest. This is the one that seems counterintuitive, especially if you assume that all guests are annoyed by all efforts at suggestive selling. However, research indicates that the great majority of guests appreciate the efforts of a server engaged in effective suggestive selling. When done right and when focused on the needs of the guest, suggestive selling is perceived by the guest as a premium, highly personalized level of service. When a server’s recommendation proves to be an enhancement to a guest’s experience, trust grows between the guest and the server. Guest satisfaction increases and loyalty grows, increasing the prospects for many more visits in the future.
Now that you’re starting to better understand the value of suggestive selling, how do you effectively encourage your staff to follow through? The next part in our series will describe five basic steps to any successful suggestive selling program. Stay tuned.
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This article originally appeared on Nightclub.com. For more articles by Professor Brian Warrener that appeared on Nightclub.com please click here.