Do Consumers Really Like the Upsell?

Do Consumers Really Like the Upsell

The upsell, when done right, encourages customer retention.

Just the word, “upsell,” has many restaurants wondering if the practice will upset their customers.

In this article, we pose the question, “Do consumers really like the upsell?”

Not only will we answer this question, but we’ll show you how to upsell and maintain happy, satisfied customers.

How is this possible? When done well, upselling brings you closer to your customer, making them happier with your restaurant and more likely to return.

The Upsell

First, let’s really define the upsell.

The upsell is a strategy to get restaurant customers to buy a more expensive meal or add-on to their existing order.

The goal of the upsell for the restaurant owner is to increase revenue.

But, there’s one more really important goal, and that’s to help your customer get more value out of your restaurant.

When they perceive extra value, they’re more likely to become loyal, repeat diners.

The Upsell Builds Relationships

To really help your customers appreciate the upsell, you must make sure it benefits them.

Many customers perceive the upsell as designed to help the restaurant. Yet, if you can help them see how it benefits them, you’ll have taken the first step in building a long-lasting relationship.

If you want to help your customers like the upsell, you have to show them how they win.

This is important, because if they win, your restaurant wins, too.

Remember that upselling isn’t just a sales tactic you use to improve your profits. Upselling is a marketing tactic that offers value to your customers, thus making them happier. (tweet this)

Happy customers are repeat customers who turn into brand ambassadors telling all their friends and family about your restaurant.

Now, let’s look at some tactics for using the upsell in your restaurant.

Train Your Servers

Most of your wait staff is going to be uncomfortable with the upsell.

What’s more, you can bet that nearly all of them won’t know how to do it.

This is where training comes in. It’s up to you as the restaurant owner to provide the initial training as well as ongoing, refresher training.

Your staff needs help understanding the upsell and how to do it. You don’t want them to sound like car salesmen, so it’s your job to show them how to upsell successfully.

The first thing your staff should understand is that the upsell is good for your customers. They are getting more for their money, so the upsell actually benefits them.

Teach your staff to understand their customers while anticipating their needs. Once they are equipped to do this, they can steer their customers in the right direction.

Finally, make sure your servers thoroughly understand your menu. You want them to be able to explain each dish as well as guide your customers to the upsell.

Don’t Go Crazy with the Upsell

There is an unwritten rule when it comes to upselling – don’t increase the price by more than 25%. (tweet this)

Not only is this an ethical way to upsell, it makes it easier for your customer to say yes.

You don’t want to push your customers out of their comfort range and encourage them to spend more than their budget.

To make customers comfortable with the upsell watch the amount and stay at or under 25%.


Happy customers enjoy your food and return again and again.

Enhance Your Menu

Use descriptive language and visually appealing photos on your menu.

Make sure you’ve set up your menu to highlight the upsells that benefit you and your customers.

While the server is really responsible for the upsell, your menu provides the reference.

Teach Observation Skills

When working with your servers, you want to teach them how to read their customers. This will help them gauge whether or not the upsell will work or just annoy.

For example, your server has two tables at lunch. One is full of busy executives trying to eat quickly. The other is full of retirees enjoying an afternoon out.

It will be easier to upsell the retirees who have time to spare. Your servers will most likely have good luck encouraging them to order an appetizer or dessert.

The busy executives might be amenable to the upsell if you encourage them to order a bigger meal. They can enjoy the leftovers later in the afternoon if they are working late.

The key to the upsell is reading the customer and anticipating what will work best for the upsell.

Don’t Overwhelm the Customer

When upselling, you want to provide your diners with options but not too many of them. If you offer too many options, you’ll completely lose the upsell.

By offering customers a couple of options, you look less like a car salesman and more like someone who cares about providing the best value to the customer.

For example, if your customer wants lemonade, you can suggest plain lemonade, frozen lemonade or a premium alcoholic lemonade.

Offering three price points seems less like a hard sell and more of a consideration towards your guest’s needs.

Frame Your Questions

When teaching your wait staff how to do the upsell, you want to explain the difference between yes/no questions and open-ended questions.

For example, your server asks, “Would you like an appetizer?” It’s very easy for the diner to respond and say, “No, thank you.”

Yet, consider what happens when your server asks, “Would you like to try our fresh, garden-picked artichokes in a lemon butter sauce or our organic home-made heirloom tomato and jalapeno salsa?”

Your customers are offered two choices that make the yes/no answer impossible. What’s more, they’re provided enticing, descriptive choices that leave them saying, “Yes, I’d love to.”

The descriptive question makes it hard for the customer to say no. Plus, when they taste your appetizer, they appreciate the upsell because it tastes delicious.

Final Thoughts

We can answer the question, “Do consumers really like the upsell?”

The answer is they will really like the upsell if it’s done in such a way that it meets their needs.

If the upsell is awkwardly done or only to generate more profit for your restaurant, your customers won’t like it.

Yet, if it’s done with the customers’ needs in mind, and they benefit from it, then they will like the upsell.

The upsell can start on your website with your menu. At Restaurant Engine, not only do we create great, responsive websites, but you can count on us to create one that helps you manage the upsell. Ready to take the plunge and create a website with an online menu, blog and beautiful photos? Get your free website consultation today!

Images: Michael Browning and Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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