Did you know that your restaurant can make more than $100,000 (based on serving 300 customers a day) over the next year by training your waiters and waitresses how to become top sales people? It takes only a few extra seconds for your wait staff to enthusiastically offer suggestions to build add-on sales and increase checks averages. Developing a solid sales training program that focuses on suggestive selling and making sales training one of your top priorities is essential to driving your profit.
Training your wait staff to become top sales performers and making your dining room a profit center is essential to the growth of your restaurant, especially in a sluggish economy. Here are some key selling ideas and specific training strategies:
The Menu: A Server’s Sales Brochure
A sales person can not sell properly unless they have obtained the necessary product knowledge. You will benefit by having your team know the menu inside out-yes, that means having them sample every item and learning details such as descriptions, sizes/portions and ingredients. When servers are unfamiliar with food and beverage items, they will lack the confidence they need to sell. Would you buy a computer from a dealer who has no experience operating the model you are interested in? Probably not.
According to Ray Barshay, the owner of River Grille Restaurant and Crabby Joe’s Deck and Grill in Florida, “To keep sales a priority, we place two to three dinner specials on our tables at pre-shift meetings and have servers taste them so they have a solid idea of the flavor. Then, we ask them to fully describe the features and benefits of each item. Being equipped with this knowledge builds our servers confidence to effectively sell to our customers.”
At Five-Star Training, we recommend to our clients to provide every server with at least two hours of suggestive selling training upon hiring covering all the basics. Then, as ongoing refreshers, each server should attend pre-shift meetings that touch on core sales strategies. This is a good time to implement sales contests to drive sales motivation. It is a positive habit to fully retrain your servers every six months with at least another two hours. If servers are not recharged, they will run dry. Knowledge is power and power breeds confidence. The more your servers know, the more your profit will grow.
Up-selling and Making Add-On Sales
So how can you earn an extra $100,000 each year? It’s simple: Train your wait staff to sell an average of $1 more per customer by specifically teaching them to:
• Upgrade alcoholic beverages (sell a call instead of a well, a premium instead of a call, or suggest frozen specialty and premium drinks)
• Offer to add meat, poultry, or seafood to a salad
• Suggest sides such as mushrooms on steaks and French fries with sandwiches
The following menu items offered to an entire table will also average to $1.00 more per customer:
• Offer one dessert for the table to share or a dessert to go
• Suggest one carafe or bottle of wine/champagne per table
• Recommend one appetizer per table for everyone to share
Four Key Selling Strategies
Here are some additional ideas to teach your wait staff how to effectively sell:
Encourage them to…
Sell with enthusiasm and a smile-show excitement about what you are suggesting. The more enthusiasm generated about a menu item (your favorite), the more likely the customer will order it. For example, say: “Our frozen chocolate Mudslide is outrageous and made with real Godiva chocolate”
Sell the Benefits-tell the customer how they can benefit from a particular food/beverage item. Here are some examples:
• Combination appetizers/entrees, so the customer can sample a variety of items
• Large platters to satisfy hearty appetites
• Frozen thirst-quenching drinks on hot days such as Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris
• Name-brand liquor for a smooth and flavorful taste
• Wine to complement the entree
Sell routinely and during all courses of the dining process-the
more frequently you offer suggestions, the greater the opportunity you will have to increase sales. Keep customers’ minds on food. When they are enjoying one course, preview the next course. For example, say: “Save room for our Krazy Kahlua Koffee.” Be sure to have at least two of your favorites ready to suggest for every course.
Recognize key selling clues-listen carefully to what the customers say. You may hear some clues that will signal greater sales opportunities. Here are some common phrases:
• Customers who are celebrating…”It is our anniversary/birthday.” (bottle of wine/champagne)
• Customers with hearty appetites…”I’m starved.” (large Captain’s Platter)
• Customers inviting your suggestions…”What do you suggest?” (your favorites)
Always take the time to properly train your waiters and waitresses and provide them with the key training tools to make them successful sales people. By developing a solid sales training program within your organization, you are sure to expand bottom-line profits with minimal effort by your wait staff.
Please Note: Always train your wait staff to be aware of the signs of intoxication and to avoid overselling alcohol. Teach your staff to refuse selling any alcohol to minors.