Restaurant Success Tips

The ability to upsell beverages can drastically beef up your profits. There are many ways to gain a quick upsells on drinks, whether it’s wine, a local brew, or adult hot beverages as a desert. Take our three-step approach to prepare your restaurant for success, entice guests, and nail the upsell. 

Prepare Your Restaurant for Success

The first step in any successful upsell environment is to ensure your restaurant is ready for several upsells. Oftentimes, ‘neighboring’ guests will see what someone has and want to try it too.

Fully Stock Your Bar

The critical step of having a fully stocked bar cannot be stressed enough. While it can be time consuming to check your inventory totals regularly, it will ensure your stock is correct and ample for upsells.

You may want to consider a robust POS system to assist you. Not only can it help with inventory monitoring, it can help with reporting on what types of drinks are favored and when they sell the most, and perhaps which drinks just don’t sell. Understanding the diverse demands of your guests will help modify your menu to your customer base and keep the proper inventory on hand. 

Select Your House Brands Deliberately

Guests often choose house brands for the cost; however, that does not mean you have to make a small profit. Find a mix of quality for cost, with keeping the customer’s cost reasonable. Take the time to research your options and look for potential artisan or local partnerships that may provide you a cost break or some partnered advertising.

House brands are not just your red and white wine, but should include beer, dessert wine, vodka, rum, tequila, whiskey, and any other basics to fit your menu. If you find two brands hard to choose from, offer the one that costs more as a premium house selection. This is common with craft beers such as stouts, where one version is an “Imperial” with a stronger alcohol volume and deeper taste, and a slightly higher cost per pint.

Easily Upsell Beverages by Enticing Guests

Once your restaurant is duly stocked with proper selections, you will need to entice guests to assist in upsells. Be sure to make a plan that is easy to follow yet diverse to appeal to varied customers. Here are some effective options:

Add Drink Pairings to Food Menu

A perfectly easy way to upsell drinks is by suggested pairings on the menu. Most important is to ensure the pairings compliment the food and are the highest profit margin selections. Listen to customers when they comment on the pairing and when they don’t. This will help gauge if any mistakes have been made.

Pairings should also be added to specials. Another great way to pair beverages is if it is an ingredient in the dish’s recipe, such as pot roast, wild game, battered foods, and bourbon desserts. Even the simplest salad can pair well with a nice wine, depending on added touches like apples and blue cheese.

Offer Samples

A good way to upsell high-margin beverages that need to be turned over is to offer small samples. From Trader Joe’s to Costco, many stores offer samples and do well with new brands and higher-end foods with this simple gesture. Providing a sample gives customers an option that seems generous rather than pushy. 

With no obligation to pay, customers believe restaurants have their experience in mind, which builds trust. It may be worthwhile to offer samples to customers who are particularly hesitant to try a beverage suggestion.  

Drink Specials are Key

Most customers, particularly millennials, are looking for specials when they drink. One way to offer specials is to offer daily drink specials with higher markup beverages that are undersold. Like samples, drink specials are another way to sell beverages that need to be turned over. A key to making money with specials is to ensure your prices are not too low.

A popular way to provide specials is near any holiday. Be sure to offer three or four specials during these holiday times when customers are more likely to upsell on their own accord. Additionally, during hot or cold seasons, be sure to have specials that fit the season such as homemade hard lemonade or peppermint schnapps hot chocolate.

Another option similar to a special is selling flights of beer, wine, hard cider, or sample-sized hard-alcohol. These smaller tastings offer variety for new customers in 2-3 oz samples of four or five glasses, served on a flight deck. Oftentimes, a customer will purchase a flight and follow with a pint or glass of their favored selection.

Gaining the Upsell

 Train Your Staff to Upsell Beverages

Upselling is not second nature to most, unless you were raised by a car salesman or real estate agent. Be sure to invest in training staff properly on upselling. Educate and instill an understanding of the higher markup brands and beverages for highest profit. For example, ensure staff offer the highest-margin brand rather than starting with ‘house’ brand beverages.

Additionally, remember to train your servers to restate the beverage pairings when a customer orders, and have them explain how the drink option enhances the meal. If your restaurant offers desserts, train staff to offer a nightcap if dessert is passed over. While many customers may be too ‘full’ for a dessert, a nightcap is often acceptable.

Sell Softly

The best upselling should be quite smooth and tactful, as if simply a helpful suggestion. Something to also remember is working on building trust with repeat customers. Get to know their favorite drinks and brands, then ensure it is in stock. Once trust is built, offer new beverages based on their favorites.

According to Bloomberg, thirty percent of all sales at a restaurant should be alcohol. Ensure you’re ready to meet the mark by following the suggestions above and tailoring it to your restaurant. Your guests and bottom line will thank you.