What is Upselling in a Restaurant?


Upselling is a sales technique that involves nudging and encouraging customers towards the consumption of additional or more expensive products than they originally intended to. In the restaurant industry, this can mean making a special change to one of the items on the menu, offering a higher-priced or premium item, or convincing a customer to order appetizers or sides. Cleaners, bartenders, and other staff members who interact with customers can all work to increase the average ticket size of a restaurant. The key is to train your employees how to upsell, this way adding to the overall value and enjoyment of the dining experience. 


Why Employee Training and Retention Matter in Upselling


Employee retention is one of the most critical challenges any manager faces. As new employees are hired, a period of adjustment will mean it takes time for them to get up to speed on the job. Not to mention that hiring and training a new employee costs, on average, more than $5,000. 


To make matters worse, it is common for employees to leave with animosity towards the company, causing incomplete handover of tasks and loss of knowledge and expertise to occur. To put it simply, employee turnover is bad for business. Here’s what you need to know about employee retention in the restaurant industry:


  • The restaurant industry has one of the highest employee turnover rates in the US economy: 66.3% annually pre-pandemic according to the National Restaurant Association.


  • 77% of employee turnover could be offset by improved onboarding and training programs.


  • Traditional, on-the-job training means it takes on average almost two months for a new employee to reach the productivity levels of the person that sat in the chair before them. 


What all of this means is that better-trained employees are more knowledgeable and helpful, and more helpful employees convert more sales. Consistency and quality of service (and product) are very important in upselling because just as hiring new employees is costly, it is more cost-effective to retain and upsell existing clients than to find new ones. Adopting an engaging, innovative microlearning approach to employee training and retention allows businesses to differentiate themselves in one of the industries with the highest employee turnover rates.

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What Are Upselling Training Techniques?


Upselling has more to do with customer service than with sales harassment or pressure. A simple question like “would you like some salad with your fish?” can drive your revenue up, increase tips for your employees, and make your customers more satisfied. In a restaurant context, upselling is not about convincing your customer to purchase the most expensive item on the menu, but offering complements to their meal that increase the revenue generated by that table. But it’s crucial for your workers to come across as helpful when upselling, not as inconvenient or greedy. For customers, upselling should feel like good service, not like a sales pitch. 


Keep the following things in mind when creating upselling training for restaurants and other food service businesses:


  • Menu train your employees


Show your new servers how each dish on the menu is served and what it tastes like – this will allow them to answer specific questions and be more helpful to customers, as well as potentialise their upselling skills. 


  • Invest in continuous training


Make your onboarding and training resources available to your employees at all times with on-demand, multi-platform tools. Continuous training is crucial, especially in restaurants that change their menu often. 


  • Build upselling into your menu and tech


Designing your menu with embedded upselling opportunities helps make guests aware of upsell options. Your employees just need to call them out in conversation. For example, adding an “extra bacon $2” under the “house special burger $20” menu item helps convert additional sales and bring in additional revenue to your business.


  • Be specific and natural


Upselling does not work when it is aggressive, fake, or simply inconvenient. Train your employees to make specific suggestions that complement your customer’s requests. Offering an item that is absurdly expensive or unfitting to a table can ruin their experience. 


Employees are the greatest tool for upselling, but they do need telling, reminding and training to maximise their potential and ability. Almost every client interaction is an opportunity to influence their purchase and increase the ticket size. In an industry with low margins, every sale counts, no matter its size. Remember that upselling skills for restaurants and other food service businesses must be trained and taught, but they are one hundred percent worth the investment. 

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Training strategies and challenges in the restaurant industry


One of the key pain points of professional training in the food & beverage industry is the lack of time. Managers are often working over capacity and in this way struggle to create effective and engaging training and onboarding programs. It is fundamental to find the right balance between theoretical and practical training, as well as to continuous and consistent training across the entire business.


A mix of digital bite-sized content and in-person on-the-job training (OJT) help you achieve effective and engaging training that can be easily monitored for performance evaluations. Your staff is 75% more likely to watch videos than read a manual, and video-based professional training works best because short videos are more engaging than other formats, allowing for greater content retention. This is why microlearning is the best option for customer service training, better than hiring e-training services online:


  • Greater Content Retention
  • Flexibility and Customization
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Seamless integration with other professional communications platforms
  • Create content easily, share it any number of times
  • Evaluate, measure, and track performances 
  • Make improvements and increase results




Investing in a microlearning training and communications platform for your workforce will help you cut-short the duration and costs of your training and onboarding. Focusing on employee retention allows you to increase the productivity of your employees by training them to engage in more complex activities such as upselling. Just don’t forget: upselling a skill you must train in your workers, and innovative platforms such as Bites maximize the impact of employee onboarding, training and retention programs. 

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