By investing the time to properly teach you servers how to sell better, you can significantly increase your profits. Waiters and waitresses should be more than just people who take orders and bring the food to the table. They are the restaurant’s sales agents. Training your servers to become sales agents can add to your bottom line and is more important than ever in this sluggish economy when fewer people are dining out. In order to turn your servers in a strong sales force, they will need the proper training.
First of all, servers should be using the menu as a sales brochure. They should not only know everything that is on the menu, they should also know the ingredients of each one. This is all the more important if one of your diners has an allergy which they mentioned and your server suggested a dish that causes a severe allergic reaction. Servers should also know the features and benefits of each dish so they can promote them with confidence.
Suggestive selling is very important when it comes to increasing profits. This is also known in the industry as “padding the bill”. Traditionally this used to refer to servers suggesting an appetizer, dessert or an alcoholic drink. This can also include suggesting a combination appetizers and an entrée to give the diner more of a selection. Servers should also suggest adding meat, poultry or seafood to a salad. Also have serves suggest sides to entrees such as mushrooms or cheese on steak or charging extra for including a small soup, salad, fries or other extra.
The profit margins on alcoholic drinks such as cocktails, wine and beer are big and these drinks can add a lot of dollars and cents to the bill. Servers should be suggesting drinks that quench thirst on hot summer days such as daiquiris, pina coladas or wine coolers on hot days. On cold days, suggest drinks that will warm up chilly customers such as brandy, whiskey, Irish coffee or hot buttered rum. Your servers should also be suggesting a wine to complement the meal, and they should have the proper training to know which wine to suggest. For example, bold red wine such as cabernet should be paired with red meat, cured meats and hard cheese. Rich white wine such as a Chardonnay should be paired with soft cheeses, seafood, starches and white meat. Beer is always popular and you can increase sales by suggesting the table share a pitcher or a carafe of wine. When ordering dessert suggest a night cap, but be sure your staff can tell the signs of intoxication and overselling alcohol. If they see guests are intoxicated, try to prevent customers from driving home drunk because as the owner of the restaurant, you could be liable if there is an accident. Suggest a taxi if your guests are intoxicated.
Keep an open eye and an open ear for special customers celebrating special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or other special occasions. Also they should be looking out for special phrases such as “I’m starving” or “what do you suggest”. For someone who indicates they are very hungry, servers should suggest the chef’s platter and a more expensive menu item such a prime rib for a diner that is looking for suggestions. If you have a dessert cart, have serves bring it by because most people eat with their eyes.
Selling may not come natural for all of your servers, so provide training sessions. The more enthusiastic the servers are about the menu items they are selling the more customers will buy. A smile also goes along way and friendly servers will increase profits, as will prompt service. A larger bill means a larger tip, so encourage your servers to sell as this will increase their income as well.