Suggestive Selling Techniques: Increase Your Average Check Size

Suggestive selling plus great customer service is the perfect recipe for increasing the average check size at your restaurant.

As any restaurateur knows, great customer service and a friendly waitstaff lead to happy customers. But that shouldn’t be the end of the story. Even already happy customers can be persuaded to order more. In fact, you don’t have to be a pushy salesperson to get people to order more at your bar or restaurant. All it takes is a little suggestive selling. 

So what is suggestive selling?

Suggestive selling is a sales technique used to encourage a customer to order something they maybe hadn’t considered already. For example: when a server suggests ordering a dessert at the end of a meal. The key to suggestive selling is to be perceptive with how and when the recommendation is delivered, and that it is genuine. Suggestive selling is executed well when a customer not only orders what your servers recommend, but when they feel it made their dining experience better. Suggestive selling can be carried out by your wait staff or automated through your restaurant’s online ordering system

Some suggestive selling examples are:

  • Side dishes that pair well with an entree
  • Pairing the right wine with a meal
  • Offering higher-end alternatives for drinks, like a top shelf whiskey for a cocktail
  • Adding desserts and coffee to cap off an evening.

Why do it?

The end goal is to increase your guests’ average check size. In fact, when put into practice, suggestive selling can expand a bar or restaurant’s revenue by 30% on average. Moreover, providing thoughtful recommendations during a customer’s visit means a happy patron, which increases brand loyalty to your business. Training your staff to be skilled at suggestive selling can lead to even better customer service and higher profits. 

Some suggestive selling techniques

There’s a skill in making good recommendations to your customers without coming off too brash. You also want to be strategic with what you recommend, keeping in consideration guests’ personal preferences and what pairs nicely with those options. If your restaurant has an online ordering platform that produces reporting and sales analytics, use these insights to spot popular food pairing trends and create customized suggestive selling features online. This is particularly effective with encouraging repeat visitors, who often order the same thing, to order new items.

Know your menu

First off, make sure your staff thoroughly knows your product. They need to have a solid understanding of the menu, hopefully by actually sampling your dishes, in order to make good personal recommendations. You can help your staff increase their knowledge by having an employee tasting event. In doing so, you might find you want to restructure your menu in such a way that allows customers to discover some pairings themselves. 

Know what works together

By knowing the menu, your staff should know what dishes or beverages pair well together. This might mean the perfect wine pairing for an entree or the taste of a particular dip paired with an appetizer. Remember that you’re not just recommending one item alone. With suggestive selling, you have the potential to improve a whole dining experience.

Ask questions

Begin with a greeting and then find out from the source what they want and like. According to Groupon, asking questions like “Hi, have you been here before?” can increase your sales by up to 16%. Not only do customers feel valued when your staff asks them meaningful questions, but it is also an easy way to gather information that will set the tone for what and how you will upsell. That human interaction is a welcome perk in the wake of COVID and non-interactive dining. And you can combine their answers with any information gathered from your regulars via surveys

Reward loyalty

New customers are great, but repeat ones are even better. Creating a loyalty program encourages customers to frequent your business 20% more often and spend 20% more than they would if they weren’t enrolled. A reward system in a loyalty program means customers are more apt to experiment with pricier items, since they need to reach a certain spend threshold in order to receive the discount or free item. 

Use your technology

Advanced restaurant technology, like Sixdots, leads to a more efficient and profitable business. You can leverage that technology to make suggestive selling effortless. For instance, you can add prompts to your POS for personalized recommendations that can be relayed to your staff or sent directly to customers who are using tableside ordering technology, such as a kiosk or digital menu on their mobile. 


What is suggestive selling? 

Suggestive selling is the recommendation of additional items to a customer, like seeing if a table would like desserts at the end of a meal. 

What are some suggestive selling examples? 

Some examples are: pairing appetizers with entrees, pairing wines or other cocktails with meals, substituting a higher-brand alcohol in a cocktail, suggesting comparable dishes as an alternative. 

Why do restaurants use suggestive selling? 

Suggestive selling has been shown to increase revenue by up to 30%. If done right, it also makes your customers happier, and thus, more loyal.

What are some suggestive selling techniques for restaurants? 

  • Make sure your staff knows the menu
  • Know what dishes or drinks go well together
  • Ask meaningful questions
  • Offer a loyalty program
  • Use your technology 



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