The Ultimate Restaurant Training Sales Growth Guide (Part 1)

June 28, 2017 by Larry Struckman
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If you’ve read our previous posts from ShiftNote, you probably know that we are the go-to for all things restaurant management. Whether it’s maintaining an efficient staff, recruiting the right team, implementing an effective system for managing shifts, innovating your workplace, or developing a strategy for better restaurant sales, we offer several solutions that will create a positive change to your business.

An area we have yet to cover is Tableside Selling. The next couple of post will go through what Tableside Selling is, the different techniques used every time you approach the table, when Tableside Selling works, and when it doesn’t! Listen up to these super helpful pointers on how to effectively work this proven strategy to grow your sales with minimal effort.  This is the ultimate restaurant training sales growth guide.

What is Tableside Selling?

From the moment a customer walks into a restaurant, they are primed to spend money. As people in the restaurant industry, you have the potential to upsell patrons as soon as they walk in the door. Tableside selling capitalizes on areas within your restaurant as well as during each segment of the meal to create an opportunity at each phase to maximize restaurant sales.

The benefit to you, if you follow this system, is your restaurant sells more product with little to no extra effort, increases bottom line profits and the server has the potential for a bigger tip. A win-win situation for everyone.

What are the 7 Phases of Tableside Selling?

  • The Seating Phase
  • The Greeting Phase
  • The Appetizer Phase
  • The Entree Phase
  • The Dessert Phase
  • The After Dinner Phase
  • The Welcome Back Phase

Let’s explore each phase, the strategy behind them and review how you can boost your restaurant training and sales by following these strategy's below in greater detail:

The Seating Phase

As the guests arrive to your establishment have the host/hostess open the front door and greet them with a smile. Make sure to welcome the guest to your establishment and ask:

  • Will you have anyone else joining you today? or How many will you have in your party today?
    • (TIP: if it is a single patron, do not say just one? Instead ask, will anyone else be joining you this morning / afternoon / evening?)
  • Would you like smoking or non smoking (If applicable)?
  • Would you like a table or a booth (If applicable)?

Now here is where the restaurant training and suggestive selling starts. Instead of the dead silence while walking the guest to the table, this is a good time for the host/hostess to:

  • Plant the seed and make suggestions for drinks, appetizers, signature items or even dessert. Just pick one and make a suggestion and you are on your way to the first step in growing your sales.
  • Also find out if this is the guest first time to your establishment or if they are returning guests (See bonus below).
  • Lastly, mention the servers name before the host / hostess leaves the table. (I will go get (blank) and let him / her  know you are here)

Bonus: During one of your restaurant training session figure out a way to denote first time guest. Whether it is placing the salt and pepper shakers in a certain spot on the table or putting down black beverage napkins for the first-time guest and white beverage napkins for repeat guests.  This way you can easily view who is who with a quick glance on the floor, and set higher priorities on first time patrons.  What a great opportunity to "wow" this guest and turn them into long time, repeat customers.

The Greeting Phase

Server approaches the table and does the following:

  • Welcome the guest to your establishment
  • Thank them for choosing to dine with you tonight
  • Finds out if they are first time guest (If not completed during The Seating Phase)
  • Use their name at some time during the greeting to start building a rapport
  • Makes suggestions on a minimum of 2 options (One alcoholic and one non-alcoholic)

After the greeting, offer two beverages (a non-alcoholic and a alcoholic Feature of the day) by saying:

  • “would you like to Try one of our __ today?”
    • Goal is to get the guest thinking about something other than water. How much do you make on a glass of water?

Pro Tip: Do not bring water to the table prior to taking the drink order.  This will lessen your chance of selling the guest a drink and could ultimately hurt your overall check average as well as the servers tip.

Next Step: Plant the seed before you leave! Knowing the next phase that is coming up, plant the seed with your guest and make a suggestion for a minimum of two appetizer (preferably ones with high profit and high popularity) before leaving the table. It looks like this: “Before I go and get your drinks let me tell you about two of our most Popular appetizers on the menu.”

Did You Catch Them?

There were three word highlighted in the above section - did you catch them?  These are three words that should be practiced and used in every step of Tableside Selling.  Here is why you should teach your staff to use them.

  • Try: when you ask if they want to try something it means it may cost a little more but it is going to make the experience that much more enjoyable.
  • Feature: Get into the habit of using the word feature instead of special.  Using feature makes it sound like you created something special for the guest as apposed to special which sounds like you need to get rid of something because it is about to spoil and you are marking it down to get rid of it.
  • Popular: Everyone wants whats popular so give it to them.  Tell them what are the most popular items on the menu and they will most likely buy them.  After all you are the expert in this establishment right?  Most guest will trust your suggestion since you work there and you know what the best things are on the menu.

Where to start

Over the next 30 days start incorporating the suggestions from above and tracking your results.  Start with the Host / Hostess (If you have that position) and have them start selling on the way to the table.  Pick one item and then track its success throughout the night. Remember - what you talk about at the tables is what you sell.  Focus on the right items (High profit, easy to make in the kitchen, high popularity) and you will for sure start growing your check average. Your goal is to grow your check average by $1 over the next 30 day period.  So find out what your check average is today and start creating Tableside selling opportunities with The Seating, Greeting and Appetizer phases.

Be on the lookout for next weeks blog - The Ultimate Restaurant Sales Growth Guide (Part 2) where we will discuss the next 30 days ( Selling more Appetizers and Entrees).  You won't want to miss this edition and the secrets behind teaching your staff to sell more Tableside.

Like what you read?  Have other successful tips?  Leave a comment for us below.  We would love to hear your feedback!

Continue reading The Ultimate Restaurant Training Sales Growth Guide (Part 2)

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Larry Struckman

Passionate about setting up systems and procedures that assure success, training, consulting, growing sales, strategic planning, creating "raving fan" customer service and just about anything related to food service. 25+ years in food and sales as well as growing hundreds of concepts with different operators (I have seen them all). I enjoy cooking, computer software, Taekwondo and spending time with my family. We started ShiftNote in 2007 to help organizations like yours create a better platform for shift-to-shift communication across their organization. Our purpose is to serve you with the best online digital logbook and employee scheduling software on the market so you can spend more time focusing on growing your business.