Is Upselling a Lost Art?

Positive comp store growth is an obsession in our industry and for good reason, it is a defining metric to measure the quality of operations along with the health of the brand. So many brands focus on traffic counts and for much of my career this was a primary focus to resolve negative sales growth. 

For Operators, we all know the four walls is always the starting point and foundation for building sales. Starting with the right leadership, good communication, clear goal setting, proper staffing, deployment, speed of service and great fresh food. 

What I don’t see as much of is trying to grow the ticket average.

Hiring the right person, training, and coaching are all important steps to be successful at upselling.  But what are the specific techniques that should be deployed? 

Here is what has worked for me in the past and the results can really have an impact on your bottom line.

What intrigued me more was the lack of detailed information on how, techniques that were very specific to fast casual, or quick service.  I also found that franchisees had even less control as they had many restrictions on what can be displayed or done at their level. 

  1. Incorporate Active Verbs – Words such as “gain” “improve” and “save,” along with words that express benefits, such as “new,” “healthy,” and “proven,” are likely to appeal to the customer’s emotions and appealing to emotion is a strong way to encourage an extra sale.
  2. Use Descriptive Words – Using words that describe features or benefits enhance the value of the product you are selling. Words like “triple chunk”, fresh made, “crisp”, and “tasty”, or “warm” all add additional value to the product.
  3. Use Yes-Yes Questions – This is something from my serving days but offer A or B not yes or no.  Example; would you like a ice tea or a soda?  I am sure your hungry today, can I get you a pickle or a bag of chips with your sandwich?
  4. Discounts or Offers – Everyone loves a deal, so find a way to create special add-ons that feel like a great deal for the customer. Here are a couple of examples: Would you like to add a bag of chips for $1.00? You can get a drink and chips for just $2.00 more.
  5. Discount on Future Visit – Sell a sandwich or meal for a future visit at a discount. 
    • Sell a free sandwich card for $1.00 less than the normal price of a sandwich. This has the advantage of driving average check and gets them in for another visit.
    • Get 50% off on your sandwich on your next visit if you buy today. Like Starbucks does on their receipts if you come in again after 3pm.
  6. Proper Pairing – Some things just go better with others, so know what tastes great together. Avocado is a great upsell but not on every sandwich. Bacon is almost always great, but this is a male dominated extra, probably not the best item to sell to your health conscious.
  7. Sell Based on Profit – Not all entrées are the same price, suggestive sell higher priced items on your menu.  Even better if you have the ability reconfigure your menu, put your higher priced or higher profit items are on the top.
  8. Specials – Create a special menu item that you can charge extra for. Customers are more likely to try something new and feel comfortable spending a little more than they would for the same old thing they normally would order.  Taylor your special to your specific dominant customer base.
  9. Don’t Close the Sale – Never say is that all? Or something similar, let the customer decide when they are done by specifically telling you they are finished.  Coach to sell two times before you close.

I am sure there are more ideas to add to this list, but this is a good place to start. If you have any great ideas please share. 


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