In the strictest sense, an “upsell”
means convincing guests to have a high-
er-priced version of something they were
already ordering. “If they’re looking for
a martini,” says Alex Cauchon, director
of wine and spirits for the BR Guest res-
taurant group in New York, “offer them
Grey Goose and Absolut, but lead with
the premium; nine out of ten times they’ll
go with that.” Today, most people in the
industry use “upselling” to describe a va-
riety of techniques that help servers and
bartenders up their check average.
For example, “Don’t automatically
get the wine order right away. If you
get a round of specialty cocktails first,
that’s $60 on the check,” says Ramsey
Metcalf, an experienced server at Edi-
son Food + Drink Lab in Tampa, FL.
That $60 is only part of the story; it
gets drinks in the guests’ hands while at
the same time slowing down the need
to decide on a bottle of wine, so guests
can get deeper into the list and Metcalf
can take his time guiding—and perhaps
upselling—them.
Wine, cocktails and beer are all fair
game. Today’s drinkers are open to splurg-
ing on single malt and other esoteric
whiskies, Cauchon says, and the craft beer
movement has made beer an easy place
to upsell. “If the guest normally drinks
Sam Adams, say, ‘Try Avery’s Ellie’s
Brown.’ People are receptive to it. Some-
times it might not be a dollar upsell, but
it might be a quality upsell, that wins a
guest’s confidence.”
Economic Realities
Some guests upsell themselves: “A big
shot banker looking to throw down,” says
Cauchon, “you’ve got to let them do it.”
So the skill sometimes lies in recognizing
the guest’s intentions and getting out of
the way—not recommending items so
much as making sure the guest knows
their options. Of course, that doesn’t
happen as much as it used to; Cauchon
says BR Guest has changed their approach
to upselling since the economy began
struggling in 2008. “We’re not putting
our palates, our opinions out there as
much,” he says. “Instead we’re giving
people something they’re comfortable
with. We’re having success leaning toward
mainstream brands.”
In San Francisco, Petra Polakovicova,
wine director at Epic Roasthouse, says the
faltering economy certainly affected the
size of the jump guests were willing to
entertain. “We used to upsell even $100
more and people would go for it; people
would jump from $150 to $260 if you told
them it was a great bottle of wine. Now
half don’t want to listen at all. It’s $60
to $90, $90 to $100.” She says it takes
multiple bottles and working the smaller
Y
ou’re salespeople, not order-takers.” Probably every server in
America has heard that from their managers at some point or
another. It’s a simple principle: Don’t just bring the guests what they
ask for; sell them something.
Upsell them.
by jim clarke
Alex Cauchon, BR Guest, New York City
The
ART
of the Sale
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