In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Two)

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You are a salesperson.  I have never met you, but I am confident in that statement.  By way of explanation let me say that Sunday night I had one of the greatest nights of my life.  I saw Michael Franti and Spearhead perform and it was the greatest concert I have ever attended.  I have been to lots of shows, but the energy level at the show and the quality of the music was unexplainable.  If you ever get a chance to see them, you would have to be a fool to pass it up.

That is why I am a salesperson.  When I like something, I want everyone to know about it.  This isn’t a music blog so you might not have clicked the link.  If this was a music blog and you had faith in my ability to tell good music from bad, that recommendation would have been enough.  We all sell the things we like continuously.  We just consider it recommending things to friends rather than sales.

Looking at sales in this light allows you to identify what it truly is.  Selling is using persuasion to help influence the outcome of a decision.  When a guest sits down at your table they have already decided to order food, drinks, or both.  All you are doing when you are selling as a server is helping them decide what to order.  Serving is the greatest sales job ever because everyone buys something.  People almost never come in just to sit down and look at the menu.  They have made the decision to buy when they walk in.  The only question is what they will buy.

So once they are in the door and want to buy, the question becomes are you going to help them decide.  If your best friend came into your restaurant to eat with you, would you tell them some items on the menus that are particularly good?  Of course you would.  Would you consider it taking advantage of them?  Of course wouldn’t.  They are your friend and you would make recommendations because you want them to have a good meal and think highly of the place you work.

Selling in restaurants is not about taking advantage of your guests, it is about treating every guest with the same courtesy that you would extend to your best friend.  That is the very definition of hospitality.  Hospitality is the key to your tip at the end of the meal.  Therefore selling is the key to how much money you make not because it raises your check, but because it is how you show your guests the best possible experience.  Selling is an added service you offer your guest and a way to demonstrate your sincerity about providing them the best possible experience.

With this in mind, the fear of rejection can be put in perspective.  Servers are afraid to sell because they are afraid of rejection.  They view a guest not choosing their recommendations as rejection.  In all humility I think it is fair to say that I am an outstanding salesperson.  My pitch is legendary.  Guests take my entrée recommendations about half the time.  That is my personal benchmark for success.  This does not mean that the other half of the guests rejected me.  In 15 years with over 100,000 guests under my belt, I have never been rejected due to my recommendations.  Rejection would be not ordering anything or not leaving me a tip.  Simply ordering something other than my recommendation is not a rejection.  Even when they order something else I have conveyed that I am a professional who is passionate about food and wants them to have a great meal.  Creating that impression is incredibly valuable whether they order my recommendation or not.

You are a salesperson.  The people you like the most are the ones you are most likely to sell to.  Selling items to your guests is really just extending to them that same courtesy.  Even if they do not take your advice, you are still showing them you care.  Demonstrating this is incredibly valuable whether they take your advice or not.  If they do take your advice, they can benefit from your experience with the menu to have a better meal.

Now that the concept of selling is a little less fear inducing we can address they advantages of selling.  I will follow that up with a quick word about why restaurant companies have made selling so scary.  Then for those fans of sales we can get into the closes and phrases to help sell.  Selling in a restaurant truly only works if you are doing it for the right reasons.  All the sales closes in the world will fail if you are not using them with the right mindset.

I am going to conclude this post with a sales pitch of my own.  As most of you who read this blog might have determined, I am sincerely passionate about waiting tables.  I sit at my desk and write these things because I want to pass on knowledge I have gained over the years to help you make more money.  I want every server who is willing to try to improve their skills to have a place to find the information to help them.  If you are a server, you probably know a few more servers.  If you feel this post or this blog provides you with information that helps you make more money, would you recommend it to someone else as well?  Sharing a link on facebook, a blog, printing a copy to hang on a bulletin board, etc would go a long way to helping others find the information you have to be a better server.  I would be honored to deserve such a recommendation and vow to try to keep providing posts that merit the recommendation.

Related Posts On Selling From This Blog

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14 comments on “In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Two)

  1. Pingback: In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Three) « Tips on improving your Tips

  2. Pingback: In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Three) « Tips on improving your Tips

  3. I have suggested this blog to other servers who use the internet. I quote you a lot. I can say you have taught me a few things.

    One disadvantage I have on selling is I can’t digest beef, therefore, I don’t eat it. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten beef, I don’t even remember what it tastes like. My strongest recommendation is the barbeque chicken. When men ask me, “What’s good?” and I suggest the chicken, they sneer at me. The best I can say about our beef is, “Nobody complains.” Any suggestions?

  4. I have suggested this blog to other servers who use the internet. I quote you a lot. I can say you have taught me a few things.

    One disadvantage I have on selling is I can’t digest beef, therefore, I don’t eat it. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten beef, I don’t even remember what it tastes like. My strongest recommendation is the barbeque chicken. When men ask me, “What’s good?” and I suggest the chicken, they sneer at me. The best I can say about our beef is, “Nobody complains.” Any suggestions?

    • Yellowcat, I think the easiest way around that is to ask your co-workers who enjoy beef how they would describe it or just recite a positive review from a guest.

      I find myself in a situation very similar to yours every weekend because I haven’t had the chance to try the majority of the cocktails or shots that I sell. Despite this I have no problem making honest recommendations based on the experiences of friends and customers that enjoy them. I am upfront about the source of the reviews, and think it adds to the effectiveness of the sales pitch to be sincere and cite an impartial source but if you’d rather omit that I don’t see why it would be a problem.

      • David Hayden on said:

        I haven’t drank alcohol in over five years. I can still sell the heck out of our wine list. Some I taste and spit, but most of them I rely on what my guests and fellow servers tell me. It is all about how you look at it. On some items I give my opinion. On others I give the opinion of the majority of the guests I have served. Their collective opinion is as important in my recommendation as mine alone. We have a very popular seafood dish at my restaurant that I hate. Almost every guest that has it loves it. When I am asked, I describe the dish, while pointing out its popularity, and let the guest make an informed decision.

  5. Pingback: The Rules of Serving: Rule Five « Tips on improving your Tips

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