Skill Focus: Selling As A Server

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Of all of the concepts I have introduced on this blog and in my book, this week’s sales focus deals with the topic that I feel most strongly about.  This is the one area I am most disappointed with how it is addressed by the restaurant industry.  So many restaurant companies now refer to their serving staff as the “sales staff” or some derivative of that term.  Incredibly few of them provide an ample education on selling as a server and even less provide an explanation of why sales is actually part of service.  It is instead explained as a way to increase your tips by increasing their sales. 

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I also think selling as a server is a way to increase your tips and improve a restaurant’s sales.  I don’t think this occurs as a result of “upselling and add-ons.”  I am not going to tell you how much you could make over the course of a year if you just sold 12 more desserts a week.  You have heard it before and you have probably learned it doesn’t work.  Selling superfluous items by constant suggestive selling may increase the amount of the check, but the guest still determines the tip.  They will also determine whether or not they return to the restaurant.

So now that I have agreed with every reason you have to dislike trying to sell as a server, please read the next paragraph with an open mind.

Selling as a server is not about trying to get the guest to spend more.  Selling as a server is about trying to get the guest to spend wisely.  The guest came in to buy food, drinks, or both.  It is in your best interest for the guest to order the best (not necessarily the most expensive) meal on the menu.  You have the benefit of having tried most things on the menu and having received the feedback of countless guests.  You are the expert on the food you sell.  If you can direct the guest to the best possible meal, they will appreciate it as an added service you provide.  This will result in a higher tip and a return guest.

Now if every restaurant explained sales in that way, servers would not be so resistant.  Selling is an extension of service.   Some of you might be nervous about the concept of selling due to experiences you have had with bad salespeople.  That is completely understandable, but you should not judge sales by the actions of a bad salesperson.  This would be similar to a guest judging you at the beginning of the meal based upon the actions of the worst server they have ever had.  Take a look at the chapter this skill focus is based upon to further understand this concept.

Chapter 34: In Defense Of Selling As A Server

That is by far my favorite chapter in the book.  It is the one I go to when I do readings for the public and it receives an incredibly favorable response.  No one wants to be sold to.  Everyone wants to receive the benefit of a knowledgeable expert when making a decision.  Selling as a server is your opportunity to provide your expertise to the guest.  When you do so, they will reward you and return.

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