The Lost Art Of Suggestive Selling

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This will be relevant by the end of the post.

“Subtlety is the art of saying what you think and getting out of the way before it is understood.” –Anonymous

We as a society have really lost the power of subtlety.  It could be because we have lost the patience to unravel it.  We receive far more information on a daily basis than our ancestors a hundred years ago could even process.  Most of this information is not subtle.  It is blasted at us with bells and whistles to get our attention.  The news channels do not just report the news, they also tell us what to think about it.  Movies no longer imply that a couple is about to “make whoopee”, they show us the scenes in the trailer.  In a few generations we have gone from Marilyn Monroe standing over a vent to Britney Spears getting out of a limousine.

With all of these changes, we have forgotten what it means to be “suggestive.”  This is particularly true in restaurants.  A few decades ago, corporate restaurants determined that they wanted their servers to be sales people.  The also determined that they had no interest in paying for the training necessary to actually accomplish this.  Instead, they decided to teach their servers to use adjectives and “suggestive selling.”  One of the first posts on this blog was declaring my disdain for the overuse of adjectives.  I recently realized that I never discussed my equal dislike for the corporate restaurant incarnation of “suggestive selling.”

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

Leadership: Creating A Shared Goal

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Each person climbs the mountain for their own reason

“Leaders don’t force people to follow-they invite them on a journey.” -Charles S. Lauer

The fundamental question behind the desire to manage rather than lead is, “How can I get people to do what I want them to do if they do not want to do it?”  Failure to answer this question is what leads so many managers to lead by force and threat of force.  The answer to this question is simple.  You must create a vision for your staff, which allows them to achieve what they want by achieving what you want.  This is what I will refer to as a shared goal, vision, or sense of purpose.  I have discussed the idea of selling a sense of purpose in the past.  Today I want to go deeper into how to develop it.

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On A Good Night

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On the great nights

(Note: I am enjoying the final day of my mini vacation.  Having a great trip.  Met my favorite musician and a personal hero yesterday.  Today I will be taking the scenic drive through the Ozark hills of Central Missouri.  This is a post I wrote a couple months ago.  Not my standard fare, but I hope you all enjoy it.)

Some nights I just love waiting tables.  They are the nights where everything goes right.  The guests are congenial and friendly.  You make connections with your tables and they are happy.  They take your recommendations and commend you on them afterwards.  It almost doesn’t seem like work.

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How To Memorize Orders

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brain

I know that order is in here somewhere

(Note: In yesterdays post I discussed why I feel it is beneficial to memorize orders.  I will not recap to avoid redundancy, which itself if redundant in this post.)

I am terrible with names.  Not particularly good with faces either.  I will forget three things every time I take a trip.  I promise I will remember to bring that CD I was telling you about next time I see you.  I have left the house in my slippers.  This seems like a good chance to wish a happy belated birthday to everyone who had one before the days when Facebook reminded me.  There was a point to this paragraph, but I am not sure what it was.

If you ask most of my friends, they will gladly tell you how forgetful I am.  If you ask my guests, they will tell you I am some sort of memorization genius.  Memorizing orders is skill rather than a talent.  A talent is something you are born with.  A skill is something you get better at through technique and practice.  I am an absent minded person who has trained himself to be highly proficient at memorizing orders.

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Supply, Demand, and Chicken Wings

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I only chose this picture because I heard she was an economist

Yesterday’s post on extra charges for the various items a guest requests caused me to ponder on a larger scale.  It is remarkably common to hear guests say, “I could buy that steak/wine/etc at the store for half that much.”  This is the same principle as walking into a car dealership and demanding a price based on the total price of the steel, glass, and plastic contained in the car.  In both cases, the price of production goes far beyond the cost of the raw materials.  Next week, I will be addressing in detail the difference between the actual cost of an item as simple as a burger and also the actual price of production.  When the cost of labor and overhead is factored in, a burger is far less profitable than the average consumer would imagine.

First, it is necessary to establish as a premise that food is a commodity.  A meal is comprised of many components each of which has a finite supply.  There are only so many acres of wheat or corn being produced.  There are also only so much beef, poultry, pork, and seafood being brought to market.  This means that supply is more of less the same and therefore demand is what determines the price restaurants pay.  The commodity we are all most familiar with is oil.  When demand for oil rises worldwide the price rises as well.  This is followed shortly by a rise in the price of gasoline.  We as consumers understand why this affects gas prices, but rarely do we relate it to restaurants.

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The Evolution of Free Bread

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Lamberts

Home of the Throwed Rolls

In the far corner of Southeast Missouri is a town called Sikeston.  If you have heard of Sikeston, MO it is probably because of a restaurant called Lambert’s Café.  I’ve eaten at Lambert’s a number of times over the years, but don’t recall what I had.  I always remember the food being good, but nothing amazing.  The menu isn’t what made Lambert’s famous though.  Lambert’s is known around the world as “The Home of the Throwed Rolls.

If you are unfamiliar with Lambert’s, the atmosphere is best conveyed on video.  You almost have to be on guard at all times while eating there because any stray glance could result in a roll being unintentionally thrown at your head.  The rolls aren’t the only thing they give away. Fried potatoes with onions, macaroni with tomatoes, black-eyed peas, fried okra, and sorghum are all handed out free of charge around the dining room.  At first glance it makes no sense to give away so much food.  Yet this small town restaurant is thriving and has spawned three other locations.

In contrast, several years ago an girlfriend at the time worked for O’Charley’s when they released this video on their website.  I immediately declared it the single stupidest marketing move I had ever seen a restaurant make. Why would they spend money to advertise something they are giving away that directly trades off with the things they are trying to sell?  It is at exactly 1:53 in that video where they completely missed the point.  After relaxing with a couple rolls while considering the menu guests face a decision: buy an appetizer or eat more of these delicious free rolls.  Anyone who has ever waited tables can tell you how that decision ends.  At the end of the meal, guests ate too many rolls to buy a dessert, but one more roll sounds good.

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Foil To Go: The Shark

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It’s “Shark Week” from all indications. The time when a certain television network rolls out a weeks worth of shark related shows that everyone feels the need to watch and discuss over dinner at my restaurant.  Personally I would love to see the same principle used on “National Debt Week” or “Health Insurance Reform Week” or “We Are Still Fighting Two Wars Week.”  But I digress.  I guess sharks are more interesting.  Which is why this post is on foil sharks rather than foil preexisting conditions.

My post on the foil swan received a great deal of comments from people I have met that read the blog.  It is by no means the only foil animal I have done over the years.  Swans are pretty easy to make though.  I intended to make it a recurring feature of the blog.  Then my roommate used the last of the foil for cooking or something completely unimportant like that.  Well, a new roll has been procured and today I give you the foil shark.

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The Rules of Serving: Rule Five

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Rule Five: Always recommend what is in the guest’s best interest, not yours.

(Note: There are many hyperlinks today that will send you to posts were I have previously addressed specifically issues that I address in this post.)

This is the second time in two days I have sat down to write this post.  Yesterday, I got caught up in a tangent which I think serves as an important preface to this post.  It even inspired a comment immediately that proved its accuracy.  In the preface, I discuss how restaurant companies have encouraged servers to focus on upselling and thus significantly damaged the relationship between servers and their guests.

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Why Contests Don’t Work

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(Note: This is the second part of a series I am posting over the holiday weekend.  The first part of this series lays out the basic premises this post and the rest of the series is based on.  In order to full appreciate this series, please read “The Epiphany” where the research behind this post is presented.)

Over the years I have been in countless serving contests.  The manager comes out at lineup and explains that whoever sells the most of the evenings fish special wins a lovely pink women’s size small t-shirt with the phrase “Buy Me a Tequila Rose” across the front.  Immediately visions of sporting this stylish shirt out to the club on my six-foot tall frame to pick up women go through my head.  Nothing says “class” like liquor company promo shirts.  All I have to do is regale my guest with mentions of the finely aged fish special that guests who came in the last three nights did not choose.  Tonight I can tell them that it truly is a limited time offer.  I will leave out that if they don’t buy it the kitchen manager can no longer in good conscience avoid throwing it out.

Fortunately, most of the contests were not as bad as the previously mentioned tale.  Most managers have accepted that cash is “one size fits all” and far more effective in the aforementioned club.  What surprises these managers, and myself in my time as a manager, is how poorly it works as a prize to motivate a staff.  The previous post outlines numerous studies that show cash incentives actually harm performance.  At first glance, this seems to make no sense.  Servers tend to be highly money motivated as a whole.  Yet cash incentives don’t lead to better performance.  Upon further examination though it can be easily explained.

Here are the basic reasons why financial incentives in the form of contests fail to motivate servers:

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In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Three)

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Selling is a complex topic.  In the first part of this series, I discussed how most managers and corporations fail to encourage servers to sell in the right way. The second part dealt with the fact that we are all salespeople and in fact selling is part of hospitality.  If you haven’t read part two in particular, I highly recommend taking a look because it serves as a premise for this post.  Today, I want to tie this all together by stating that in fact the guests truly want you to sell them.

The premise that guests want to be sold something may at first glance strike you as odd.  I mean we all hate salespeople right?  While a resistance to salespeople might be common, but there is a more common trait that cancels it out.  We all love to buy things.  Some people love it more than others, but we all like converting the money we work hard for into things we will actually enjoy.  We know we work hard for it so we are naturally resistant to letting go of it.  The gap between wanting to save our hard earned dollars and the desire to buy things that make us happy can only be bridged by a sales person.

The difference between servers and other sales people is that the guest determines our commissions.  For this reason, many servers are afraid to sell.  I would argue that instead of using this as a reason not to sell, you should instead use it as a guideline.  Never try to sell anything that is not in the guest’s best interest.  You will only be rewarded for your efforts if they are pleased with the outcome.  This makes it imperative that you only recommend items they will enjoy and will reflect positively on you.

With that caveat, here are three reasons why the guest wants you to sell to them:

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

Help Them Do What They Want: I mentioned earlier the dilemma between wanting to save and wanting to spend.  As a server you help ease the process by justifying for the guest what they want to do.  Providing this justification helps push them over the edge to allow them to order what they want to enjoy.  You give them permission to treat themselves.  The result is a better meal by overcoming their desire to save and instead buy what they want to.

Confirm What They Hoped For: After the fear of spending is overcome, you can address the secondary fear that the item might not bring the happiness they expected.  This is where your knowledge and expertise come in.  You have the benefits of having tasted the item and listening to the feedback of other guests who have tried it.  This knowledge makes your recommendation far more powerful.  In this way, your recommendation is really a review.  It is actually better than a review because you will be there when they are finished and have to stand behind your recommendation.  This provides confidence to the guest that the meal will be as good as they hoped for.

Create The Experience: So we have knocked out the fear of spending and the fear of disappointment.  The third fear a server can overcome is the fear of gluttony.  People do not want to order too much.  A server can overcome this by not pretending all of the food is necessary, but instead advocating the experience.  The appetizers, salads, and desserts are not needed to get full, but they are part of the dining experience.  Ordering the salad or dessert makes a meal an experience.  Give them permission to have the experience through your recommendations and they will get more enjoyment out of the meal.

“Sales” is not a four-letter word.  The inherent fear of selling intimidates many servers.  When done properly the guest will appreciate the efforts and the expertise.  Recommend as you would to a friend because it truly is part of hospitality.  The right way to sell will be the topic of many future posts now that the framework has been laid.  Please subscribe via one of the methods on the right column to receive a notice about future related topics.

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