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.”

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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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Memorizing Orders

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When I started my first serving job years ago I worked for a company I will affectionately refer to as “Five Four.”  That isn’t what it says on the signs out front, but it what we all called it.  My first day a manager who introduced himself as “CSV” told me that if I couldn’t figure out how to carry three plates at once by the end of the shift, I was fired.  I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, but I learned to carry three plates.  A couple days later I was training with a guy named “Timmy” who never wrote down his orders.  I asked him why and he said, “Only rookies write down orders.”

There are any number of managers who would read that last sentence and be horrified.  The thought of not writing down orders puts fear in the heart of managers who are responsible for the rise in food costs related to misrung food.  A former boss once put it this way; “I would rather have a stubby pencil than a sharp mind.”  The debate on whether or not to write down orders has pretty much been won by the side of managers who want to eliminate mistakes.  I do not disagree with them, but I also do not write down orders.

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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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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:

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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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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.

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In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part One)

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Search engine results are one of the most amusing parts of writing a blog.  I get to see what people are searching for that lands them on this page.  Almost every day someone lands on this page looking for sales techniques.  Upon closer examination I am seeing a trend of the phrasing of the searches.  “How to get servers to sell” and similar phrasing lead me to believe that a lot of these searches are from managers attempting to get their servers to sell more.

For the sake of managers reading this blog, I will share my first rule of restaurant management.

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