There comes a time in each of our lives when we have a really good waiter! This is usually a nice occurrence, because it’s always nice to be greeted by enthusiastic, positive energy when you’re out for the evening. So, you’ve gone out for a fantastic meal with your significant other, and as soon as you enter the restaurant, you are seated and the waiter approaches. The conversation goes something like this:
WAITER: “Good evening! Would you like some water whilst I fetch the menu?”
YOU: “Yes please!”
WAITER: “Still or Sparkling?”
YOU: “Still please.”
SIGNIFICANT OTHER: “Sparkling please!”
The waiter accepts and leaves, having upsold you one sparkling water. A lot of waiters won’t bother to do this, but this subtle upsell is nice. You’ve got two options presented to you and your significant other, the first is a gift, free water, the second always sounds nice, and if you’re at a nice restaurant you’re there to have a good time. You most likely never considered the sparkling water, but now you’re thinking it could be a good idea.
There isn’t a menu on the table. This is a clever trick in itself. The reason there isn’t a menu there is so that the waiter has a reason to approach you again and ask if you want some nibbles and drinks whilst you wait, whilst giving a little time for you to start conversation. Time is employed here beautifully allowing you to settle rather than give you an immediate menu choice.
Let’s say you’re at an Indian restaurant, you’ll be offered pappadums, or maybe an Italian, grissini – breadsticks. These are another upsell, a lot of the time people won’t usually consider ordering these things unless prompted, but they are always welcome. If there’s a menu there, the waiter will have to get all of their upsells out of the way in one go, and offering too much in one go can put a customer off. At this point in time, you will also be asked what drinks you like, opening up your options for consideration. Once you’ve ordered your drinks and nibbles you will have between 5 and 7.5 minutes before the waiter returns to get your order.
Ordering Your Main
The waiter returns bearing the drinks and nibbles for you and your voracious companion, and cheerfully asks you what starter you would like. This is so subtle and natural you probably didn’t even notice it! You may not have been considering a starter, but our culture in the UK means it’s pretty hard to turn down an offer like this in a social situation.
Most of the time customers will probably order a starter even if they didn’t want one because they won’t want to lose face, especially not in front of a date. This question is a normal question, it’s not forceful, and it blends so subtly with the conversation that it just slips by unnoticed by anyone but your wallet.
If you haven’t made up your mind on what you want, you may ask the waiter for a suggestion. The well trained waiter will know everything on the menu, they will also very likely have knowledge about allergies too so that they can give suggestions if anyone suffers from them.
The waiter will most likely recommend a dish that isn’t the most expensive but will be the best value for the restaurant, giving the highest profit margin for the restaurant. Their choice will always be a delicious option, but it will be the most financially viable for the restaurant.
If you know what you want to order, the waiter can then ask what side you would like, which is another subtle upsell. It’s a natural upsell as well so it doesn’t feel forced. You’ll possibly order a side even if you didn’t originally want it!
Sometimes the waiter will ask people if they are interested in trying one of their selection of wines with their main meal. A good waiter will be able to judge who they can serve in this way and know a good wine to recommend if asked which will go with the meal the customer wishes to order.
The wine choice will not be the most expensive on the list, rather one which gives a good profit to the restaurant whilst not scaring the customer off. These drinks will arrive quickly so that the customer will have time to enjoy them during their starter and with their nibbles whilst they wait for the main meal to arrive.
It is unlikely for the customer to finish their first drink before their main meal arrives. Starters will usually be finished leaving the wine glass about half or a third full which will give the waiter the opportunity to ask if the customers want more drinks later during their meal!
Main Meal Arrival
The main meal arrives when it’s cooked and the waiter brings it over, making sure to observe weather or not the table needs any drinks. The waiter has made a mental note of what the customers have ordered and can ask the customer if they would like some more of the same if they look like they need more drinks. By remembering the customer’s order, the waiter is showing that they care about the customers.
At this point, you are finally left alone to enjoy your meal. The waiter doesn’t want to overdo it, you’re there to spend the evening with your companion, and the waiter doesn’t want to get in the way.
If the waiter notices you have finished your drink they will usually wait about three to five minutes to see weather or not you wish to order another. If you don’t make that choice, they will then offer to refill your drink. The chances are that if you hadn’t ordered another drink, you wouldn’t have gotten another one until much later without the waiter’s intervention.
Time passes, and you’ve finished your main meal about five minutes ago. It’s been an amazing evening and you’ve downed way too many glasses of Château Latour! You can no longer differentiate the distinctive taste, it’s just amazing red plonk. You look up from your swirling miasma and see the smiling, friendly blur who’s been serving you all evening looking down at you with a polite smile.
This is the point in the evening when the blur will ask you whether you would like a dessert to finish and maybe a coffee. Unless you’re feeling pretty full, it’s unlikely you’re going to turn them down, after all you’ve had a nice evening and time has passed.
It might be nice to sober up with a coffee at least! If you accept the offer and order something off the desserts menu, and weren’t thinking about desserts beforehand then you’ve been upsold to again!
So What’s Happened?
You’ve gone out with your companion for an evening meal at a restaurant. You have also paid considerably more than you expected.
Firstly, the waiter sold you sparkling water, nibbles, possibly a side dish you hadn’t considered, more expensive drinks than you’d possibly planned on getting, and you’ve had more drinks than you might have had otherwise. You finished off with a brilliant dessert, maybe a coffee as well.
This isn’t a bad thing. You’ve had a wonderful evening out which you may or may not remember depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. If the waiter has been brilliant and attentive to your needs, you may even tip him as well. The waiter has done his or her job, and has upsold fantastically to you, earning the restaurant a lot of money.
How Do I Know This Works?
This has happened to me! I’m a cheapskate by nature, and generally if I visit a restaurant I’ll just be there for a main course and that’s usually it.
When you enter a restaurant with someone else for an evening you’re there to have a good time. They’ll probably want to be there with you for a while. Usually starters and nibbles are fine additions if I’m out on a date, they’re good for getting the conversation going, and the main is a natural. In the past when I drank coke, I’d probably have about two glasses with a meal at most, maybe only one if that rascally waiter didn’t intervene! It’s a little easier now I mainly drink water when I’m out.
It’s very hard when you’re in the Restaurant for a long time with someone and there is a large part of you that wants to impress. I usually avoid sides and desserts, but I’ve still been sold them time and time again. Whilst a good waiter has never made me remortgage my house, I’ve certainly been bitten in the wallet by them once in a while!
Working in restaurants doing videography and photography I have seen some fantastic waiters who have provided an exceptional service to their clients, and it’s interesting to note that good waiters will sell a lot to customers and generally they will earn your company more money. This happens time and time again.
A good waiter is worth their weight in gold because they will make your restaurant money. It’s always important to pay someone what they’re worth, because you’ll want them to stay. After all, is it not worth an extra £25,00 per night if they’re making you £60-£100?
If you are interested in learning how you can train your waiters, you can check out our blog on it here!
I’m a social media marketing specialist based in Wivenhoe, the CEO of Fantasoft and wannabe space adventurer.