Any business owner wants their staff to work well. But what is a good worker when it comes to waiting staff? Some waiters will do better than others at bringing in money. They’ll have a knack for bringing in more money from people naturally. Maybe it’s something about the way they present themselves, their enthusiasm, or maybe it’s the way that they interact with and attend their customers.

There are some terrible waiters out there and you’ll probably have seen them. Noses buried deep in mobile phones when they could be attending customers, they skip out of duty as much as possible, call in sick a lot, take a lot of bathroom breaks. They rely on other people to do work for them and are a burden on those around them. As a business owner this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated under any circumstances and a keen eye should be kept on staff so that this kind of ‘goofing off’ doesn’t occur.

Training Staff To Upsell

One of the best ways to increase the profits of your business is to have waiting staff trained in Upselling to customers.

So what do your staff need to learn?

  • Learn the menu and try all the dishes, know which dishes compliment each other.

  • Learn which items on the menu provide the highest profit margins for the restaurants.

  • Learn which drinks work best with certain dishes.

  • Learn as much as they can about items on your menu.

  • Learn which dishes contain allergens, which are gluten free etc.

You’re possibly wondering why these things are so important. It is vital that your staff have a good knowledge of all the items on your menu, and preferably have tasted or tried most, if not all of them. This way if a customer needs a recommendation the waiter can ask the customer what sort of things they like. Do they like tomato based dishes? Why not try the Caprese Salad? Do they like anchovies? the Myulchi Bokkeum is to die for! Maybe they like potato and you can introduce them to Aloo Gobi, which will go fantastically with their Tikka Masala! All of these dishes have decent profit margins for the restaurant too!

In times where someone brings up allergies or special eating requirements, a lot of the time you have a situation where the waiter has to go back to the kitchen to find out which dishes contain what. It not only saves a lot of time if the waiter knows in advance which dishes contain what, but it also helps the customers build confidence in their waiter.

The waiter’s knowledge of drinks can make the meal much more enjoyable for the customer, and every restaurant wants returning business. Some drinks go well with some dishes rather than others. Red wine with fish for example might get a raised eyebrow from certain secret agents. Cobra is lovely with softer Indian food, such as chicken dishes but it can create conflicts with the spicier lamb, which goes much better with a sweet red wine. Of course this all comes down to personal taste, but a good understanding of the food and drink on your menu will make a huge difference. If the waiter knows a lot about the dishes they can answer questions easily saving time and increasing confidence.

They will need the first hand experience of trying the dishes your restaurant makes in order to convincingly sell to customers. You should feed your staff off the menu and keep them up to date on changes so that when they make a recommendation it’s real and comes from their experience. Staff can lose face if they don’t know what the food tastes like. A customer is much more likely to listen to the advice of a confident and enthusiastic waiter than go over the menu for a while and make another decision.

Enthusiasm Is Key!!!

Enthusiasm is so important I used three exclamation marks to signify it! When you are hiring staff, enthusiasm is a very important thing to look for, because when it comes to up selling to a customer and actually making your restaurant money, enthusiasm will help your waiter interact with your customer. It will make for a better customer experience and possibly earn tips. An enthusiastic hire can really benefit your business!

On the other hand if you’re hiring someone who’s not got drive or self motivation, you could be setting yourself up for disaster. They’re more likely to be interested in their phone than your customers and that’s not what you want as a business owner. You need someone with an awareness and aptitude for making the restaurant run successfully. Not someone who holds the business back with a lackluster attitude.

A cheerful and enthusiastic nature is always preferable to someone who is disinterested, bored and really cannot be arsed to be there with you. If your waiter is keen to interact with you you are much likely to settle in the restaurant than if they don’t really want to be there with you. If the waiter couldn’t care less, well… You are better off not getting involved with someone without the drive to succeed.

The Customer Is Always Right – Even When They’re Wrong

The customer is always right is a phrase you’ve probably heard before. When someone goes out to your restaurant for a meal and has a bad experience it is important that they are listened to. Whilst this may be your day job, they are there for a good experience and a good evening, and they are paying money for it. If they have a problem, this should be addressed and sorted in a calm, friendly manner.

Naturally, there are customers who will naturally create problems and make things hard for your staff, the best thing to do in these situations is to accept what they are saying, even if it is completely unreasonable. These situations can turn nasty under rare circumstances if not handled well, which will not be pleasant for people who are dining with you. The best thing to do is assess the situation and be reasonable calm and polite and try your best not to lose your patience with them, even if they make it personal. Just focus on making their dining experience better in any way you can. It’s always best not to cause a scene.

Practice Good Personal Hygiene

Why practice what you can perfect! It’s always important that your waiters take good care of themselves. Looking clean and presentable should be a basic requirement for all waiters, having tidy hair, clean fingernails and teeth will definitely help! Antiperspirant is always necessary and you generally don’t want people showing up to work smelling of alcohol. Uniforms should also be clean and presentable to ensure that your waiters make a positive rather than a negative impact on customers!


Allowing your staff to shadow your work or your best staff will help them learn. Shadowing is the process of following and observing you. They’ll take note of the way you speak to and communicate with customers, your voice tone, your posture and the way you do the job. Leading by example is a great way to inspire new recruits, so perform the waiting job well to get the best out of your staff! You’ll want them to keep up with you so they get into the pacing of the job!


In my blog: The Power Of A Good Waiter I put forwards a scenario in which customers at a restaurant were up-sold to. Throughout the night, the waiter sold two people who initially probably only intended to order a main course or maybe a main and dessert: Starters, Nibbles, Extra Drinks, Sides, Desserts and Coffee were all added to their bill. This all happened over a slightly extended stay in a restaurant. Which would have increased the total bill per person by about £15.00-£20.00!

What’s important here is: All of these extras mean incoming money. Customers don’t always come into the restaurant to order anything more than a main meal, a well trained waiter can sell a lot more food to a customer, increase their time spent at the restaurant and make them feel like coming back!

With the knowledge that they acquire from learning the different foods and drinks on the menu and learning which foods and drinks give the best profit margins for the restaurant, an enthusiastic waiter is ideally placed to up-sell to the customer!

Upselling Tactics

One of the most important things to do is make sure that your restaurant is set up so that your waiting staff have the most opportunities to upsell to your customers. Here’s our checklist of things you can do to make things easier.

  • Tables Set – Without Menus

  • Have Cool Water and Sparkling Water prepared.

  • Make Sure Your Waiters Are Trained

  • Provide Utility Belts

  • Incentives

  • Make Sure Cleaning Materials are Easy To Access

When the tables are set, we make sure that we do not include the menus. This will give your waiter and the customer some time, giving your waiter the chance to leave and come back naturally. When the customer is seated, they should be offered water, with the option of an upgrade to sparkling. They might ask to see a drinks menu, in which case that’s fine too! When the waiter returns to the customer with the waters/drinks it is then that they give the customer the menus. This is to give the customer a chance to relax in their surroundings and not to force a meal choice on them too soon. It puts time between your upsells which helps them slip by unnoticed.

This gives our waiter a big advantage because they can upsell periodically through the evening and take their time with it, adding little bits here and there. If they try and upsell too much and too fast, this becomes extremely obvious and the waiter goes from being helpful to being an alienating nuisance. Generally they should leave at least 10 minutes between each upsell attempt and should generally never interrupt a conversation. One or two upsells per table works incredibly well, whilst too many will make the customers feel hassled and they may not want to return.

The best way to upsell is to make the sale part of the natural flow of conversation so that the customer doesn’t even realise it’s happening. In the beginning when the waiter could ask: “Can I take your order?” They could replace that with: “What starter would you like?” This subtly engineers a starter into the conversation in a way which is natural and flows nicely. If no one wants a starter they will probably say, but they may well reconsider and order a starter they never intended on having. This will prolong the meal and allow for your waiter to capitalise on up-selling to the customers more.

When customers are ordering their mains, the waiter can ask “Would you like a side with that?” This is a very normal question too and easy to say yes or no to – no pressure, but you may well make a lot of upsells with it!

It’s important that the waiter watches the customer’s drinks carefully. When a customer’s drink is going to run out, say it’s at a quarter left, that’s a natural time to go over and ask if the customer would like another glass of their chosen drink. Remembering the drinks the customer has ordered is good because it helps the customer feel wanted.

Let’s say the customer is almost finished with their main meal. Their glass is at a quarter left, and they’re planning on leaving. You then ask them if they want a refill of their drink. If they accept it, they’ll still have a drink by the time their meal ends, and they’ll be open to ask if they want to order a dessert, which of course they can add an additional coffee sale to if they play their cards right.

Utility Belts

It sounds like something out of a superhero comic, but a utility belt is actually really useful for a waiter, you might have seen them being used at big restaurant chains. They can have a pen, spare pen, pad, a few basic cleaning cloths and just about everything that the waiter may need to hand whenever they might need it. This will save your staff time when it comes to looking for things, which can also end up distracting your staff and get in the way of their jobs.

Wait What!?! Incentives!?!

You may well notice that some of your waiters have a knack of selling a lot to people they generally bring in lots of money time and time again. You can run little competitions between your staff to bring in the highest bills and tips throughout the night.

After teaching your staff the principals of upselling they will work at the craft in order to try and win the incentives you offer. Let’s say you offer a bottle of the house wine to the person who gets the highest bill in. If you’re making £30-£40 per waiter more because they all want in, that’s not a lot to give.

When it comes to tips, you could have a plan where the total tip money is divided up amongst the staff and the highest tips earner gets double what everyone else gets. Sharing out tips money is generally pretty good for morale of the entire staff of the business because they all get a little extra. Enforcing this could be a bad idea if you only have one staff member who brings in tips, but all the staff should generally work as a team. As a business owner you shouldn’t make time for slackers. Paying your staff slightly more if they are bringing in a lot of tips can help them all feel better about this kind of system!

Wait… Easy to Access Cleaning Materials!?!

The key to any form of successful business is time and efficiency. If the waiter has to spend ages looking for cleaning materials every time an accident happens in the restaurant this can create disruptions in service and distract them from upselling. It’s vital to make sure that the waiter has everything they need to hand should the need arise. Keep a few materials positioned around the restaurant where the staff can easily access them.

Remember: Upselling Isn’t Always Natural!

Upselling is not always something everyone can swan dive into and pull off on their first go. You need to be aware that your staff may not get it in one go or a hundred. You will have to teach them how to upsell yourself and take them through it. By offering rewards to staff members who do a good job of upselling, you create an incentive for your waiters to work on this part of their craft. Soon you might find out your staff are doing their own research into how to upsell better to customers and studying so that they can get these rewards.

This in itself is not a comprehensive guide to being a good waiter or to upselling, but it’s a quick look at a technique that can easily be applied to any restaurant out there. If you’re teaching your staff to upsell, your profits will naturally increase.

Think of it like this: If you have two customers who are spending £30.00 between them for the night, wouldn’t you rather they spent £50.00-£60.00? These are just a few little ideas on upselling which will help your restaurant’s profits if you put them into practice. If you are a restaurant owner or you work at one, why not try a few of the things I’ve mentioned in this blog and see if you can get some more money in!