5 Ways Servers Can Sell More Beverages

Treat servers as operational partners.

In some restaurants, it’s easy for FOH staff to simply feel like cogs in a wheel. Without operational buy-in on the part of servers, they’ll have little incentive to work to boost check averages. Owners and managers, however, who treat servers with respect and as essential elements to the operation’s success will be rewarded.

Involve servers in goal setting. Offer incentives. Work to listen to their concerns and implement their suggested solutions.

“My main goal is to have good morale and treat the staff well so they care about the well-being of the restaurant,” says Johan Engman, who owns multiple concepts in San Diego, Calif., with several more slated to open later this year. “When I start preaching about upselling, I’ll sound like a broken record unless they actually care.”

With that established, what are the most effective strategies for boosting sales through pairings of beer and other beverages?

Train your staff.

Engman, whose restaurants feature more than 20 beers on draft, hosts frequent tastings for servers. “That’s really how you sell, is when you know the stuff,” he says.

Beyond tastings, servers should be trained that upselling does not equal being overly aggressive or rude, says Jonathan Deutsch, Restaurant Business’ Advice Guy and professor of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“Research shows that the guest experience is enhanced when they spend more money,” Deutsch says. “Servers need to think of themselves as salespeople and not order takers.”

Menu wisely.

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Craft a menu geared toward pairings. At Engman’s breakfast concepts, for example, there’s a popular beer sampler-sausage sampler item sold as a shareable appetizer. “That’s an easy upsell that doesn’t make somebody not order something else,” he says. He also offers several beer samplers (light, hoppy and bold) so consumers can experiment with their own pairings.

 Ask leading questions.

Servers should avoid any opportunity to ask a “yes” or “no” questions. “Ask, ‘What would you like to start off with?’ not, ‘Can I start you off with a drink?’” Engman says. The tactic doesn’t work every time, but it ups your odds of success. Similarly, servers should come armed to each table with smart pairing suggestions of beers, wines and non-alcohol beverages.

Read the table.

Don’t wait until glasses are empty, Engman says. You might lose momentum. Offer to put in another drink order when glasses are half full, Engman suggests.

Also, if consumers say they don’t drink alcohol, never say “I’m sorry,” Deutsch says. Instead, be prepared with a roster of non-alcohol offerings. “Read the guests and alter the script as you go,” he says.

A smart server should suggest drinks paired to a shareable appetizer if a party is waiting for others to join, he says.

Don’t ever drop a check too soon; you might miss sales. If a table says they’re too stuffed for dessert, offer up a “drinkable” dessert in the form of spiked coffee, dessert wine or chocolate martini, he says.

For more tips on server training, visit McCain® Foodservice here.