Guests love appetizers, and so should you. When your staff learns to sell more appetizers, check averages increase and the overall dining experience for your guests improves. Consider this — unoccupied time passes slower than occupied time. Suggesting and selling appetizers fills up the time between guests ordering an entrée and receiving it, improving their perception of the service you provide.
Waitstaff training to sell more appetizers should focus on techniques that “assume the sale.” Servers should be confident that they can sell an appetizer, and also that their customers want to buy. For example, after returning with the beverage order, servers should assume guests want an appetizer. They may hear “no thanks” from one table, but that doesn’t mean they should give up. Listen to the assumption used in this dialogue:
“Have you had a chance to look over the appetizers? Which can I bring you?”
If the table declines, it’s not a wasted effort. Those guests might be interested in an appetizer the next time they come in. Servers have planted the seed now for a sale later. Another part of assuming the sale to sell more appetizers is to avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Example:
1. “Anybody want something to start?”
2. “Would you like an appetizer?”
Let’s re-phrase these inquiries as open-ended questions:
1. “How about our spinach dip or an order of our award-winning onion rings to start?”
2. “The buffalo chicken wings and the calamari are really popular. Which one can I bring you?”
Here’s another great strategy to sell more appetizers: Offer a choice (“The potato skins and smoked trout are both very good”), then recommend your favorite (“But my favorite is the chicken Caesar salad.”) Improved appetizer sales increase check averages, which means more tips for servers, and more profits for the restaurant. It improves the guest experience as well, which leads to more repeat visits and referrals.