21 Tips to Turn Your Staff into Sales Champions

Airplane, not helicopter. Image: Romrodphoto / Shutterstock

It takes a lot of knowledge, skill, awareness, and creativity to be a top-flight server.

Mastering the art of service requires sales skills, the ability to recognize and process nonverbal cues, being attentive without being a nuisance, and much more.

Below are 21 insights to get you and your staff to the winner’s circle.         

  1. Know your menu inside out. Boost your confidence. Know everything about each dish: the story, preparation, cooking method, sauce, accompaniments, glossary terms, and allergens. This ensures you’re on a level playing field with the Food Network and Fine Living crowd.  
  2. Don’t pre-judge. Don’t be surprised by the verbal tip from Mr. Nice Guy and a pot of gold from a nasty guest. Lousy tips are self-fulfilling prophesies for servers who pre-judge.
  3. Be a meal designer. Maximize sales by having a planned approach to serving economizers, faithful regulars, diners, and jackpot tables.
  4. Watch your table like a hawk, but don’t hover. Be the stealth waiter.  
  5. Be okay with silence. If you suggest an appetizer and get a blank look, relax. Guests are taking in the information.   
  6. Assist guests everywhere. Everyone’s a potential lifetime guest.    
  7. Personalize hellos. “Mr. and Ms. Henley, welcome to Prime 68, and thanks for choosing us to celebrate your first anniversary.” Avoid, “Hi I’m Bob, can I get you a drink?”
  8. The more you clear, the more you sell. Dirty tables make guests feel full. Guests buy more if their tables are well-maintained.
  9. Practice your presentations. When you’re fluent, guests relax. Sound natural, not rehearsed and robotic.
  10. Get it right, write it down. Guests stress thinking you’ll forget their sauce on the side even if you’re the magnificent memory man.
  11. Use brain stickers. “Our bartender Albert from Albuquerque makes an excellent Gray Goose Martini.” Name brands and places awaken and help patrons remember.     
  12. Don’t leave guests alone with the menu too long. Guests can be their own worst enemies. They’ll order safe and less. Combine drink suggestions with a brief menu tour.   
  13. Touch the table. Move the salt and pepper, and adjust the flowers. It’s a powerful way to connect and say, “I care.”       
  14. Avoid “May I?”, “Can I?”, “Would you?” Say, “We feature,” “We offer,” and “By the way, I recommend.” Don’t ask, suggest.
  15. Open with benefits. “Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me a few moments to tell you about four great things on our menu.” Guests are more open to listening when they know you’ll be brief and helpful.   
  16. When delivering plates, use the airplane landing, not the helicopter plop. Technical excellence is the key to seamless service.     
  17. Appeal to a sense of value. When patrons are on the fence about ordering a glass or bottle of vino, say, “It’s a good value to share the bottle.”
  18. Read and respond to non-verbal cues. Most guests tell us what they want with their body language, not their words.        
  19. Find the leader-buyer. Stand across from the head honcho. She’s your assistant salesperson who influences the buying habits of her fellow guests.    
  20. Use: “And for the table, I recommend sharing…” Guests buy if they know they’re splitting the expense and sharing and celebrating.     
  21. Adapt your good-bye to the guest demographic. Send an Instagram to the Millennials with you holding a card saying: “Steven and Jill, thanks for dining with us.”   

Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions, www.bobbrownss.com, pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program and has worked with clients such as Disney, Ritz-Carlton, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Viceroy, Four Seasons and Nordstrom, and works internationally with the prestigious hotels such as Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He has appeared on the Food Network, is author of bestselling The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, selling over 100,000 copies, and was rated the #1 presenter at the National Restaurant Association Show in 2017 and 2018. ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2019.

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