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Increasing Sales in Your Restaurant: A Comprehensive Guide

Written by The Restaurant Doctor UK Team

The restaurant business is a highly competitive industry, and increasing sales is crucial for survival and growth. One of the keys to achieving this is by implementing effective sales techniques such as upselling, link selling, and negative selling. By leveraging these strategies, restaurants can maximise their profit potential while also improving customer satisfaction.


Upselling is an effective sales technique that seeks to persuade customers to opt for a higher-priced item, upgrade, or add-on, resulting in an increased overall value of their order. Within the context of a restaurant, this can involve recommending premium ingredients, larger portions, or specialty dishes that could enhance the dining experience.

In greater detail, here are some examples of upselling techniques that can be implemented in a restaurant:

1. Suggesting a higher-quality wine or drink to complement a meal: A well-informed server could recommend a specific wine, cocktail, or local ale that pairs perfectly with the customer's chosen dish, enhancing the flavours and overall experience. By offering an expert recommendation, customers are more likely to trust the suggestion and opt for a more expensive beverage.

2. Offering a side dish, dessert, or starter to enhance the customer's dining experience: Servers can suggest popular or signature side dishes, starters, or desserts that complement the main course or satisfy a particular craving. For instance, if a customer orders a steak, the server might recommend a premium side like dauphinoise potatoes or a high-quality sauce, such as a homemade peppercorn sauce. This not only increases the value of the order but also elevates the customer's dining experience.

3. Recommending a more expensive dish based on a customer's preferences or dietary requirements: By engaging in conversation and understanding the customer's taste preferences or dietary needs, a server can suggest a more expensive, tailored dish that meets their requirements. For example, if a customer mentions they enjoy spicy food, the server might recommend a premium dish with exotic ingredients and a higher price point, such as a gourmet curry with locally sourced produce.

4. Offering a limited-time or exclusive menu item: By promoting dishes that are available for a limited period or are exclusive to the restaurant, servers can create a sense of urgency and uniqueness, encouraging customers to indulge in a higher-priced item. For example, a seasonal dish made with rare, locally sourced ingredients, like New Forest wild mushrooms, may pique the customer's interest and result in an upsell.

5. Upgrading portion sizes or ingredients: Servers can suggest upsizing a customer's meal to a larger portion for an additional fee or offer to replace standard ingredients with premium options.

Upselling benefits both the customer and the restaurant. When executed well, the customer enjoys a more satisfying and memorable meal, leading to a positive dining experience. Meanwhile, the restaurant benefits from increased revenue and potentially higher customer retention rates, as satisfied customers are more likely to return and recommend the establishment to others.

Link Selling

Link selling, also known as cross-selling, is a technique that encourages customers to purchase additional items that complement their primary choice. This creates a more comprehensive dining experience while increasing the average transaction value.

In greater detail, here are some examples of link selling techniques that can be implemented in your restaurant:

1. Recommending a specific side dish or sauce to accompany a main course: Servers can suggest side dishes or sauces that pair well with the chosen main course. For instance, if a customer orders fish and chips, the server might recommend a side of mushy peas or a tangy tartare sauce. This enhances the dining experience by providing the customer with a well-rounded meal.

2. Offering a dessert or coffee to complete a meal: Once the main course is finished, servers can suggest a dessert or coffee to bring the meal to a satisfying close. For example, they might recommend a traditional sticky toffee pudding with custard, or an indulgent Eton Mess. Alternatively, they could suggest an after-dinner espresso or cappuccino from a local roastery.

3. Suggesting a wine pairing for a particular dish to enhance the flavour profile: A knowledgeable server can offer expert recommendations on wine pairings that complement specific dishes. For example, they might suggest a crisp English sparkling wine to pair with a seafood starter or a robust Bordeaux to accompany a hearty Sunday roast.

4. Proposing a sharing platter for the table: If a group of diners is indecisive or wants to try a variety of dishes, the server could suggest a sharing platter that features a selection of appetisers, cheeses, or desserts. This can encourage customers to order additional items and enhance the communal dining experience.

5. Recommending a pre-dinner aperitif or post-dinner digestif: By suggesting a pre-dinner drink like a classic gin and tonic, or a post-dinner digestif such as a fine British whisky or port, servers can elevate the dining experience and increase the overall transaction value.

Link selling benefits both the customer and the restaurant. The customer enjoys a more complete and satisfying dining experience, while the restaurant benefits from increased revenue and the potential for repeat business.

Avoiding Negative Selling

Negative selling is a sales technique that emphasises the potential drawbacks or consequences of not choosing a particular product or service. While this approach can be effective in certain situations, it is generally advisable to avoid negative selling in a restaurant setting, as it can create a negative impression and potentially alienate customers. Instead, focus on providing excellent customer service and offering helpful recommendations.

Here are some reasons to avoid negative selling in your restaurant restaurant:

Negative customer experience:

Negative selling can lead to an unpleasant dining experience for customers. By focusing on the potential drawbacks or shortcomings of menu items, customers may feel pressured to make choices based on fear of missing out or regret, rather than genuinely enjoying their selections.

Loss of trust:

Negative selling may cause customers to question the server's intentions and the overall integrity of the restaurant. This can undermine trust and damage the establishment's reputation, making it less likely that customers will return for future visits.

Strained server-customer relationship:

Negative selling can create tension between servers and customers, resulting in an uncomfortable atmosphere. This strain on the server-customer relationship can negatively impact the overall dining experience, discouraging customers from recommending the restaurant to others.

Reduced focus on quality:

When negative selling is used to drive sales, it may inadvertently shift the focus away from the quality of the food and the enjoyment of the meal. This can undermine the primary goal of a restaurant – to provide a memorable, high-quality dining experience.

Instead of employing negative selling techniques, consider focusing on the following positive strategies:

1. Engage with customers and offer personalised recommendations based on their preferences or dietary needs.

2. Highlight the unique selling points of the menu items, such as the use of locally sourced ingredients or the chef's speciality dishes.

3. Employ upselling and link selling techniques, which promote complementary items and create a more satisfying dining experience without putting undue pressure on customers.

4. Encourage customers to try new dishes or specials by emphasising their distinctiveness and positive attributes.

By avoiding negative selling and concentrating on fostering a positive dining atmosphere, restaurants can create memorable experiences for their customers, ultimately leading to increased customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

Strategies for Increasing Sales

In addition to upselling and link selling, there are other strategies that can help increase sales in a restaurant. Implementing a combination of these methods can lead to enhanced profitability and customer satisfaction:

Offer promotions and discounts: Attract new customers and reward loyal ones with promotions and discounts, such as early bird specials, happy hour deals, or special set menus. These incentives can entice potential customers to try your restaurant, while also encouraging repeat visits from your existing clientele.

Provide exceptional customer service: Exceptional customer service is key to encouraging repeat business. Ensure that your staff are friendly, attentive, and efficient, and go the extra mile to make customers feel valued and welcome. This can include addressing customers by name, accommodating special requests, and promptly handling any issues that arise.

Train your staff: Invest in staff training to ensure that your team is knowledgeable about the menu and capable of offering personalised suggestions. Equip them with the skills to confidently recommend dishes, pairings, and promotions, which can lead to increased sales and a better dining experience for customers.

Implement a loyalty programme: Incentivise customers to return by offering a loyalty programme, such as a point-based system that rewards them with discounts, free items, or exclusive events. This not only encourages repeat business but also fosters a sense of community and engagement with your brand.

Constantly evaluate and update your menu: Stay relevant in a competitive market by regularly evaluating and updating your menu. Keep track of customer preferences, emerging food trends, and seasonal ingredients to ensure your offerings remain appealing and fresh. Don't be afraid to remove underperforming dishes and introduce new, innovative options to maintain customer interest.

Utilise social media and marketing: Leverage social media and other marketing channels to promote your restaurant, share enticing images of your dishes, and announce special offers or events. Engaging with customers online can help to build a following and drive more traffic to your establishment.

Collaborate with local businesses and events: Partner with local businesses, farmers' markets, or events to create unique dining experiences or special promotions. This can help to increase your restaurant's visibility and attract new customers who may not have been aware of your establishment.

To identify factors limiting your restaurant's sales, regularly review customer feedback, assess competitors, and analyse sales data. Addressing these areas will help create a more profitable and successful business, ensuring that your restaurant remains an appealing destination for both new and returning customers.


In conclusion, increasing sales in a restaurant is of paramount importance for sustained success. Upselling, link selling, and negative selling techniques, when used effectively, can result in increased revenue and improved customer satisfaction. By also employing additional strategies, such as promotions and exceptional customer service, restaurants can differentiate themselves from the competition and continue to thrive in a demanding industry.

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