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The art of festive upselling in your hospitality business

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The art of festive upselling in your hospitality business

Christmas is fast approaching, and with it, increased footfall and the opportunity to maximise revenue through intelligent and thoughtful upselling.

The term ‘upselling’ can have negative connotations with employees, suggesting you are pushing extras on to customers against their will, when in fact you are simply highlighting additional products or services they are yet to consider.

By rebranding the term and reprogramming the way you and your staff think about upselling, you can create a valued and memorable experience your customers will be more than happy to pay for.

Spotting the opportunity

Your floor staff are the driving force behind an effective upsell, so training them to spot the opportunity is key to maximising this potential. It starts with having a fantastic knowledge of your menu. Can your staff make favoured meal recommendations or suggest suitable wine pairings? It’s also about basic hospitality. Empty glass? Fill it. Run out of bread? Offer more.

Being attentive to the customer's needs allows you to elevate the level of service you provide, as well as offering the customer more choice. This also has the added benefit of improving the overall customer experience which encourages repeat business. Another welcome byproduct is the increased likelihood for a tip, if your floor staff were in any doubt!

The art of festive upselling in your hospitality business

A good way to refresh the collective memory of your waiting staff is to invite them to a group meeting, perhaps at the start of December. This is a good time to run through the Christmas menus, review service procedure in light of increased footfall and answer any questions. Take the opportunity to highlight key products for upselling. This could include suggesting premium products or low-value items which effectively bulk up revenue per head. This includes asking if customers want starters, side dishes and desserts.

Offering mineral water for the table, doubles shots or hot drinks after dessert are all simple, but often overlooked ways to bump up the bill. When it comes to drinks, never assume the house is fine. Offering customers a choice, for example, a range of premium spirits gives them the opportunity to order something more expensive.

Use technology to encourage upsells

Restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes are increasingly seeing the value of mobile ordering through tablets and specialist mPOS (mobile point-of-sale) units. Ordering at the table side improves the speed of service but it also removes solely relying on your staff to remember to upsell. Adding prompts to certain items ensures staff must as tables if they want accompaniments, side dishes, or highlight specials.

The insightful reporting features of Epos Now's back office allows business owners to identify their top performing staff at the touch of a button. By creating a festive upsell competition you can incentivise up selling behaviours with your wait staff. Creating a healthy sense of competition is a great way to drive revenue and can easily see a healthy increase in revenue generated per head. Good prizes include days outs, festive prizes and paid holiday. Failing that, cash incentives are always a popular driver of positive behaviour!

Offer Christmas Specials

Your customers have entered your business primed to buy. Many of them are prepared to spend more on dishes with a higher perceived value. By offering a ‘Specials’ you can broaden your food and drink offering and comfortably charge more than you would an item on your regular menu. With food this can be done through using specialist ingredients, such as prime cuts of meat or local seasonal produce. Take care with your descriptions, as this is what sells.

The art of festive upselling in your hospitality business

To get better margins on drinks, why not introduce a guest wine or offer Christmas cocktails. When it comes to cocktails a little flair goes a long way and will encourage guests to share their images/experiences across social media. Another cost-effective way to manufacture Christmas cheer and boost spend per head is to offer mince pies with coffee, mulled wine or eggnog!

Use psychology to influence customer behaviour

There are subtle ways to influence behaviour which encourage customers to make more expensive choices. This can be something as simple as menu design, which is perfect if you're still pulling together your Christmas offering.

Menu engineer, Gregg Rapp advises restaurateurs “The upper right is where a person will go on a blank sheet of paper or in a magazine,” making it the perfect place to position your most profitable items. Use of space and imagery have also proven effective ways to draw attention to expensive items. Some restaurants will add extremely expensive dishes to the menu, in order to make other dishes look cheap by comparison.

Another way to encourage tables to order more is to keep on top of clearing the table. When plates and glasses start piling up, people are consciously aware of how much they have consumed/spent, making them less inclined to order more. When tables and bars are clean and spacious, people feel comfortable to stay, and the longer they stay, the more money they spend. Ensure good housekeeping is a key element incorporated into your Christmas service plan.


Whatever your view of upselling, remember, your customers are already primed to buy. They are looking for input and suggestions into how to spend their money in your establishment. Help them do it! A number of these tips are good practice all year round but are especially effective during periods of increased footfall such as Christmas.


Erin Heenan

Erin joined Epos Now in 2016 as an in-house content writer for the marketing department, making use of 10 years experience working in busy restaurants. An avid fan of shopping and eating out, she is committed to helping retail and hospitality SMEs get the most out of their businesses.

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