Photo: Siri Stafford (Getty Images), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Dear Salty Waitress: I’m a server at a mid-price, upscale casual restaurant, and I love my job. Recently, management has been pushing for us to boost sales by “suggestively selling.” The examples they give are saying things like “Can I get you one of our signature cocktails or local draft beers?” and “Make sure you save room for our oven-warmed brownie sundae!” Instead of the casual “Can I grab you any drinks?” and “Did you want to check out the dessert menu?” that I usually go with.

For me, above all else, serving is about making the guests feel welcomed and helping them get the meal that’s right for them. I understand of course that it’s a business, but I’m afraid of giving someone a terrible experience by up-selling too hard!

Is there a middle ground where I’m selling more, but not because I’m pressuring my customers?

Thanks!
Unsure About Up-selling

Dear Unsure,

Unless you’re like, a Buddhist monk or something, we’ve all had to do things for our jobs that we’re not crazy about. It can be uncomfortable at first, but unless those things involve ethical shadiness, illegal activity, or straight-up rudeness, sometimes we have to bite the bullet to keep the paychecks coming. It’s not always fun, but that’s life, toots.

You said you like your job a lot, so presumably you want to keep it. That might mean you have to make peace with management’s request here.

I do think you can find a middle ground to absolve your guilty conscience. Is a cocktail or a dessert on the menu that you objectively think is delicious? Then you are, in fact, suggesting something that could make your guests’ meal more enjoyable. It’s a way to genuinely recommend something: “Were you considering drinks at all? I think our bartenders make a great Moscow Mule” or “Interested in dessert? The brownie sundae is our most popular.” You’re not really pressuring, you’re just adding some extra information that might nudge them to order an extra something.

Anyone who’s eaten at restaurants, ever, can recite those canned, cheesy lines: “Can I interest you in our signature drinks?” So it’s also about finding a way to suggest additional items that isn’t straight out of a mid-90s restaurant comedy: “Are you thinking about a glass of wine with that?” or “Did you want to share any appetizers to start?”

Advertisement

Diners have pretty much grown to expect questions like these when they go out, and it’s not hard to turn down those suggestions if you’re not feeling them. Honestly, if your customers can’t politely say “no” to either of those, they’re a bunch of weenies. Bite the bullet, try the upsell, and console yourself with the few extra bucks in your paycheck.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

Advertisement