Chapter 25: The Value of The Pitch

Imagine a door-to-door salesperson showing up at your home.  When you answer the door, he or she simply hands you a list of their products and asks, “What can I get you?”  Do you think this person would sell many products?  If you did agree to buy something off the list, what sort of commission do you think this person earned?  Would you consider them a professional salesperson? 

This is roughly the same amount of effort many servers put into sales. A server handing a guest a menu and returning to ask what they want is not sales.  It hardly even qualifies as order taking.  While in many restaurants this is acceptable, it should not be a practice of a great server in any type of restaurant.  Even in casual dining restaurants, your income can be significantly improved when guests order higher priced items.  You simply cannot afford not to try to steer your guests towards these items. 

Another reason to have a sales pitch is to present yourself as a professional.   For many years upscale restaurants have been presenting daily specials.  It is an expectation at more expensive restaurants and bringing that standard to more casual environments will make an impact.  You will be perceived as a professional and create an atmosphere reminiscent of places where your guest might expect to pay more.  This perception will increase your sales.

In addition to the sales aspect of the pitch, several other goals are achieved by pitching items on your menu:

Guide the Meal:  By pitching the menu, you create a picture of the meal in the guest’s mind.  By covering entrees, salads, soups, and appetizers, you paint a picture that includes all three courses.  This is often contradictory to your guests’ intention of going straight to the entrée.  It also will start them thinking about appetizers and salads initially instead of as an afterthought.  It gives the opening to the person at the table who wants an appetizer to start trying to convince the rest of the table as well.

Set the Pace:  Often when your guests arrive they might want to take time to talk before considering the menu.  This can take up a significant amount of time before you can turn in their order, which could cost you another table at the end of the night.  Talking about the menu will get their thoughts turned to food, making them hungry, and therefore more eager to order.  This is also important with guests who are indecisive by giving them reasons for a decision.  Indecisive guests will put off making their decision the longest, and your recommendation serves as an easy default once other guests are ready to order.

Reassure:  Guests will often face doubts about ordering certain items.  This is especially true about items that are more expensive or adventurous.  By pitching these items, you are adding your seal of approval from the start and without prompting.  This sort of unsolicited recommendation will go a long way towards convincing the guest to take the risk.  It also gives you the opportunity to take credit for the recommendation.

Even in restaurants where pitching the menu is not customary, it is still advisable.  The type of restaurant where you work will determine how much detail you go into, but in all styles of restaurants it is beneficial to try to lead the guest’s meal.  This is not only to sell higher-priced items, but also to expedite the ordering process and show your expertise.  It does take time, but it is time well spent.  The numerous advantages of pitching the menu all make their impact in one very significant place, your tip.

This is an excerpt from Tips2:Tips For Improving Your Tips (c) 2011 by David Hayden All Rights Reserved