Order Taker or Professional Sales Server?

THE CASE OF SPLIT PEA SOUP

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to sell split pea soup? For most of us, it is the least of the soup choices we like and the last one to order if seen on the menu.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to some F&B professionals at a casino and I asked them what was the hardest item to sell on the menu. Categorically, it was the split pea soup. Ironically, during our lunch break I went down to the restaurant and was met by one of my attendees as my server and during her sales pitch (of which we were practicing earlier in class), we got to the all-critical question, “So … what is the soup of the day?” She hesitated, then replied, “It’s split pea.”

We laughed a bit, but it gave me an opportunity to ask a few questions. I asked her if it was canned soup or was it made on-site? She immediately lit up with a big smile and said, “Oh, no … it is handmade by our saucier. She makes all of our soups, sauces, and dressings from scratch. She has made our soups for years now and takes great pride in them. She only uses natural ingredients and local vegetables when possible. She really is incredible!”

To that I said, “I will try the soup.”

The lesson was self-actualized. Once she had described the soup and who made it and the care they took – I absolutely had to try it. It became the afternoon discussion and the difference in selling the menu by each server in the restaurant.

You don’t have to like split pea soup. But telling a story about it and sharing it with such passion is the greatest descriptor you have.

The Power to Sell the Menu

We don’t want order takers in our restaurants and bars. We want professional salespeople who know the menu and know what they like, whether that is the item or just how it was made.

Great restaurants invest in this process by training their team on what to sell and how to sell the menu. This begins with understanding the menu and knowing how things are made AND how they taste. When the chef puts up the “tonight’s special” for the staff to try, it makes them more knowledgeable and helps them sell. When they are asked about the specials, they won’t just respond “It’s stuffed chicken.” They are more likely to say, “It is a beautiful free-range chicken breast that the chef procured from a local farm, stuffed with local vegetables that they hand-selected and topped with melted cheese. I tried it tonight and I was amazed at how tender it was; full of flavor and well paired with the lemon risotto. It’s only here for a couple of nights and I recommend you try it.”

To that end … Words Matter!

Not only should professional servers know and understand the ingredients and how to sell them, but they should also ask the best questions when approaching the table. Here are a few examples of common phrases and some alternative improvements:

  Common questions:                                                   Better option:

“Any questions on the menu?” “May I tell you about tonight’s specials?”
“Soup or Salad?” “We have some delicious appetizers on the menu, may I suggest one?”
“How is everything?” “Are you enjoying your first bites of your steak?”
“Are you still working on that?” “Are you still enjoying your grilled salmon?”
“Do you want anything else?” “May I entice you in one of our handmade desserts; possibly the molten lava cake? It is life-changing.”
“Check?” “I will be your cashier this evening. There isn’t any rush, please enjoy your last bites of dessert and delicious conversation together. I want to thank you for joining us and we look forward to having you return soon. Good luck in the casino.”

These are just a few examples of phrases where the server missed the mark on being genuine and engaging. Because he took the initial order, he would know how to ask specific questions about their meal, instead of general ones that made him seem insincere.

To top it off … What is the “Tip Differential?”

This is the increase in gratuity a professional server may see by being engaged, creatively selling, and honestly asking the right question. The former is an “order taker” and the latter is a professional F&B sales person.

Order Taker Check

Vodka Tonic………………………….…$4.50

Water……………….……………………$0.00

 

 

 

Steak Dinner…………………………$20.95

Chicken Pasta……………….……..$13.95

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee x 2……………………………$8.00

 

 

 

 Check Total……………..……….$47.40

15% Gratuity…………….………$7.11

 

Professional Server Check

Absolute Vodka Tonic……………….$7.00

Perrier Water……………………………$3.75

 

Appetizer…………………………………$11.00

 

 Steak Dinner………………………..….$20.95

Chicken Pasta………………………….$13.95

Mushrooms…………………………….$1.50

Side Salad……………………………….$2.75

 

Bottle of wine…………………………$21.00

 

Irish Coffee………………………….…$7.25

Espresso………………………………..$5.50

Dessert………………………………….$9.95

 

Check Total…………………………..$104.60

15% Gratuity……………………….…$15.69

 

With a very conservative example, it is clear that the professional server is able to double their tips with some very simple suggestive selling – or at the very least, asking the right questions. Not only are their tips higher, but the guest is going to feel more taken care of and more likely to come back. The restaurant also has performed better in the above example. If each server were able to double their revenue (or more!) per check by being more engaged with the guest, imagine how much more successful and profitable the restaurant will be?

These are simple strategies that work. Take the time to work with your servers and get them engaged in the selling process. Everyone will win in doing so. By the way … the split pea soup was delicious!

Enter the Sales & Service Workshop! Unleash the power in each of your F&B team members to confidently upsell your menu and learn valuable job skills for their future career growth at your casino. Brett offers a bite-sized Sales and Service Workshop delivered on-site with a side of customization to meet your F&B goals!

Brett Magnan 29 Articles