In the time that I have been writing this blog, I have provided a large number of tips on sales and describing food. Each of the individual posts provides tools and guidelines to help you sell the food most likely to create happy and returning guests. Used individually these techniques can help you increase the tips that you bring home. Learning to integrate each of these skills into your serving routine can radically change the perception your guests have of you, your restaurant, and the value you bring to their meal. These are not simple tricks, but rather components of a comprehensive philosophy towards serving and sales.
Today I am going to walk through my actual pitch to give you an example of how these sales techniques work together. Instead of explaining each step, I will provide links back to the previous posts describing how each part of my pitch is specifically designed to inspire confidence in my recommendations and move guests towards buying. I have been fine tuning this pitch for almost four years now. Each and every line in it is there for a reason. I am omitting portions of it that are specific to my restaurant, but including the same descriptions you would hear if you sat in my section.
Good Evening. How is everyone tonight? How can I start us off tonight? I have a great wine list on the back of the menu. Cocktails are made with fresh squeezed juices and shaken by hand. This also means I make a mean cherry limeade. What sounds good?
When delivering this greeting keep a few things in mind. The first two sentences are followed by pauses to allow the guest to respond. I will also give them a chance to ask how I am. After that I follow up by using suggestive selling rather than selling suggestions. Finally, I offer a specific non-alcoholic drink in a slightly humorous way. The advantages of the cherry limeade line never cease to amaze me. If the guests need a bit more time to consider the wine list or cocktail menu, I will offer to return with waters while assuring them that if they need any recommendations off the wine list I would be glad to help. This sets me up to be able to describe glasses of wine on my return visit.
Would we care for some recommendations from this evening’s menu?
The right hand side features all of your entrée options. My pick this evening is going to me in the section marked “specialties”. It is the fourth item down or next to the last in that section if you prefer. It is the Mako Shark from Hilo, Hawaii. What I like about the shark is that it’s texture and flavor are considerably different than other fish. A shark’s only bones are in their jaw. This means that rather than filleting it like most fish, and leaving that flaky texture, sharks are cut in what we call a steak cut. This leads to a texture similar to the most tender chicken breast you have ever had and a flavor that is equally clean. We lightly blacken it, which is more for flavor than for spice, before grilling it. It is served over a bed of garlic mashed potatoes on top and finished with a roasted corn salsa on top.
That is a mouthful. There are a few specific items to note on this description. I lead off by offering recommendations rather than just launching into them. I also guide the guest through the menu with me. I start with the right half, then to the specialties section, then two different descriptions of the exact location, and finally to the name. This keeps the guest moving through the menu with me. This also allows them a bit of satisfaction of being able to locate it before I say the name. I neutralize and fears of “fishy” taste or spiciness with my description. I relate it to chicken which they are far more likely to be familiar with. I briefly describe the presentation, but focus far more on the flavors. No generic adjectives are used in the description, but rather all words clarify the mental picture the guest is creating.
The other item that I feel deserves mention is the most popular item on our menu. It is found at the bottom of the right hand side, the next to the last item on that side. It is the Sea Scallops that come to us from the Georges Bank. These are sashimi grade and diver caught sea scallops. We pan seer then and serve them over a risotto cake with sautéed spinach. Finishing them off with a pesto oil at the base of the plate. Not only are these the most popular item on our menu, but they are also the toughest to get someone to consider anything else if that is what they had the last time they came in.
This is a hybrid of a couple of the ways to describe dishes. I preface the description by stating that they are sashimi grade and diver caught. 90% of my guests do not fully understand both of those terms. They are taken as a sign of quality and overlooked. The entire plate is described in this pitch. The key to this pitch is the popularity factor. I lead off by calling it the most popular before I even tell the guest what the dish is. This makes them curious because popularity breeds popularity. People who won’t trust your expert opinion will be eager to trust the opinions of others. The key to selling popularity here is to not just say it is “the most popular”, but also reinforce it with some logic for saying so.
My actual pitch is much longer, but includes a number of explanations of menu features specific to my restaurant. If there is any interest out there, I will include an audio version of this pitch for the curious. There are many elements that go into creating a great pitch. These excerpts highlight some of the ones I use. I am also interested in reading yours. Have a pitch you want me to take a look at? firstname.lastname@example.org is available for pitch makeovers.
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You seem like a smart, experienced server so I commend you for doing what works well for you. However, in my opinion that spiel is way too long. In my 6 years working in fine dining I have found that many guests would stop listening halfway through that. I try to keep my pitch much shorter & punctuated with tantalizing adjectives designed to catch & hold a diner’s attention.
Also, I have been trained (& tend to agree) that it is inappropriate to ask guests how “we” are doing, or would “we” care for an appetizer. YOU are the server… YOU are not sitting at the table, so why not just say “how are you all doing tonight?”
I think tone and inflection have a great deal with keeping the guests’ attention. I have seen shorter pitches lose guests attention because they do not present a rationale for buying. The concept that I advocate (and practice) is that you must differentiate yourself from the corporate chain servers who have been taught to use adjectives instead of information. Both can work, but this pitch has sold a ton of each of these entrees.
I use “everyone” at the greet. I use “we” or “you” at the point where I offer recommendations. I stopped using “you all” a little over a decade ago because it is too similar to “y’all” which I think is far too casual.
That being said, everyone should put their own personal touches on their pitch. No generic pitch will work for all servers. I do advocate a more informative pitch that justifies the expense of the dish based on quality or uniqueness, but that is not for everyone.