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Give Yourself a Raise with Upselling


Upselling can significantly increase your and your team’s take-home pay. Here’s a quick breakdown of how upselling can work in your favor and how to do it gracefully.

My fiance recently started serving at a health-focused restaurant in Los Angeles. The restaurant is a chain with locations all around the country, and they put a tremendous amount of effort into quality, seasonal ingredients, and a pleasant atmosphere.

During her first work meeting, management wanted to review some of the top-performing servers’ numbers. More specifically, they wanted to focus on one server leading upsells for their region.

Let’s call him Brad.

In the first six months of 2022, Brad sold $78,000 in add-ons.

Add-ons, or upsells, include proteins (added to an entree that comes without protein or swapping out a cheaper protein), the second round of drinks, and dessert, coffee, or tea (after the meal).

$78,000 is an incredible sales number to achieve with add-ons in six months, and I’d have a hard time believing it had my partner not shared her training experience with him on her first day.

Here’s the first thing Brad said to his new trainee. “The goal is to make money, and we’re going to do that by upselling. We’re going to get our check averages high, and we’re going to flip tables fast.”

Brad comes to work every day ready to upsell. He understands the power of ten dollars on this check and twenty dollars on another check; it adds up.

So let’s do the math.

In a perfect world, all our patrons tip 20%, and it’s the number we all hope for, so let’s start there.

20% of $78,000 is $15,600.


A raise like that would dramatically change most people’s lives, and that’s just in six months. If Brad stays on track for the rest of the year, that’s an additional $31,200 in tips JUST FROM UPSELLING, which doesn’t include his regular sales.

How about we hedge our bets and do the numbers on the conservative side. Let’s say Brad is only getting tipped 10%; that’s still $7,800 in six months and $15,600 in a year.

That’s a lot of cheddar, and because of tip sharing, the people you tip out at the end of the night will notice the extra money too.

If you work with a tip pool, try to make it a game with your coworkers to see who can bring in the most money with upsells. A fun and healthy competition is never a bad thing.

These are dollar amounts that people in salary situations will work for years to achieve.

The average American salary in 2022 is $53,490. The average raise per year for salary jobs is 3%, which comes out to $1,605.

That isn’t very much money over the course of a year, only $134 a month.

I feel like most servers and bartenders, if they were to make upselling a consistent part of their interactions with tables, could easily make $134 upselling in just a few shifts.

Restaurant workers have the unique opportunity to generate more cash flow immediately. So why not take advantage of it?

Right now, you might be thinking, “I don’t want to come across as salesy or pushy with tables and annoy them.”

Nobody wants that, so here’s how to avoid that situation.

How To Upsell Without Being Annoying

There are many tips and tricks to upselling, but it boils down to these three things.

  • Knowing the menu
  • Reading your guests
  • Timing

Knowing the menu like the back of your hand means you’re ready to suggest add-ons that will be the perfect accompaniment to any situation.

If you have someone order a caesar salad, it’s not pushy to suggest adding salmon, shrimp, steak, or chicken. If they order the salmon, recommend a wine that would pair well with it. That’s not being pushy; that’s being helpful.

Be descriptive. Use words like crispy, crunchy, juicy, fresh, tangy, earthy, etc. It paints the picture of a delicious meal, and people (literally) eat it up.

Reading a guest isn’t difficult; it’s just very intentional.

You need to be listening closely to what they say, and that means paying attention to what’s being said around the table.

If you overhear a guest saying they loved a specific cocktail, recommend another drink with the same spirit but different balancing agents. If they say no, they have to drive, offer a cup of coffee instead.

Each of these situations isn’t pushy or salesy because they are timed correctly. Timing is crucial because it makes the upsell feel natural and not forced.

Try to see how many opportunities you can upsell the next time you’re helping a customer. Turn it into a game, and the prize might be a vacation next year or paying off your student loans a few years early.

Wade Nelson

Wade Nelson is a Portland, OR native who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles. As a 25-year veteran of the service industry, Wade has worked nearly every position in the house. When Wade isn’t writing content for your favorite blogs and websites, he’s either slinging drinks at Grand Central Market in DTLA or hanging with his fiance and beagle.

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