The Hidden Upselling in Restaurants

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The other day, my friend and I stopped by a restaurant to grab lunch before heading out to the movies. Aside from having a pretty good lunch, we also got a bit of a show as the waitress (who was quite good) used every trick in the book to try to upsell us, and make our bill (and ultimately her tip) bigger.

She did it so well, that had we gone for them all, our bill would have been twice as large. Not only that, she did it in such a way, that it didn’t seem like she was selling.

  1. Her ‘Recommended’ Dishes
    When welcoming us, she went through the lineup of what’s on special and what she recommends. I like when waitresses do this, as it usually means something off the menu is available, or there’s a daily deal. Where she tried to upsell us, was her ‘favorite’ thing just happened to be the most expensive item by far. (coincidence? I doubt it). Had I got for it, that would be $10 more than I planned to spend right there.
  2. Pesto-Mayo-Whatever Dipping Sauce
    When she asked if I wanted fries with my burger, I said yes. The next words were “would you like our pesto-mayo-whatever dipping sauce with that?” Well, no (I’m a ketchup fan), but thanks for asking. Had I said yes, that would have been an instant $2.50 extra.
  3. Desert
    As she comes to clear our plates, she puts down the desert menu and again points out her favorites… again, her favorites are the most expensive items on the menu. (who eats desert at 1pm on a weekday anyways?)  Desert alone would have been another $5… $10 if we went for her favorite item.
  4. Coffee
    Since it was waaaay to early in the day for desert, we declined. She went into asking if we’d like coffee or another drink. Another $3-5 if we went for it. At that point, we were done with the meal and had a movie to catch, so we just went for the bill.
  5. Credit Card
    I have a credit card with a chip in it, so I have to put in my pin number to purchase anything, along with enter a tip. The terminal she gave me had the quick key set up, to give a 20% tip, or enter different tip amount. Typically, I tip around 15%, so 20% didn’t seem like a far stretch — plus it saved me fumbling with a few more screens to enter a different amount. Having this quick key, instantly earned her another $1.50.

All in all, had we gone for all of her upsells, we would have spent double what we originally intended. Unfortunately for her, we were content with just burgers for lunch with no real extras. But she did end up with her 20% tip — which she earned — and we’ll probably go back next time we’re in the area.

When upsells like these are so flawlessly executed, you have to respect it. I wish the folks who try to sell an Extended Warrantee plan on a a $15 item, would take lessons from our waitress.


TSM is a twenty-something year old guy living in Canada. Follow along as he tries to build wealth through budgeting, investing, paying off student loans, and shopping for a home – all while trying to find his purpose in life.

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