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Restaurant Upselling..

Servers have become extremely aggresive in their approach to upsell and it doesn't stop at the bottled water, wine or dessert anymore..
Understand the dynamics of the larger the check, the bigger the tip but it seems that the approach and the bombardment of the upsell is beyond overkill.
Any thoughts?

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  1. I think it really depends on the resto and whether or not you're a regular. There's a certain so-so gourmet burger joint in Montreal where everything is an extra and they try to upsell you up the wazoo. Been there twice, never went back. There are also a bunch of downtown restaurants owned by the same group, that are all about the upsell and insane wine mark-ups. Never been based on reputation. Of course these places are aimed at the oblivious and affluent. I'm not one of those people and I don't frequent those joints. If I ever do get a pushy waiter I just graciously turn them down and make a mental note to never return no matter how good the food is. The few more upscale places I do frequent are usually much better about upselling you, and it's part of why I go there. I have very low tolerance for bullshit.

    1. if you call a realtor and tell them your budget is $250000 they will show you houses at $300,000 plus and if you walk into a commission only store they will try to see what else they can sell you.
      Isn't it kind of the same thing?

      1 Reply
      1. re: smartie

        Well, I'll look at the 300K house and try to negotiate the price down.

      2. I understand the wine, usually servers get a % of the bottle price, On the food front, the chef most likely wants to move product at it's freshest vs. having any left at the end of the night. I do agree, sometimes you can get pushed into a food item(s) that you may not have been interested in. It's all about sales.

        8 Replies
        1. re: treb

          I've been in the biz fifteen years and have never heard of a server getting a percentage of sold wine.

          1. re: invinotheresverde

            Ditto. Who told you that servers get a percentage of sold wine?

            Sure, occasionally a restaurateur will offer a financial incentive to "push" certain very profitable labels. The only "percentage," however, is the tip they receive on the pre-tax cost of the bottle.

            1. re: shaogo

              "Ditto. Who told you that servers get a percentage of sold wine?"

              It was per treb's post.

            2. re: invinotheresverde

              Maybe it's a policy by each est. I know several servers, at different places, that get a % of the price of the whole bottle sold but, not by the glass.

              1. re: treb

                Can you name the restaurants?

            3. re: treb

              I can honestly say that after 25 years as a server (in all levels of restuarants) I have never recieved a percentage of the bottle price. In fact, as some people don't tip on expensive wine (or often tip a smaller amount), it sometimes works better for me not to upsell.

              1. re: kimmer1850

                i can honestly say i always tip off the full bill, wine included. always. always.

                1. re: thew

                  Me too. DH sometimes differs on really pricy bottles but I feel if we can afford the wine we can afford the 20% to the server. They work really hard!

            4. I've found the upselling to be getting worse everywhere. In the past you could just turn down a store credit card, but now salespeople go on for an additional 5 minutes about it. I haven't noticed it quite as much in restaurants since the bottled water, appetizer, and wine specials have pretty much been the norm for a while.

              1. Upselling is a ubiquitous part of the American landscape (Canada too, it appears), certainly not just with food. In Mexico, waving an outstretched index finger side-to-side means not just no, but hell no. It should be a universal standard, when someone is annoyingly and fecklessly wasting your time, and theirs.

                1. I don't find this to be a problem really anywhere, restos or anywhere else. Maybe my *attitude* lets them know I'm not to be messed with :) Honestly, I can walk into a snooty wine shop give them a type of wine and a price range and they give me what I want. I've bargained at Nordstrom's, keep my pocketbook intact at high end restaurants. At first when I read your post, I thought it was a SoCal thing but appears to be widespread. Guess I'll keep my 'tude :)

                  1. On a related note, I hate it when a server recites the specials without prices. I have no qualms about asking the price. Also, I am not embarrassed in the least to ask for a wine recommendation , but want to keep the price under $xx per bottle.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pemma

                      I'm with you on both those points. THEY should be embarassed that WE have to ask the price.

                    2. The servers who seem the most patently upselling (and annoyingly so) are ones who've not been trained well, but whose employers probably demand it.

                      Sales -- of anything -- is a necessary evil in a capitalist society. It's too bad that some servers actually think they're being transparent, when in fact, their efforts are obvious to the customer.

                      When faced with someone who's really pushing drinks/apps/amuse bouche hard, when it comes time to order I say "and *all* we want is ..." This works 8 out of 10 times to stop the upselling. For the other 2 times a few well-chosen, very firm words puts a stop to everything but them asking if we'd like dessert.

                      Occasionally, a helpful server will enlighten us to things we'd have overlooked, so I'm not completely deaf to what *any* server says, at least in the beginning.

                      I've found that on the few occasions we patronize a chain, the upselling's much more prevalent than at single-unit restaurants.

                      I think that the OP is doing herself a disservice by refusing to re-visit places where she's been annoyed by upselling. Perhaps the thing to do is learn to say "no" assertively.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: shaogo

                        I especially agree with your last paragraph (all the others too). If we can't assert ourselves over something so minor, then we need to practice.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          ...And that my friends is the bottom line!!!!

                          Great comment shago and c. oliver!

                        2. re: shaogo

                          "The servers who seem the most patently upselling (and annoyingly so) are ones who've not been trained well, but whose employers probably demand it."

                          I totally agree. If the server is good at his job, you'll never even know you're being upsold.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            ' If the server is good at his job, you'll never even know you're being upsold.'

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              totally disagree.

                              it does not matter how good they are at their job, if you cannot figure out the natural progression of numbers and the server is selling a higher priced item then the cetury old adage "a fool and his money are soone parted" becomes a reality.

                              1. re: jfood

                                I think you two are using different definitions of upselling. If you want the chicken entree and the server aggressively tries to get you to buy the lobster, that's offensive. But if you're wondering whether to call it a night and the server mentions that the pastry chef has come up with a tasty and innovative new dessert, it's a whole different matter.

                                Bad upselling is trying to get the customer to buy something s/he doesn't want. Good upselling is showing the customer something s/he didn't know s/he wanted.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  Customer orders vodka and tonic. Bad server asks the customer if he wants Grey Goose/ Ketel One/expensive vodka X. Good server asks which type of vodka the customer wants. Customer names his brand of choice, which is always more expensive than the well. Consider the customer upsold.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    agreed. and you're sayiing the customer did not know s/he was upsold?

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I don't consider that an upsell - the customer wants a drink as good as the one he would make at home. Not that cheap junk behind the bar. My husband makes it easy - Ketel one and tonic, no lime.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I wouldn't consider myself being upsold if asked that question. I find it akin to asking what temperature someone wants his steak or which type of dressing someone wants onhis salad, yet it raises the bill.

                                2. re: shaogo

                                  That's at least two great tips to deal with this issue, although I am one of those who will need more practice saying "no".

                                  When eating out these days, I just want to enjoy the experience and avoid any possibility of being made to appear stingy. To a point that, recently when the server asked us if we wanted any bread to go with our order, I instinctively said no, not because I couldn't use a few bites of bread while waiting, but because I did not want to ask if it cost extra nor take the risk of a surprise charge on the bill.

                                  Okay, I'm stingy, for things I don't really need.

                                3. I don't like it when I don't realize there's an extra charge. I got a gyros combo for lunch the other day and they guy asks if I want feta on the combo. I say yes. Only later did I realize they charged me $1 for the feta! I didn't want it that bad...

                                  If it's not sneaky, then I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Obviously the resto and the serve are trying to make a profit, but often the upselling makes the customer (ok, me) feel more welcome. For example, I don't order wine all the time and I do like it if, when I order a glass of wine, the server might tell me that they have another wine on special or whatever and ask if I am interested. Depending on my mood it might be irritating (bring me what I ask for!) but usually it's nice to at least know you have the choice. I've been super bummed when I find out after ordering there was a nice special no one told me about or there's some special deal where I could have added a cup of chowder for $1 or I should have pre-ordered my dessert, or whatever.

                                  And my favorite upsell is at the airport bars - Would you like to make that a double for $1 more? Why yes...yes I would!

                                  1. Good thread.

                                    I hate being upsold. HATE it. I see it a mile away. My husband and I disagree about this subject, as when we are asked if "we want to get started with sparkling or still?", he thinks the server is really just making an inquiry. Since I spent many a year in white tablecloth, I know exactly what is going on and I find the whole charade utterly annoying.

                                    I wish I had a dime for every time I had to sit through a lecture by a "consultant" about how to get my check average up. I could not bring myself to be that fake and bake with a guest. My personal philosophy was to provide simple, elegant service, and "Can I getcha started with...." had no place in my service standard. At the last place I waited tables, I had several regulars who requested me because they knew I was not going to annoy them with an overly hyper and fake presence. Return business is what keeps the house moving.

                                    1. I was at restaurant in a tourist area and the server asked if I'd like to start with a bottle of xyz wine, I declined, then he suggested the 8 dollar bottle of water, no thanks. When I checked the wine list, it was the most expensive one on the list, at around 175 dollars. I guess he tricks some people or gets alot of expense account folks who just don't care. Very annoying.

                                      1. I have noticed that recently (maybe its due to economy?) servers more often ask if you want something to drink before ordering and mention beer or wine. And I mean it happens during lunch time in casual ($8-12) restaurants near college campus. It just strikes me as weird since it is during a workday when few people really drink. Oh and of course there are always drink specials menus on the table or along with food menus.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: olia

                                          I've actually noticed lots of people drinking during lunch. Maybe it's due to the economy? ;)

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            A nearby place in Florida offers pitchers of bloody mary's for $9, beginning at 7:00 am! That's the earliest the county allows liquor sales.

                                          2. re: olia

                                            We're retired and going out to lunch is once maybe twice a week. We almost always have a glass of wine or a beer.