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Aug 12, 2010 08:34 PM

Used car salesman technique at Buddakan

Recently, my husband and I went to Buddakan in Philly and ordered, among other things, the edamame ravioli. The waitress told us there were three ravioli to a dish, and asked if we would like to add one more to make it even so it'd be easier to share. I didn't think too much about it, until as we were leaving, I heard her ask another table the same thing about a different dish (ribs, I think)-- if they'd like to add another to make it even. I felt like we had been played. I didn't mind paying for the extra ravioli, (since they were delicious), but why not just include it and increase the price? The slimy sales tactic rubbed me the wrong way. Pretty tacky for a nice restaurant. Is this common Stephen Starr practice, or was it just the waitress? Has anyone else experienced this?

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  1. Upselling (as this technique is called) is rampant in most retail businesses, including the restaurant business. And Steven Starr's places are nothing if not slick. I put subtle upselling under the "slick" rubric.

    Don't let it put you off an otherwise fine restaurant. My technique is to routinely refuse, and then sometimes change my mind if I think about it without the pressure (or really like the food). You can always order more. Much tougher to cancel an order.

    3 Replies
    1. re: FrancisdeR

      Build the order, ......the name of the game!!

      1. re: FrancisdeR

        The man is brilliant. I am not familiar with SRO's finances, but my guess is that he has killed it during the recession with techniques like this and really smart moves like the pop-ups and opening new places quickly and on the cheap, like Stella and El Rey.

        1. re: barryg

          It would have been slick had we not overheard the waitress use the same line on the next diners about a different dish, but after being exposed to their trick, it just struck me as tacky. It was slick, just not slick enough. I'm usually pretty good about picking up on upsells (or at least I think I am), but now I'll know to pay more attention.

      2. I can see how it looks slimy, but I would appreciate the offer sometimes.

        I can understand that some of the dishes are conceived to be small, odd numbered, delicately prepared items to be presented as both aesthetically pleasing and tasty. So, when splitting something with your companion, either flavor or presentation can be lost in trying to saw a tiny bite in half. Sometimes, we just split the thirds of things (you have that last one of that and I'll have this last one of this) or take a bite and share... but other times, I want more than a half of third pork belly bun (I'm looking at you, Jose!), but not another order of three.

        Where it gets uncomfortable is if you're made to feel that you are somehow silly for only wanting three... if you say, no thanks, three is okay, that should be the end of it. Just like if you say you don't want an appetizer, or dessert, or another drink, all the other things that are often part of the upsell, your server should accept that and not try to harass you into something you don't want.

        3 Replies
        1. re: urbanfabric

          I agree. Maybe there is an ulterior motive, but maybe this server has enough experience to know that when people share, they want more than 1-1.5 items. It's better than a server who just brings out the plates as they are and doesn't even consider people that want to share. But I'm still pissed at Buddakan from when the server decided to drop the check on our table while we were still having THAT"S tacky!!!!

          1. re: Philly Ray

            Many threads about the check thing. My own opinion is that no one's forcing you to pay as soon as it's dropped. It's there merely for convenience.

            To get back to the original topic, I agree that the waiter probably only offered the upsell because you were sharing a dish that was meant for one.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              I agree with invino. I would prefer a server drop the check off with dessert with the comment of something to the effect of "no rush", "whenever you are ready", etc instead of the server that forgets you after dessert is dropped off.

              As for "selling up", I agree with Ray about the fact that the server is experienced enough to know that if there are 4 people sharing dishes and there's only 3 items to a dish to offer to bring out the dish with a 4th item. I would much rather that instead of seeing 3 items come out and 4 people need to figure out how to split them up.

        2. I recently dined at Buddakan with two other people. When we ordered the beignets, the waitress asked if we'd like one additional so we could each have two. I was grateful for the offer. How do three people share five beignets? Upselling isn't always slimy.

          1. I guess the big question is...How much extra did you pay?

            1. So how much can one ravioli cost a restaurant? Especially since its soybeans and not lobster with truffles.
              If staff knew the table wished to share and put an extra one on the plate with a "Compliments of the chef," I think that ravioli would have travelled longer and farther in good will and positive publicity than any discussion herewith could ever resolve.