“Would you like an extra shot in your latte today?”
It was Monday at 3 p.m., and I had hit that mid-afternoon slump. The barista recognized my fatigue, and by offering an extra shot, he was able to meet my need for more caffeine and increase the total cost of the order. As a customer, I felt valued that the barista noticed me, and he earned more money for his café. The transaction was a win-win for us both.
Upselling, or encouraging the purchase of a more expensive item than the customer initially chose, is a powerful and crucial way to bring success to your café. Therefore, it is imperative that your staff understands how to effectively upsell your products.
You can train your café staff to upsell by teaching them the concepts of upselling and cross-selling, how to understand the customer, the importance of knowing the products, and ways to describe menu items confidently. You can encourage your café staff to upsell by offering them incentives.
Teach Your Staff the Concepts of Upselling and Cross-Selling
Your café staff needs to fully understand the concepts of upselling and cross-selling, so this should be the first vital piece of your training. Don’t simply assume that your staff knows about upselling and cross-selling, rather, take the time to educate them on what the terms mean and why they are important to your business.
If you have staff members with more knowledge and experience, great! Call on them to give simple definitions that your newer team members will understand. If everyone is new to the industry, provide them with the definitions and even a few statistics or personal examples to show how upselling increases profit and customer satisfaction.
Present Upselling in a Positive Way
As a business owner, it is also up to you to help your staff view upselling in a positive light. Many people are often afraid to upsell because they don’t want to seem pushy or overbearing, and they’re afraid of alienating the customer. Train your staff to understand that they are in the hospitality business, and that providing guests with the best possible experience is a large part of their job.
Often, the best possible experience for the customer includes being made aware of the variety of menu items and other options that your café offers. Providing your guests with the opportunity to choose a higher value product isn’t pushy, it’s just good service.
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Know The Products
Thorough product knowledge is an essential part of upselling, but this is another often overlooked aspect of staff training. In my experience as a customer, there’s no bigger turn off than when I’m visiting a café and ask a question about a menu option, only to hear the employee say something like, “I don’t know. I haven’t tried it.”
This employee has just missed a huge opportunity to build trust with their customer—and to upsell— by showcasing their insider knowledge of the product. A large portion of staff trainings should be devoted to understanding each item offered for sale in your café.
Provide samples of your food and beverage to your staff and encourage them to try everything, but also be sensitive to possible food allergies and preferences. Always provide a detailed product sheet for your employees to take home, study, and reference when they need additional information.
Part of product knowledge is knowing the pricing of the items on the menu, including the “extras” that cost more, such as alternative milk options. During staff trainings, point out which menu items are the most profitable for your café.
Describe the Menu Confidently
In addition to having in-depth knowledge of the products, your café staff also needs to be able to describe all the food and beverage items on your menu. Being able to describe items in a detailed and natural way all while watching for upselling opportunities takes some practice, and staff training is the perfect opportunity to help your staff develop a script.
First, each staff member should create a simple written description of the menu item. Then, have your employees’ role play with one another, with one person playing the part of the customer and the other practicing their menu script. This is also another opportunity for veteran staff to showcase their upselling techniques by pairing them with coworkers who are less experienced.
Being able to describe the menu items confidently will help your staff recognize opportunities for upselling. In addition, having a mental “script” will help establish positive customer relations.
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Understand Your Customer
Train your café staff to tune into each customer, just like the barista at my coffee shop did. Being observant goes a long way. In my case, I was tired and an extra shot of espresso was exactly what I needed. However, the frazzled customer who is obviously in a rush and knows precisely what coffee they want might not respond well to multiple upselling attempts.
If the café staff is paying attention, they’ll recognize different customer attitudes. The frazzled customer might appreciate extra efficient service, in addition to being asked if they’d like “a croissant to take with them”. This statement shows the customer that the staff member cares about their experience, understands they may be in a hurry, and wants to help meet their needs.
Handle Customer Objections and Hesitations Appropriately
Training should also cover how to handle customer objections. Part of reading the customer is understanding when continuing to try to upsell might be inappropriate. Role playing during training is a great way to have fun with different customer attitudes and objections.
Conversely, a well-trained café employee should also know how to overcome customer hesitations. There’s a difference between someone who is certain of their order, and someone who might just be hesitant to try something new! In this case, a friendly and knowledgeable employee can provide the customer with encouragement, possibly leading to the purchase of a higher profit item.
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Incentivize Your Staff
Promote friendly competition among team members by offering a variety of incentives for upselling. Change up your incentives and rewards frequently to keep your staff interested and engaged. For example, you might offer different incentives daily, weekly, and monthly.
Some examples of incentives to offer your café staff could be:
- Free meals or beverages at the café (which is another great way for your staff to gain product knowledge)
- Gift cards to local businesses
- Cash bonuses
- An extra-long break during their shift (when you can cover for them!)
- Charity of their choice: the employee chooses a charity to feature in the café. This charity receives a portion of the profits for a set period of time.
- An “Seller of the Day” award, where the employee who upsells the most gets to put their name on a raffle ticket. Hold the drawing at the end of the month and award the winner a mystery prize.
If you are having trouble coming up with an incentive program for your team, why not ask them what would motivate them to meet their upselling goals? You can do this openly, perhaps during a team meeting. You could also create an anonymous survey and ask everyone to write down a few incentive ideas.
Everyone loves to feel appreciated, so incentivizing your café staff is a wonderful way to increase your employee satisfaction in addition to making your business more profitable.
Worth the Effort
Training your café staff to upsell effectively is one of the best ways to grow your business. By putting in the effort to properly educate your staff, they’ll become more confident and able to meet your customer’s needs. Happy employees and happy customers? Sounds like a recipe for success.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Cross-selling is a type of suggestive selling where the seller offers the customer an additional, related item when they are making a purchase. For example, in a cafe setting, the seller might offer the buyer a pastry to complement their coffee purchase. Cross-selling is another way to increase your check average.
New hires should have their first upselling training session as part of their initial onboarding. However, this isn’t the only time you should discuss upselling with your staff. Ideally, upselling trainings should be brief and consistent, with these ongoing sessions held during pre-shift meetings or when rolling out a new incentive program.
Upselling to a “regular”, someone who frequents your cafe often, can be tricky. Often, these guests order the same thing, but cafe staff can still find ways to add value to their experience. One way to do this is by offering these special customers a free sample of something they’ve never tried. They’ll feel like a valued guest, and perhaps they will start adding this item to their daily order.
To learn more on how to start your own coffee shop checkout my startup documents here
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!