How to Upsell Drinks as a Server: The Art of Boosting Sales

In the bustling world of hospitality, upselling drinks is not just a sales tactic, but an art that enhances the dining experience and significantly boosts a restaurant or bar’s sales. This detailed guide focuses on the nuances of upselling, particularly in the realm of beverages, providing servers with practical strategies to increase sales while elevating customer satisfaction in restaurant and bar settings.

How to Upsell Drinks as a Server in Restaurants

  • Product Knowledge: Deep knowledge of the menu, including understanding the nuances of flavors, ingredients, and preparation methods, is crucial. A server who can speak confidently about the drink offerings can effectively persuade customers to try premium options.
  • Personal Recommendations: Sharing personal favorites or suggesting pairings that complement specific dishes can create a more personalized experience for the customer, encouraging them to explore beyond their usual choices.
  • Timing: Identifying the opportune moment during the service to suggest additional or premium beverages is key. This could be when a customer seems hesitant about their choice or when they are celebrating a special occasion.

Real-World Examples of Successful Upselling in Restaurants

Let’s examine two practical scenarios to illustrate effective upselling:

  • Scenario 1: A customer orders a steak. The server suggests a complementary red wine, explaining how it enhances the flavors of the meal. This not only elevates the dining experience but also increases the bill’s total value.
  • Scenario 2: A group orders burgers. The server recommends a craft beer, highlighting its local brewery origin and how it complements the casual theme of the meal, thus adding another layer of enjoyment to the group’s experience.

Upselling Techniques in Restaurants

  • Suggestive Pairing: Skillfully matching dishes with specific drinks, such as suggesting a light, crisp white wine with seafood, can entice customers to explore new combinations and enhance their overall dining experience.
  • Limited-Time Offers: Introducing seasonal specials or limited-time drinks can create a sense of urgency and exclusivity, encouraging customers to try them before they’re gone.
  • Group Offers: For groups, suggesting pitchers, bottle services, or drink packages can be appealing, as they offer a shared experience and often better value.

Mastering the Art of Upselling in Bars

  • Promote Premium Spirits: Encouraging customers to try top-shelf options can significantly boost sales. Educating them about the unique qualities and stories behind these premium spirits can make the suggestion more appealing.
  • Signature Cocktails: Introducing customers to unique house specialties that are not listed on the standard menu can spark interest and lead to higher sales.
  • Happy Hour Upselling: Utilizing happy hour to introduce customers to new or premium drinks at a lower cost can encourage them to return for the full-priced version later.

Advanced Upselling Techniques

  • Storytelling: Sharing the story or the origin behind a drink, such as the history of a vintage wine or the craft behind a boutique beer, can create a more immersive experience and pique the interest of customers.
  • Pairing with Events: Aligning drink suggestions with current events, such as recommending a particular beer during a sports event or a themed cocktail during a holiday, can resonate well with customers’ moods and preferences.

Overcoming Challenges in Upselling

  • Perceived Pushiness: Striking a balance between being helpful and being pushy is essential. Upselling should feel like a suggestion based on the customer’s preference, not a hard sell.
  • Lack of Product Knowledge: Continual training and learning are crucial. Servers should be up-to-date with the latest additions to the menu and the unique selling points of each item.

Maximizing Sales Through Upselling

When upselling techniques are employed effectively, they can significantly impact an establishment’s revenue. For instance, a well-executed upsell strategy can raise the average drink sale per table from $20 to $35, exemplifying a substantial increase in sales and profit.


  1. How do I teach my server to upsell? Regular training sessions, encouraging servers to share experiences, and role-playing scenarios are effective ways to build upselling skills.
  2. Why is upselling difficult? Challenges include the fear of being perceived as pushy, insufficient product knowledge, and difficulty in reading customer cues and preferences.
  3. What are 2 examples of upselling? Examples include suggesting a premium spirit as an upgrade to a standard drink or recommending a wine flight to explore different varieties instead of a single glass.
  4. What is the upselling technique? Upselling is a sales strategy where servers suggest higher-priced or additional items to enhance the customer’s dining experience and increase the establishment’s sales.


Mastering the art of drink upselling is an invaluable skill for servers. It not only enhances the customer’s dining experience but also plays a significant role in increasing the establishment’s sales. By employing the right techniques and understanding the subtleties of customer interaction, servers can effectively contribute to a restaurant or bar’s success while ensuring customer satisfaction.