April 4, 2022

The One Simple Sentence (at the Right Time) that Increases Sales, but …Almost No One Will Say It!

You’ve heard it countless times.

You’ve just finished a big meal at a restaurant.

The waiter cheerfully asks, “Did you save room for dessert?

One night this question just made me laugh out loud. The waiter recoiled.

“Isn’t it a little late to ask me now if I saved room for dessert? You just took away my clean plate, which had been covered edge to edge with dinner.”

As the poor kid started to slink away, I said, “Would you like to hear a better way?”

“Sure,” he said, weakly.

“I’ve worked in sales and communication most of my life,” I said. “I’ve trained salespeople. I’m in sales right now. Here’s what I’d do instead of the ‘did you save room’ routine.”

I then outlined a simple plan designed to increase dessert sales, and therefore, to bring greater tips to the waiter’s pocket. Here it is…

  1. Mention the dessert before you take the dinner order and highlight your best.
  2. Example: “I just came from the kitchen, and the key lime death-by-chocolate raspberry flambĂ© looks and smells amazing. You’ll want to enjoy one of our legendary desserts tonight.”
  3. After the meal, ask, “Would you like to enjoy your dessert here, or take it home with you for later?”
  4. If it’s lunch time, also ask, “Would you also like to take some dessert back for your fellow workers?”

It’s not complicated.

When I told the waiter my plan to increase his income, he smiled a little, shrugged, then went back to asking engorged diners if they’d like to cram more stuff down their gullets.

Since that night, I’ve been on a one-man crusade to increase the income of beleaguered, impoverished wait-staff. My wife has had to endure at least two dozen of these little lessons.

The response from my “students” has been almost identical to that of the first hapless waiter. A faint smile, sometimes a ‘thank you” or a bemused “Huh?”, followed by…no change.

It’s discouraging.

One night, after I’d repeated this little lecture more than 10 times with no success, a cheerful young Black woman listened patiently, then turned for the kitchen as usual. But then…she turned back to me.

She smiled and asked, “Would you like to enjoy your dessert here, or take it home with you.”

I almost cried. Seriously. My eyes welled up.

I looked at her with love in my heart and said, “We’d like to take dessert home with us. How about this one?”

I pointed to the menu item.

“Excellent choice,” she said. And off she went to get our to-go order.

It added double digits to the meal price. It would have also bumped the tip to 20% of the dessert price, if I did my usual. But her sterling performance called for something special. I don’t recall exactly, but the tip was probably twice my usual.

How hard was that for her?

Almost effortless.

She just exchanged the regular ineffective, depressing, words, for words that had a chance of success.

But to this day, she’s the only waiter who has ever listened, learned, and immediately put it into action.

I’m practically begging waiters to sell me dessert. I’m offering them higher tips.

They refuse my money.

I don’t think my method will work every time. But if it succeeds once in ten tries, who would reject the extra income?

You can apply this little story to your own business.

Listen to what you (or your people) actually say to customers, and when they say it.

What could you say instead? What is the prime time for saying it?

Sometimes you just have to ask the right way, at the right time.