In our last article, we told you how to perfect your hotel’s in-room dining service. If you have mastered your service, you should be ready to increase your room service revenues (and tips) up to 50 percent! In-room service, your team has an incredible opportunity to sell. Room service guests are typically not price sensitive and often want to splurge. Here are the secrets of selling and increasing your revenue:
Before we talk about suggestive selling, the first thing we have to talk about is how to ask the right questions. The most important thing to keep in mind is to never ask open-ended questions. When I call room service, the room service operator typically asks, ‘what can I get for you?’ or, ‘what would you like this evening?’ If you ask either of those questions, you have lost all opportunity to sell. At that point, you are only an order taker. Your questions have to be specific and lead the guest to buy.
The first question you should ask the guest is, ‘how many guests should I set the tray for?’ Almost nobody ever asks this question. They usually just guess based on the number of entrees ordered or just assume that the order is for one person. Without knowing how many guests the meal is for, you cannot set up the tray properly… but more importantly, you cannot sell correctly!
Once you know how many guests to prepare for, you can start selling. Selling is simple. It is about anticipating the guest’s needs and making recommendations to match.
The next question you ask is to take the guest’s appetizer order. With all of the questions that you will ask the guest, keep the following in mind:
- Order taking is asking, ‘what would you like this evening?’
- Selling is asking, ‘would you like to start with an appetizer this evening?’
- Suggestive selling is specifically asking, ‘would you like to start with an appetizer such as our fresh shrimp cocktail or our famous red hot buffalo wings?’
Order taking is what they do at McDonald’s. Selling will improve your results slightly. Suggestive selling will increase your revenues (and tips) up to 50 percent. Your guests will respond when you ask the right questions and make the right suggestions.
Once you have sold the guest on an appetizer, move on to the entrée. At this point, you should go over the day’s specials and offer help with any questions the guest may have. You can always make a suggestion or two. However, you typically do not have to steer a guest towards an entrée selection. They most likely have already decided on an entrée before calling. Even though you are not steering, you are still selling here… specifically, up-selling here! Have your up-sell items prepared in advance for every entrée. If the guest orders a burger, recommend adding bacon. If a salad or pasta is ordered, be sure to recommend adding shrimp or chicken. Be sure the up-sell options are programmed into the point of sale system as a reminder.
Now that you have the guest’s appetizer and entrée selections, you can match their choices with your beverage menu and sell them a drink from the bar. If the guest ordered a steak, recommend a great glass of wine. It works best if you recommend a mid-priced glass so they are not surprised by the check total when they see the bill. If you are preparing a meal for two, recommend a bottle. If the guest orders a more casual meal like a burger, recommend one of your specialty beers or a mixed drink.
Even if the guest is not interested in an alcoholic drink, you still have work to do. If they ask for a soda, sell them two (remember, there are no refills in-room service). If they ask for water, make sure you go over the choices of bottled water. You should have at least two types of water available in at least two sizes.
After the beverage order, you are ready to sell the dessert. The great thing about room service dessert is that the guest orders the dessert before they eat the meal. They do not know whether they will be too full for dessert yet and they are much easier to sell as desserts have a high appeal to many people. Therefore, you should sell at least twice as many desserts in-room service as you do in your restaurant. When asking the guest for the dessert order, go back to your suggestive selling and take the same approach as you did with the appetizer. Ask a specific question such as ‘would you like to include a slice of our chef’s cheesecake topped with raspberry and fresh whipped cream?’
If the guest orders a dessert, you can usually also sell them on a specialty coffee or dessert liquor. Again, just match the dessert with the beverage. Even if they said no to the cheesecake, make sure you offer specialty coffee.
Some other things to keep in mind when selling room service:
- Make sure you compliment the guest on their selection if the guest orders a great dish. Guests are nervous when ordering a dish, especially if it is expensive or unusual. Put their mind at ease by saying, ‘that is a great selection’ or, ‘the New York Strip is my favorite as well’.
- Make suggestions based on items that are your favorite dishes. Do not recommend a dish that you have not personally eaten. If you have not sampled every item on your menu, you should not be answering the phone!
- Use positive words to describe every dish. You do not just have a burger; you have a ‘terrific half-pound grade A burger cooked to perfection with your choice of toppings.’
- Do not forget about the basics: use the guest’s name, quote a delivery time, and show appreciation!