Food for Thought: Secrets of Up$elling, Part Two

moneyAs I stated in Up$elling, Part One, I teach caterers how to upsell. Upselling is part consultation and part selling, and it should focus not only on increasing the average check, but also on enhancing guest satisfaction. It is a subtle, but important difference. 

There are a number of ways for a caterer to increase revenue:

  • Better Marketing Mix (more corporate events, fewer coffee receptions)
  • Selling More Beverages
  • Charging Room Rental
  • Raising Prices
  • Adding Off-Premise Catering
  • Higher Check Average (which is upselling)

For a caterer, food is the easiest thing to upsell. Examples would be passed hors d’ oeuvres or regional specialties (salmon in Seattle or crab cakes in Baltimore, etc.).  Most areas have specialties for which they are known. (When I am asked what the specialty is in Las Vegas, I respond with, "the buffet, of course.")

Examples of menu upgrades include:

  • Upgrade cut/quality of meat
  • Champagne toasts
  • Theme bars (Martini, Margarita)
  • Specialty theme drinks (Hurricanes, Pina Coladas)
  • Fancy garnishes
  • Caesar Salad made tableside

Additional courses that can be upsold:

  • Intermezzo
  • Cheese Cart
  • Cordial Service
  • Fancier Hors d ’Oeuvres
  • Hot Hors d’ Oeuvres
  • Petit Fours
  • Ice Carvings
  • Station Enhancements

Continental Breakfast upsells:

  • Freshly baked breads and pastries
  • Fresh fruit platters
  • Yogurt
  • Gourmet coffee (flavored, cappuccino, latte, etc.)
  • Breakfast sandwich (croissant with egg, ham, cheese or a breakfast burrito)

Upsells for the health-conscious client:

  • Organic Foods
  • Low Fat Recipes
  • Low Carb Offerings
  • Sugar Free Options
  • Fresh pr Locally Grown Anything
  • No Trans-Fats
  • No HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)


  • Place Card Calligraphy
  • Upgraded China
  • Candelabras
  • Linen Overlays or Table Runners
  • Chair Covers
  • Ceiling Swags
  • Disposables (imprinted napkins, cups, etc.)
  • Customized tabletop settings
  • Plants, Foliage
  • Table Favors
  • Extra Staff
  • French or Russian Service
  • Space upsells could include room rental, charges for specific room sets or rooms with views.

Be aware that caterers will make suggestions or changes to your meal plan. Ask yourself:  Would any of these upsells make my events better?

Sales staff must understand you (the client) and recognize your expectations so that appropriate recommendations can be made. For example if you frown when they initiate suggestive selling, they should stop immediately.

Photo: Timo Heuer via Flickr

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