It’s common knowledge that diners spend the bulk of their money on the savory portion of their meal. Dessert is certainly delicious, but many people find the $12 price tag on a slice of cake hard to swallow. For restauranteurs, this is a problem. Desserts and other post-meal items require good ingredients to taste good. With rising food costs, it is nearly impossible to balance customer price expectation with your profit. To offset the cost of post-meal add-ons (not just dessert), you need to get creative. But we will give you a headstart. 

Upsell Drinks

Price your cocktails, dessert wines, and apéritifs higher than you normally would. By upselling your drinks, you give yourself a buffer to play with dessert prices and options. Additionally, focusing on drinks allows you to turn tables faster — it takes people half the time to drink a cocktail than it does to eat a slice of cheesecake. If turning tables isn’t a primary concern, you could even go so far as to create a dessert and wine pairing menu. Customers are always eager to try new and different things, and this certainly taps into people’s adventurous spirits. 

Walking Billboards

Waiters are prime real estate when it comes to advertising. At the Chicago counter-service restaurant, Xoco, bussers wear shirts that read “I can get you dessert” on the back. For many customers, dessert is an out of sight out of mind concept. If they don’t say yes to a dessert menu, they may not think twice about it. Clever marketing tricks like this can prompt add-on purchases that otherwise wouldn’t have been considered.


Mocktails take nonalcoholic drinks to the next level. Commonly, they are elaborate drinks that resemble cocktails but have additional bells and whistles and no alcohol. You can price a mocktail from about $5 to $7. By adding mocktails to the menu, you tap into new audiences. Now children and people under twenty-one can order something while their parents or guests get a cocktail; people who simply aren’t in the mood for alcohol; and curious customers now have something different to try. 

Master the Cross-Sell

If a dessert and wine pairing menu are not up to your restaurant’s alley (and even if it is), cross-selling should be. Your servers should learn how to encourage diners to purchase something complementary with their meals, without being too pushy. For instance, if someone wants to order a dessert, have a waiter suggest a drink that pairs beautifully with it. Good cross-selling depends on context and timing, but when done properly it has the potential to increase check size.

When choosing which marketing tactic is right for your business, consider your audience. If you are a fine dining establishment, t-shirt marketing is certainly not for you. Find a marketing strategy that works for you and your brand, and implement it.

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