Diners value your opinion on menus. Using your voice to entice customers and provide them with recommendations, not only drives sales but also builds better relationships. While the goal of menu recommendations is to increase business and make customers feel welcome, there are a couple of guidelines that should be followed when helping guests choose a dish or beverage. Take a look at some do’s and don’ts of menu recommendations:

Do: Suggest a Popular Dish

When a guest asks for a menu recommendation, suggest a dish that’s popular either among your repeat customers or staff. Frequent diners continue to order their favorite meals for a reason, and driving more sales towards your restaurant’s hottest items will help build your brand as the restaurant with the best item of your choosing! By suggesting a meal that’s favorited by your staff, guests will take pleasure in ordering a dish that your restaurant considers “the real deal.” We’re sure that all of your menu choices are spectacular, but there’s nothing that solidifies the quality of a dish like a waitress who can’t get enough of it. 

Don’t: Use Honest Questions as Opportunity to Upsell

When a guest asks for a menu recommendation, they’re presenting restaurant staff with a sense of vulnerability that should be met with an honest answer. While it may be routine to push the most expensive item on the menu to raise your restaurant’s bottom line, inquisitive patrons aren’t looking for a sales-y pitch on why they should order the lobster. At the end of the day, your servers will most likely be able to present the best backstory on a menu item they love most, regardless of the item’s price. You might even find that honest menu recommendations drive more sales than a memorized upsell pitch in the long run.

Do: Survey What’s Already on the Table

As a server or manager stopping by tables to say hello, you are presented with a pretty strong idea of what your guests like by surveying the food and drinks already on their table. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and second or third courses and desserts can be suggested based on what guests are already chowing down on. Did you find out that a guest has a food allergy? Be sure to suggest a dessert according to their needs. Maybe a table has decided to enjoy a nice steak dinner. What sort of dessert drink would pair nicely with the flavors tasted during their main course? Taking a mental note of your guests’ likes and dislikes simply by surveying their table will allow you to make suggestions that feel personalized to them.

Don’t: Come Unprepared for Questions

First-time diners at your restaurant may have zero clues on what to order from your menu, whether they spot their usual go-to’s or not. Every restaurant prepares “staple” items differently, so it’s important to know the backstory on a dish’s flavors, accompanied side items, and portion size. If a guest trusts in you to provide him or her with a rundown on what their potential meal will look like when it comes out of the kitchen, it will be a total let down if their plate is nothing like how it was described. While opinions on your favorite dish should be taken with a grain of salt, there are certain basics to know about every item on your restaurant’s menu.

Do: Provide Extra Details

Guests probably don’t expect their servers to describe your menu items as unsatisfactory, but calling a dish “great” definitely won’t market the food or beverage to its full potential. When describing a menu item, provide your guests with the appropriate details to either sell them on the food or drink or alert them that it’s not exactly what they were hoping for. Including info on any “twists” to a classic dish will ensure guests that they won’t be surprised when their meal arrives at the table. Those extra details may be the deciding factor in whether or not a restaurant patron orders their initial choice or moves to a different item that better fits their palette. 

Don’t: Withhold Your Masterpieces from Your Staff!

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure that your servers are well equipped with the tools needed to thoroughly sell a potential menu choice to guests. That being said, it’s hard for a waiter or waitress to describe a dish or drink if they’ve never tried it. Don’t forget to share new dishes or drinks with your staff, providing a detailed description of the menu item’s origin and flavors. With that knowledge, servers can then taste your new masterpieces for themselves and develop their own narrative on how they would present these menu items to guests.