How Do You Deal With Indecisive Customers?

Indecisive customers can be tricky to deal with especially in a busy hospitality scene. Learn how to handle and encourage their decisions.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Indecisive customers. It can be one of your biggest assets in the bar and restaurant business. But to profit from this indecisive customers, you must train your hospitality staff to recognise it and act on it so you can provide a great customer experience whilst bringing in valuable revenue.

And let’s face it, most of us are indecisive at some point. From choosing a restaurant to eat in, which product to buy, or technology software to implement. Having so many options doesn’t make it easy, but it is about conducting the right research to identify which product, restaurant or software is the best or has great reviews that can help to sway your decision. So, when a new customer walks through the door, it is important to make them feel they made the right choice in coming. Simple things such as a smile, eye contact and moving the guests efficiently and quickly to a table will dispel any initial doubt.

How can I handle an indecisive customer?

Some friendly help with the menu will then go down a treat. Staff need to be trained to understand that they are not just order takers, they are sales consultants. And as such, they should “always be closing”. Because if you do not train your staff to deal with indecision, it will only eat into staff time and reduce customer turnover. How often have you or one of your employees spent more time than expected at a table trying to take an order but they can’t decide between the fries or potatoes? 

So, instead of waiting for the indecisive customer to make up their mind while ordering, make up their minds for them. Give a few suggestions, like trying something new on the menu or your signature dish. But keep it short and sweet. You don’t want to overload them with more options for them to only take longer again. People can only take in so much information.

A big, attractive chalk board within your location can also help here. Especially when it relieves people of the need to take out their reading glasses. Often some people will walk into a location and see your specials on the board and go for that straight away because it’s there in front of them, it sounds good and they don’t even bother looking at the menu. Their mind is made up. 

Educate your staff on why high-end menu items are worth the price so they can recommend dishes with sincerity and enthusiasm. Effective up-selling ultimately leaves the customer in control of their decision, without applying pressure. The aim is simply to plant the seed of an idea that tempts the customer into ordering more expensive items than they may have originally intended.

If a customer asks for a lager, try up-selling to a premium brand. If your staff can give a brilliant sales pitch in just a few words (e.g. “this is Germany’s top-selling pilsener”) few customers will decline.

Suggest a side dish or extra to go with a main, mentioning the price. The extra cost to the customer of a side is relatively small, so they will see the value, but it can make a huge difference to your revenue. It’s the extra toppings that make pizza restaurants successful: they cost virtually nothing, so it’s pure profit.

Likewise, it is good to recommend a starter or appetiser (ideally one that is not too filling). They may not always go for it but it’s worth a shot! Or give binary choices. “Would you like water with that? Great! Still or sparkling?” Very few customers order free tap water after being asked that question.

It is also a good idea to identify the “alpha” man or woman in a dinner party. In this context, it means the person who makes up their mind first or in some cases is in control of the ordering; especially for a larger party. Usually they also like to “make a statement” by ordering something pricey. Get their order, compliment them on their choice, and the others will feel a little pressure to follow suit.

Generally speaking, people like to be congratulated when they have finally made a choice. Something you can also train staff to use. “Great choice of main course, may I recommend this [high-end] wine to go with it?”

Finally, reward performance. Set target sales goals and, if your staff reach the target, everybody wins. Give your top seller of the week some extra benefits, maybe a coupon for shopping or a movie. The better they get at helping customers to make up their minds and up-selling, the better your sales per labour hour.

How do you or your staff currently manage indecisive customers? I hope you can take these tips and begin implementing them today!

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