How Do You Deal With Indecisive Customers?

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Indecision. It can be one of your biggest assets in the bar and restaurant business. But to profit from this indecision, you must train your staff to recognise it and act on it.

And let’s face it, most of us are indecisive. Even choosing a restaurant in the first place can be a mental strain after a day in the office. So, when a new customer walks through the door, it is important to make them feel they made the right choice. A smile, eye contact and moving the guests efficiently and quickly to a table will dispel any initial doubt.

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.

So, instead of waiting for the customers to make up their mind while ordering, make up their minds for them. Give suggestions, like trying something new on the menu or your signature dish. But keep it short and sweet. People can only take in so much information.

A big, attractive chalk board can help here. Especially when it relieves people of the need to take out their reading glasses.

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).

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. 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.

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