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Upselling Food & Beverage: Interactive Food Stations

Whether your motivation for upselling is to increase revenues or help your clients upgrade their guest experience, there is an art to persuasion. It begins with knowing the inherent benefits of next-level services and honing your ability to help clients imagine the possible, not just the inevitable.

In catering, a seated meal or buffet may be sufficient, but interactive food stations are game-changers. They are engaging, fresh, and fun. If you are exploring ways to upsell, these crowd-pleasing service options are a great place to start.

Upselling 101 – do you have the right audience?

Upselling should never be forced. It should feel organic and only be used when appropriate. Never try to upsell all at once. As you go through the planning stages of an event, look for opportunities to point out things that would enhance the experience.

Know that not all guests are going to be open to suggestions, and some will be very sensitive to price increases. Practice reading your guests and looking for indications in the conversation that suggest that they might be willing to consider more options. Try to detect ways that you can help price-conscious guests maximize their use of limited budgets. A housemade hot chocolate station, for example, could satisfy their desire for something personalized, and while it won’t make a huge revenue impact, an extra $200 or so will contribute to earnings in the long run.

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Interactive station options

You can elevate an ordinary dinner reception with some simple interactive food station upsells. Offer to add different proteins to a vegetarian station, for example, to increase the variety for guests. Feature a show-stopper, like hand-carved Iberico ham to give guests something really special. Or, find a late-night snack that matches your event theme to surprise them with before they depart.

Individualized beverages—always popular! Photo courtesy Kate Anfinson

Beverage stations are big right now. A sparkling wine or signature cocktail bar is a welcome greeting. Propose that your clients not settle for ordinary non-alcoholic beverage options like sodas and tea. Create a station of mocktails customized for the event, or set up a housemade lemonade bar.

A cookie before you depart…Photo courtesy Emilia Jane Photography

A parting gift station is fun. Give guests something to take at the end of the evening like cookies or brownies in a pretty box or bag. Or present containers of popcorn on a themed station that they can munch on as they make their way home.

Up-sell a beignet station—sure sounds like a New Orleans-centric win! Photo courtesy Ken Kienow Photography

Know your stuff

Before offering any upsell, make sure your sales team understands how to price it. If it is too labor intensive or the food cost is too high it might end up costing your company more than it makes.

Time your upselling wisely

There are points in the event planning process that are more ideal for certain kinds of upselling than others. Initially, look for opportunities to persuade clients to choose more premium ingredients and quality beverages. As planning progresses and the vision for the event becomes clear, you can use tastings and design meetings to offer visual or presentation upgrades. Having samples and images that help your clients envision what you are proposing is always more compelling than trying to describe your ideas without visual supports.
Perfecting the art of upselling is good for the bottom line and good for the quality of your events. Practice identifying the best opportunities to upsell and hone your approach for maximum upselling success.

Registration is now open for Catersource and the Art of Catering Food 2019! Click here for more information!

Heather Jones

Catering Sales Director

Heather Jones is the Catering Sales Director for Wente Vineyards, a family-owned property that is home to a winery and vineyards, a golf course, restaurant, and a handful of unique facilities for hosting weddings and special events.