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It's all sales baby!

Every single person working in the hospitality industry should acknowledge one important fact. We all are always selling. The entire team. Not just people with “sales” in their title. Every employee at the organization affects the sale and hence the customer experience. In today’s world of many choices, a customer’s initial experience needs to make a positive first impression and also be memorable enough to make them want to return a second time.

Effective communication is a crucial element of successful sales. What you say and how you say it influences a customer’s feelings about the products and services you provide. (Of course, body language and non-verbal actions also speaks volumes). Leadership must train every single employee how to relate and verbally communicate with their customers. This art of client conversation will become easier for each employee as they grow more confident and practice this important skill.

When I work with clients on proactive sales techniques, I often encourage the culinary team to be part of closing the sale. This means inviting the chef into the tasting room or joining the initial client meeting. I never accept any justification for why a chef cannot come out and meet the client. We are selling food.  Customers love talking about the creative design of the food and the ingredients needed to make each dish.  A chef is going to be the most impactful “salesperson” to make this customer feel welcome and ready to sign. Chefs need to be client-ready at all times.

The perspective you gain from all team members communicating with clients is priceless. It also enhances an appreciation for each other’s departments while showing the customer the complete package of your entire organization. It’s a team effort. It’s ALL sales, baby!


Montana is spectacular. As a first time visitor, I was amazed by the natural beauty and vast, open spaces.  As a tourist, I was excited to try all the great restaurants, brewpubs and bars I read about when researching which cities to visit.

Bozeman, Montana was one such city. There was a great energy to Bozeman and it’s popular Main Street had several dining options to explore. We decided to try a well-reviewed Italian restaurant on the main strip. I made a reservation the day prior because it appeared to have a crowd nightly.

We showed up for our 7:45 reservation on time. The vibe, smells and overall buzz was great. I gave my name to the host and she said “give me a minute”. She came back with menus in her hand and said, “we are ready to seat you”. She walked us to our table in a connected annex side room. This space had a different feel and energy but was perfectly fine. The table she walked us to was between the bar and an open door with a great breeze passing through.

“Are you going to be okay with this table right here? This is all I have. Unfortunately I had another table held for you but the guests haven’t even ordered yet because we are so busy. Sarah should be over once she finishes taking their order.”

Really?  My response was, “Do we have a choice?”. There was an awkward moment when I looked at my dining companions and said, “Are you guys okay here? Do you want to wait for “our” table or keep this one?”.  We opted for the annex table because we were hungry.

We were fine with the table before she said anything.  We were actually excited to be in this cool restaurant.  But, she blew it. She made us feel like we were in a sub-par space. She also implied that service was going to be slow. Not a great start to what could be a great experience.

This is what she should have said:

“I have this great table for you. I hope you like our new annex. We are so excited to have this space. We built this because people wanted another option from the main dining room. It’s a more airy, open space that’s closer to the bar. I put you near the door too so you can catch that cool breeze. I hope that is okay!  As you can see, we are pretty busy but I will get Sarah over here to get your drink order right away. In the meantime, look over the menu and let me know if you have any questions. I am going to grab you some water just to get things started for you.”

It’s ALL sales, baby.

Jennifer Perna

Jennifer Perna

Owner, Fulton Market Consulting, Chicago, IL
Jennifer Perna started Fulton Market Consulting in May 2017 after developing an event experience and sales management experience portfolio for over 25 years in the downtown Chicago catering and special events industry. Jennifer presently works with owners, managers and all team players at hospitality-related companies on increasing sales and creating business development strategies, streamlining processes for operations and event production and developing best practices for human resources and administrative management. This is especially imperative as we continue to manage a diverse and young talented pool of employees today. Jennifer brings a dynamic, approachable and relatable communication style to all levels and members...