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Failing to upsell could be selling your bar and yourself short. Read on for Diageo Bar Academy’s ultimate guide to spirit upselling…

Welcome to the art of upselling. This is the concept of encouraging customers to replace their standard choice for a more premium one—inevitably increasing not only your profits and tips but the overall value of your bar.

There’s a misconception that every customer is looking for something "cheap and cheerful" when it comes to their drinks. But the reality is that over a third of people would welcome a more premium choice it was recommended to them (TNS Omnibus Research 2012).

The art of upselling has many facets. This article explores one, very important facet: the art of upselling spirits—encouraging customers to try more premium spirits that they may not have originally considered.

The Benefits

Upselling benefits bartenders in numerous ways:

As well as added benefits to your personal tips and rapport with customers there is a great added value to consumers feeling they are gaining more exclusivity—an exciting prospect that will keep them coming back.

So, now you know the facts as to why upselling can benefit you and your bar, how do you implement it on a daily basis?

Know your Product

As a bartender, the key to perfecting upselling is knowledge. You need a complete understanding of the spirit brands on your back bar and the ability to inform and educate your customers about them. The ultimate question the customer will ask is why should I go premium?

To pay the extra money for premium brands, customers need to feel there will be an added value. You should be able to point out the attributes which make the spirit premium, such as distilled for longer, a combination of ingredients for a more defined taste, etc. Recommending how these premium brands add a new dimension to a standard serve or cocktail is an effective way of demonstrating their added value.

Add a Personal Recommendation

Personal recommendations are the most powerful tool in the delivery of additional drink sales—use them to your advantage!

Naturally this all contributes to an increased level of conversation, building a rapport with customers, so they feel welcome, valued and ultimately leave a happy customer. A happy customer always comes back for more.

Know your Customers

Research shows it’s easier to persuade existing customers compared to new customers. Taking the chance to interact with your existing customers and find out their preferences gives you a better insight into their taste preferences. This also presents the perfect opportunity to update them on premium spirits available in the bar and those with similar tasting notes to those that they enjoy. For example, a customer who regularly orders “the house” Gin and Tonic could be easily persuaded to try a Tanqueray Gin and Tonic if you ask them.

This informal question is not pushy for your customer but gives the option to consider a premium option they perhaps haven’t considered before.

Make the Most of Menus

Make sure you know the specials and signature serves on your bar menu that offer upselling opportunities, so you can be confident when informing customers about them. To upsell you need to have confidence in your knowledge so familiarizing yourself with specials and clarifying any ingredients you are unsure of will help your service levels.

Be Confident in the Sell

You may be reluctant to offer an expensive alternative to your customers in fear of coming across rude or pushy but always bear in mind that 65% of people agree they would be willing to pay more for premium spirits—the opportunity is yours, so be confident when you upsell (TNS Omnibus Research 2012).


Demonstrating enthusiasm and creating excitement around brands will help to encourage the customer to try something new and exciting—so don’t be afraid to really sell your drinks.

Make it a Match

Knowing which premium drinks match the most popular dishes on your food menu, and suggesting them when food orders are being taken, is another way to upsell. Additionally, when taking orders for food, it’s helpful to keep an eye out for those who are willing to sample new cuisines, as it’s likely they would be open to trying new, more premium spirits too.