How to Train Employees to Know Menu Pairings

Posted on March 1, 2017 by Michelle Locke

Menu pairings can be daunting for both restaurant managers and employees. It’s daunting to create training that encourages menu pairing (and, by extension, upselling). And for employees, it’s daunting to have so much to remember. But menu pairings don’t have to be a problem for everyone in the restaurant. Here are a few tips for training for menu pairings.

1. Train to Read Guests

When it comes to menu pairings, the most important thing to begin with is to train your employees to read guests. You will suggest something different to different customers. For example, a large group celebrating a birthday will be better served by pairing their entrees with a quick appetizer. On the other hand, a couple at the restaurant for a romantic evening is more likely to appreciate a wine pairing. Employees should be able to read guests before they even begin with menu pairing or upselling. You can learn more about reading guests here.

2. Focus on simple pairings.

New employees, who are still working on menu training, will be better served by focusing on simple pairings. An example is to remind them of simple things they can remember: dishes like pasta with marinara sauce go best with red wines, whereas seafood dishes or salads go best with a white wine. They don’t necessarily need to remember exact names at first, or perhaps one red wine and one white one. This allows for practicing upselling from the very beginning. Here are a few tips on wine training, which can be helpful for training new employees on wine pairings.

3. Establish menu pairings and include in training.

If you’re using a training program like Waitrainer+ (and if you’re interested in learning how Waitrainer+ can make training for menu pairings easier, let us know here), you can quickly add menu pairings to your menu items so training for pairings is included in existing menu training. As well, remember to include menu training, and by extension, pairings, in your pre-shift meetings. If you’re highlighting a specific menu item in a pre-shift menu, suggesting a few wines, beers, appetizers, and desserts to pair it with is easy and will keep it in your employees minds! For more on menu training & pre-shift meetings, click here.