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Emotion Selling – Using targeted emotions to increase sales

Jens Ertel
March 2020

There is a lot of responsibility in dealing with your guests: You want them to feel comfortable from the moment they arrive until they leave, to reach the planned turnover – and that they come back as often as possible.

The change from a consumer society to a “pleasure society” is progressing, and this also changes the expectations of your guests: They have become more demanding and compare more. It is difficult to stand out just because of the quality of the food.

So you can only stand out from your competitors if you offer that “certain something”. The short moments are keys, in which you and your staff establish personal contact. If it works, you can turn a spontaneous guest into a regular without additional costs. If it doesn’t fly, your guest will take the next lunch in another restaurant and you will also lose him as a potential regular guest. It is therefore crucial to influence this decision in the long term – and not by chance, depending on how the day is going but with targeted measures.


The “feel-good factor” influences sales 

It is the “feel-good factor” that plays an important role of the direct conversation between guest and host. The reason is that your guest measures this feel-good factor within a few seconds: every word, every gesture, every facial expression, every taste, every smell, every sound and every touch – everything is perceived consciously and to a great extent unconsciously. We owe this frantically rapid assessment to our ancestors. In primeval times they had to decide permanently between flight and attack, which had immediate effects on life and death.

As fast and unambiguously as our brain decides for us mostly in our subconscious, it is also consciously influenceable. Exactly this is the great chance of emotion selling.


Addressing the guest‘s subconscious with emotion selling

You surely have encountered this situation: New guests arrive and you or your staff have no time for an attentive and warm greeting. On the way to the kitchen with a full tray in your hands, all you can say is a short “Hello, I’ll be right with you”. In this moment the brain of your guest decodes this welcome greeting to “I am not welcome, rather annoying”. This causes a devastating domino effect: in the next eight to ten contacts everything must be 100 percent okay, otherwise high turnover, tips and subsequent reservations remain rather unlikely.

What is the solution? Several restaurateurs have developed almost “static” sales lines and customer care concepts to tackle this. They divide the guest’s stay into contact situations on a timeline from the greeting to saying goodbye. The individual phases on the timeline contain target standards of emotional conversation. A great side-effect: If the greeting was rather uninspiring, the waiter then has at least seven more chances to win back the guest emotionally. You can adapt the contact situations individually to the style and orientation of your business.

guest interaction timeline


Each contact pays into the “emotion account”

A contact situation always refers to the contact you have with the guest, for example, when you take the drink order, service the drinks and take the food. Suitable are short questions or statements that emotionalise the conversation. An example: When ordering drinks, point out the speciality of the house or of the day: “If you ask me what I would like to eat here, it is certainly the Hungarian Goulash – our guests love it!“

In this way, regardless of the talent of the service staff, the emotional connection to the guest can be built up – freely under the motto: Make every contact an emotional, communicative contact. To make your guests believe that they like the goulash so much, your employees need regular training in body language, gestures and facial expressions. Ideally, the goulash is sensational!


Satisfied spontaneous guests become regular guests

If you understand that your guest evaluates every condition and situation, then there are many opportunities to influence his or her well-being through emotional contacts to win regular guests.

Many restauranteurs actively influencing their regular guests through emotion selling now have a bulging guest file. From this file, they send birthday greetings or newsletters with individually tailored gastronomic offers.


How did you get regular guests? Wasn’t in most cases the trigger an emotional situation? You might have turned even complaining customers into loyal guests. So have the courage for emotions and make the visit in your restaurant an emotional experience by emotional selling.


Jens Ertel, after 20 years of a classic hotel and restaurant career, has been working as an independent gastronomy coach/trainer and consultant for 15 years and has owned a hotel and restaurant in the meantime. He has specialised in the topic “active selling” and “turnover growth” in the gastronomy business.



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