Recently I told you about my waiting tables days.
Fun times. It was a big party.
Worked hard, played hard.
I strove to be the best because the good servers get the best tables that attract the best guests. They make a lot more in tips too.
The best guests are those who enjoy 3 courses and copious amounts of booze.
They kick off with a cocktail to unwind, enjoy a tasty appetizer with a craft beer, accompany their meal with a bottle of wine and wrap up the feast with a dessert and Grand Marnier
To prevent passing out they order a round of booze-ladened coffees.
The heavy hitters then knock back a round or two of expensive scotches.
That’s a $500 to $1,000+ table.
20% tip is $100 to $200 just for delivering food and booze.
Sadly not all tables are like that.
On the flip side, there are families with young kids. Kids’ meals cost $6. Parents MIGHT have one drink. No appetizers are ordered because kids won’t last that long.
Parents have a 30 to 45-minute window before the kids go nuts.
The total bill might be $60. 15% tip is $9. Parents with young kids aren’t usually rolling in dough nor do they have the company Amex. A 15% tip is generous in their books.
These days when I go to restaurants I’m table #2. I’m now the very table I didn’t like, although I’m a good tipper just because I’ve worked in the industry. The irony.
But I learned a trick to upsell any table for another $20 to $40+. Including parents with young kids.
And that’s the dessert tray.
I’m amazed that most restaurants don’t do this.
It’s so simple.
Instead of merely suggesting a dessert at the end of the meal, once plates were cleared, I brought out a magnificent dessert tray with all our desserts on it.
I would set it next to the table.
Every eyeball at the table was glued on it.
Without skipping a beat, I’d launch into my 30-second dessert sales pitch briefly describing each dessert.
I sold so many desserts it was ridiculous.
Once you hook a table to stick around for dessert, selling coffees and perhaps more booze is child’s play.
This trick was particularly cruel to the parents with young kids. Show kids desserts and it’s mayhem until parents relent. If parents say no, it gets ugly.
Boom! In seconds I added $20 to $40+ to the bill.
I became such a fan of the dessert tray that I would go into work early and prepare it myself.
I’m not particularly aesthetic, but I was meticulous in preparing this thing. I would use linens and prepare each dessert myself so the entire thing was stunning. A work of art.
The 15 minutes I invested in preparing the dessert tray paid off well. If I served 12 tables with an average of 3 guests per table, that’s 36 guests for the night. If I sold 12 desserts and coffees at $10 per, that’s $120. Tips on that $120 were $20+.
While that doesn’t seem like a ton of money, for a college kid, $20 in the ’90s was great.
Very few people buy desserts from some sticky brochure next to the salt and pepper shakers
Fewer buy desserts from a server meekly asking “does anyone want dessert tonight?”
Tons of people buy desserts when you plunk a beautiful dessert tray in front of them.
It’s the old marketing ploy of “show, don’t tell.”
Food photography is a huge business for good reason. Mouth-watering photos of food sell food.
Even my 8-year old kid notices that pictures of food on commercials look way better than the real dishes.
How does this apply to us with niche content sites?
In many ways. Here they are:
Images: Use them. Not only do add a lot of great visual info to content but they add digital space for more ads. Big win.
Product images: I use AMZ Image plugin. Any time I reference a specific product, I insert an Amazon image with an affiliate link to the product. In the caption, I say something like “click image for more info” or “click image for pricing”.
Better yet, when possible, take your own product photos and hyperlink them to Amazon or whatever merchant sells it. Or just put a button below the images with an affiliate link.
Writing: Publish content that informs in interesting ways such as personal stories, experiences, examples, and case studies. This applies to any content – reviews, informational articles (not always applicable), emails, etc.
For example, I’m illustrating the show, don’t tell concept via an example from my waiting tables days in this email. IMO, this email is more interesting with my tales of selling desserts than if I just kicked off with “You should show, not tell…”
Charts and graphs: If you have any data, while it’s good to include it in the text of your article, take a few extra minutes to create a visual chart or graph. It’s free and fast to do with Google Sheets. Not only do these add more digital space for ads and make for a better user experience, but other sites will rip them off and link to you.
Screenshots: It’s one thing for me to say how much revenue my niche sites earn and a totally different thing to show screenshots. Seeing the numbers in an ad account makes a big impact (plus serves as proof). Screenshots take seconds and add so much value. You can use screenshots for
Tutorials, recipes, software…
I publish tutorials, recipes, software articles across my niche sites. I use images and screenshots for them all. Without such imagery, these posts would not be good or nearly as popular (or sell as well).
Do I show, not tell as much as I can?
Yes and no. I’m very good at including images and product images in content. I have it as part of my system.
Sadly, not with respect to all writing. I could do more and one day I hope to do more.
One day, I hope to have the budget where every article I publish is a work of art. I’m striving to grow revenue to where that will be possible. For most articles I write, I do this. Some writers I hire knock it out of the park with this. Unfortunately, not all writers get it.
If you’re writing your own content, put in the time to elevate your content by showing and not just telling.
Whatever you do, remember the power of the dessert tray.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.