How does asking open ended questions help sell menu items?
In theory, because an open-ended question does not have "No" as a possible answer. "No" closes the possibility for any further communication about the subject.
Whether this works in practice is another matter. As far as I am concerned, having waiters pester me with endless questions is something I find highly irritating. I want them to be attentive and come over immediately if I have something to ask. Otherwise, they should stay in the background and let me eat in peace. Obvious attempts at upselling are offensive, since they target me as someone to be exploited to the full.
Insistent waiters trying to upsell all the time are one of the reasons I will not return to a restaurant.
As a marketer by trade, I have tested this and it is indeed true. Sounds like your in a restaurant, you can ask the question do you like french fries or what is your favorite side item. If the consumer doesn't like french fries, the server lost the sale of a side by getting the consumer in no mode. However, if the consumer is asked what is your favorite side, saying no would be silly, they will then ask what you have which opens the opportunity for the sale of a side item.
I have been a server/bartender for over nine years, and I agree with WriteAngled. It does feel like you are being pushy, but many companies require it. For example "Would you like a coke or a tea to drink?" instead of "what can I get you to drink" is fine but it can be a bit much.
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