There’s nothing quite like a glass–or a bottle–of wine with dinner when you’re out to eat. Unfortunately, all too many restaurants are failing to take advantage of this great source of income. You have a wine list, but you’re not using it to its full potential! Below we offer some suggestions on refining your wine program in attempt to offer your guests as dynamic of an experience possible!
Choose Your Wines Carefully
Ideally, you want to have a rotating selection of wines that reflect the trends your customers will enjoy most. Some customers are eager to check out the new wine that you’ve just added to the menu, others have old favorites and won’t often branch out.
Choose your wines with care, being sure to offer them at a variety of price points to attract as many customers as possible. Always keep in mind the cuisine you offer and ensure that your wine selection can be paired with any dish you serve.
The excuse of, “well we just don’t sell that much wine” is essentially inexcusable.
A great resource for information is your liquor sales representative/consultant. Liquor distribution companies train their staff very well and provide them with a multitude of educational sessions throughout the year.
Don’t get us wrong, they are always trying to make the sale and get you to purchase higher priced bottles or ones they can’t seem to unload out of the warehouse. But they are also very, very knowledgeable of their product and can walk you through the selection process.
Watch Your Prices
Base your glass prices on market value/competitive pricing as this will encourage customers to consider your particular wine options. By pricing your glasses of wine reasonably, you encourage more guests to (at the very least) try a glass. A well-chosen glass can easily lead to a bottle, as well as a satisfied guest with the intent to return!
A well-chosen glass can easily lead to a bottle.
As for bottle pricing, an effective strategy is to offer a reasonable price on bottles of your house red or white; select a price point that makes it cheaper than it would be by the glass. Your house wines are great options to include on happy hour menus as well and are an easy choice for many of your guests who are not picky about their wine.
As for the higher end bottles, charge market price because these should not be discounted and won’t ever have to be as long as they are attractive options.
Educate Your Staff
It’s crucial for your waitstaff to be knowledgeable about your wine selection and be able to properly talk about wine with guests. A waiter who is uncomfortable speaking about wine and/or guiding guests through the selections will be a poor salesperson, and that’s not necessarily their fault!
It’s crucial for your waitstaff to be knowledgeable about your wine selection.
Ideally, you want as much of your staff possible to have tried the wines that you’re offering. Not only that, they should have an idea of the characteristics of the wine, what wine pairs well with the signature dishes on your menu, and how to choose a wine that will fit your customer’s preferences.
Discussing the wines you carry during any type of pre-shift meeting is an ideal time to provide information for your staff. Maybe even consider a bi-annual all-staff meeting to go over your entire beverage campaign and include a wine education portion in those meetings.
Improve the Experience
All waitstaff should be presenting and offering wine service in a professional and proper manner. There are traditionalists out there that will refuse a bottle or ask for a replacement if it is not presented properly.
Wine service takes practice and a first timer is always going to be nervous. It’s a pretty simple process, made easier by following these steps:
- Always carry a wine key and not a cheap one either, they don’t last and often don’t work all that well.
- Carry the bottle with the label out with the palm of your hand placed on the bottom of the bottle
- Ensure that all wine glasses are polished and feel free to carry the glasses on a tray or in your other hand
- Bring a linen folded and draped neatly across your arm to help with small spills
- Present the bottle to the guest who ordered it prior to uncorking
- Always be talking to the guest as you are uncorking the bottle (this avoids awkwardness and allows time to talk menu options)
- Pour a small sample and present to the guest who ordered the bottle
- Once an approval is given, pour for each guest (ladies first)
Selection, price, variety, pairings, presentation and education are essential to a restaurant’s wine program.
Selection, price, variety, pairings, presentation and education are essential to a restaurant’s wine program. The excuse of, “well we just don’t sell that much wine” is essentially inexcusable. If you do not have an attractive wine presence on your menu or a staff that is uneducated about wine you are letting money walk out the door as a business owner. Make it a priority and be passionate about an age old beverage selection that will not only attract a certain audience but will also make many of your guests feel that they were provided with an experience and sometimes an education.
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