Tell me if you’ve experienced this scenario: You have a table that looks at the wine list and is clearly confused. When you ask them what they want to drink, they look flustered and they order a wine, but it seems their choice is random. When they taste the wine, they really seem to like it. They compliment the wine, say they’re excited to try more on the wine list… and never return. Here are three tips to get those wine-newbie guests to come back again and again.
1. Offer drink service and amuse-bouches while guests are waiting
Setting up a table can take time. When customers are waiting to sit down, start them off on a wonderful note by offering special “waiting” drinks and bites. These can be smaller drinks (at smaller prices) that entice waiting guests to begin enjoying their night before they even sit down. If you combine each small “waiting” drink with an included amuse-bouche, you can raise the prices slightly, and each diner in the party can choose his or her own pre-dinner treat.
A few tips for creating your waiting drinks menu:
- Don’t call the menu a “waiting menu”. “Resting menu” or “tastes menu” or “settle-in menu” avoids the reminder that your guests are still waiting on you.
- Make the drinks small and familiar. Not all your guests are knowledgeable about drinks. Your waiting menu is not the place to show off your cocktail creativity—stick with the standards and keep your guests comfortable.
- Include clear ingredient lists in the drinks and the amuse-bouches. This is so that you don’t run into allergy worries, and so that you don’t scare your guests (after all, you might hear a guest say, “What the heck are these “amoosey-boochey” things?”).
2. Help with the wine order
You know why guests come back? Because your food is great and they feel at home in your restaurant. Because the “feeling at home” part is key, you should make sure that they always know what’s your menu is all about. If your servers experience a scenario like the one in this post’s introduction, have them offer to help your guests choose a great wine. Need some tips on how to do this? Try this article on determining the story of your wine.
Some tips to find the right wines:
- Ask about price. Your guests can only afford what they can afford. Asking what they want to spend will give you ideas about what to recommend. Always assume that the number they give you is a little bit higher than they want to spend. If you recommend a bottle in a lower price range, they’ll feel obligated to order it.
- Ask what they like. I can’t tell you how often a sommelier has aggressively tried to sell me a white wine… without even asking me about my preference. I would happily have told them that I prefer reds. When this happens, I usually don’t order anything at all (because I don’t want to hurt the somm’s feelings), and then I feel unhappy and irritated because my meal would have been better with some wine. Guess what? I don’t go back to those restaurants.
- Ask what they’re thinking of ordering. Remember, it’s not just red with beef and white with chicken anymore. Wine pairings have become much more sophisticated these days.
3. Steam the label off the wine bottle
You know what will knock your diners’ socks off? If, when they like a wine, you have your servers steam the label off the bottle and bring that label with the check. Not only will this simple extra task bring your servers larger tips (making them happy), it will be the final touch to amazing customer service that will get your guests raving about your restaurant. And remember, word of mouth is the secret to restaurant success.
To ensure that your customers return again and again for the wines they love, you should be supporting them in every step of their dining journey. Whether you’re offering a small drinks menu as aperitifs, helping them choose the perfect wine for their budget and preferences, or steaming the label off the bottle of wine that they loved, going that extra mile with support will make your guests long to come back and try more of your incredible wine.
- Why Your Wine Menu Is Scaring Your Guests - February 27, 2015
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