73% of people are intimidated by restaurant wine lists. This statistic comes from a recent study put together by mega wine-producer E&J Gallo’s Dark Horse brand, who polled over 2,000 Brits about their relationship with wine. The study also found that 58% of responders “feel they don’t have enough wine knowledge to order with confidence.” This study underlines how important wine service is to the success of a restaurant’s wine program. Restaurant staff need to be well trained and focused on making their customers comfortable when ordering wine. It will improve the guest experience. And also increase wine sales. Here’s 5 strategies that restaurants can use to upsell wine.
1. Hand Selling Wine
A well-trained and knowledgable staff will be able to answer questions and speak confidently about wine to guests. A good server is like a doctor with good bedside manner.
The attitude and approach to talking to guests about wine is important. Remember that guests who are intimidated by a wine list are looking for guidance from staff. So a server or bartender should never be condescending or dismissive towards a guest’s preferences or questions.
Restaurant managers should work with staff to train them on how to talk with guests about wine. And the servers certainly should know a lot of information about the wines they are selling.
Here are some tips for hand selling wine.
All guests have different preferences and tastes that are unique to them. Ask questions that customers will know the answer to, like:
- What wines do they usually enjoy drinking?
- What dish are they planning on having for their meal?
- Do you they want something easy to drink or a wine with bold flavors?
Use Relatable Language
It’s important for staff not to use niche or jargon laden language when describing and talking about wine. This can be off-putting for many wine drinkers.
- Avoid using obscure flavor comparisons and descriptors like cassis, jackfruit, lemon balm, or brambleberry. Avoiding flavor comparisons altogether can be good because people taste wine in different ways.
- Skip wine jargon by forgetting words like quaffable, yeasty, austere, angular, and other terms that novice wine drinkers wouldn’t use.
- Keep it simple by using terms that people are familiar with. It can also help to share the experience of drinking a wine instead of dissecting its elements. For a Pinot Grigio, maybe liken the experience to the crisp bite of a green apple.
Hand selling wine is exactly that, it’s sales. So it’s important to show enthusiasm and have some fun to make guests excited about a new wine they’re about to purchase. Try phrases like:
- “You’re going to love this wine!”
- “I’m excited for you to try this!”
- “This wine is badass!”
2. Food and Wine Pairings
A great way to upsell wine is through food and wine pairings. It’s a strategy that allows you to steer your guests’ experience but won’t make them feel like you’re just selling them something they don’t really want.
Suggesting food and wine pairings relies on servers having a good foundational knowledge of flavors and why they work together. And taking that knowledge and applying it to your restaurants food and wine selections will help create a great experience for guests.
Tips for setting up food and wine pairings:
Put pairing suggestions on your menu
This is a great “soft sales” strategy. It provides a guide to guests without the server needing to be overbearing when suggesting the pairing. It also allows the guests to come across the suggestion on their own and make the decision themselves.
Diners have trust in chef recommendations when it comes to find and wine. By positioning the pairing as a chef recommendation it makes the suggestion more meaningful.
A tasting menu is a great way to upsell food and wine. Tasting menus offer smaller portions of the best dishes that the kitchen has to offer. Giving diners the option to add wine pairings (with an upcharge) takes the pressure off the guest when deciding on their meal and drinking choices.
3. Wine Flights
Allowing guests to customize their wine experience is a great way to open up new revenue streams. A fun and unique way to do this is to offer wine flights.
Wine flights give you the chance to pour multiple wines for a guest and charge a higher price point per ounce. Because they’re getting an experience that is more engaging than a simple glass of wine, the additional cost is justified by the experience.
Ideas for wine flights
- Grape Tour Flight – Offering tastes of the same varietal that are grown in different regions. For example, with Pinot Noir, you can pour one from California, another from Oregon, and a third from the Burgundy region of France.
- Latin American Flight – Tasting out different wines that are prominent grapes from Latin American producers. For example, a Malbec from Mendoza in Argentina, a Carmenere from Chile, and a Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Mexico.
- Chardonnay Challenge – Here, you could pour different styles of Chardonnay wines, so tasters can compare the profiles of oaked vs un-oaked Chardonnays.
4. Digital Wine Menus
Because sharing knowledge about wine to guests is so important for giving them confidence and upselling wine, having a platform to share information is a great way to provide a sommelier-like experience to every guest even if you don’t have a somm on staff.
Digital menus, like Uncorkd, provide tasting notes, bottle images, and producer information for all wines on your list.
This allows guests to browse between selections and feel confident when ordering a new wine.
Restaurants that use Uncorkd can see growth in wine sales between 20% to 40%. With digital menus, you’re able to utilize a tablet to provide in depth information for all wine selections. The limited space allowed by paper menus restricts the amount of information you can share, so digital menus remove the space restriction by providing a digital presentation for guests.
Here are some of the benefits of using digital menus:
- Increase wine sales
- Suggestive selling like wine pairings
- Eliminate the cost of printing menus
- Instant menu updates for smooth service
5. Pre-Shift Training
Wine training is very important to maintain a knowledgable staff. Too often it is only thought of as part of the onboarding process for new staff. But committing to ongoing wine training is a great way for restaurants to drive higher wine sales and ensure their staff is well versed in selling wine.
A high impact time for wine training is prior to the start of service during pre-shift meetings. This makes sure that the information is fresh in the minds of staff and will give them motivation to utilize this new info during service.
Tips for pre-shift training:
- Pick a single wine to cover and let servers taste it and discuss. Suggest food pairings that work with the wine.
- Set up a nightly sales competition to motivate servers to sell the wine you discussed in pre-shift.
- Highlight by the bottle options that are similar to glass pour options that servers could suggest in order to upsell from glass to bottle.
Take Aways for Upselling Wine
Here are the most important things to remember from this blog post that will help your staff and restaurant upsell wine.
- Wine knowledge is essential to upsell wine
- Create experiences like wine flights to offer guests a fun way to try new wines
- Share the excitement of tasting and learning about new wines
- Utilize tools and technology like digital menus to provide customers more information
- Create wine pairings as a road map to a great dining experience
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