Diverse Wine-By-The-Glass Programs can Differentiate Your Restaurant

It’s hard to differentiate your restaurant’s wine program among many competitors in your area and really make it stand out.  Nearly every restaurant considers it table stakes to have a well trained staff and diverse wine list so there is something for everyone on the list.  But did you know that expanding your by-the-glass offerings can be one of the best ways to appeal to customers and increase your sales?

Having a big, diverse list is great, but not if there are very few by-the-glass options.  Many diners want to try new and different things, but aren’t comfortable spending a lot of money on a bottle they’ve never had before.  Enter your glass program, where diners could taste multiple different wines without committing to a bottle.

Fleming’s, the national steakhouse chain, has done just that.  By providing 100 by-the-glass options to diners, the steakhouse has seen sales increase 4.2% this past year while all their competitors were declining.  Providing a diverse glass list can allow you to provide multiple pour sizes as well, by going smaller with a 3oz taste portion or providing a larger 9oz pour like Fleming’s does.

One of the challenges of expanding the glass list is having wine go bad if it isn’t ordered frequently.  There are several things you can do to address this and make glass pours more profitable with less waste:

1.  Markup the glass pours at a higher price
Glass pours are typically priced at 25%-30% of a bottle price.  If you have a lot of glass pours you should mark the prices up a bit more.  Even better is if you don’t offer the wines by-the-bottle.  By only providing them by-the-glass, customers won’t be able to compare the glass price to the bottle price, thus not having a reference point for the profit margin.  By increasing your profit margin, you won’t be losing money with small amounts of waste, but, you don’t need to have more waste…

2.  Promote your glass pours
You need to train your staff to push glass pours over bottles and keep those wine glasses full.  Using electronic wine menus such as Uncorkd, allows you to promote glass pours of your choosing on a daily (or hourly) basis.  So if you have ten opened bottles to start the night, have your staff promote those glass pours and feature them on your menu (with an electronic wine menu you can feature these glass pours in seconds and recommend them to customers).

3.  Frequently rotate glass pours
Even if you can’t afford to have 100 by-the-glass options, you can have 15-20 and rotate them frequently.  Change up your by-the-glass list every week and your customers will see a wide selection of new wines that they’ll keep coming back for.

4.  Preserve the wine so it lasts longer
This is an easy one, but you’d be surprised how many restaurants don’t do it.  When you open a bottle for glass pours, don’t just wiggle the cork back in.  Use a preservation system to make the wine last longer.  One of those big Wine Preservation Systems, like the ones from Napa Technology, would be great, but you don’t need to spend that much.  Just buy a bunch of hand pump vacuum sealers.  The hand vacuum sealers are easy to use, cheap and will add days to each bottle of wine.

If you’re looking to different your wine program, broadening the by-the-glass options is a great way to start.  Fleming’s Steakhouse uses interactive iPad wine menus and a carefully selected by-the-glass list to increase sales in a very heavy saturated steakhouse market.  What other ways have you differentiated your restaurant from competitors with your beverage program?  Let us know!

Josh Saunders