How to upsell wine in a restaurant with staff incentives

Increase Restaurant Wine Sales through Staff Incentives

Upselling, cross-selling, and other high-level sales techniques, when balanced on a strong wine knowledge foundation, form the backbone of your restaurant wine sales. This is good news, as it means that the power to increase sales rests only on your willingness to educate your staff. In addition, when you do motivate and educate your wait staff, they are likely to go to great lengths to assure your wine list’s sales success. Uncorkd has published many articles in the past that help you to teach your staff about wine, sake, scotch, beer, absinthe, and other alcohols; today’s post focuses on two strategies—a simple one and a complex one—that you can use to motivate your servers.

How to upsell wine in a restaurant?

Incentivize your sales team, AKA your wait staff and bartenders, to educate customers and move them to a higher price point.

Fairness is a prime motivating factor

The first thing to remember is that, no matter what methods you use to encourage your staff, you must always be fair. Frequently, staff members that you may not like as much may rise to a good challenge, or may increase your restaurant wine sales more than you thought possible. Conversely, staff members who you really do like may not seize sales opportunities, even with sales incentives. If you choose to implement employee reward or motivation strategies within your restaurant, you’ll need to reward all your employees fairly, dependent on their performance.


Simple strategy: Grant requests for top sellers

A simple way to increase your restaurant wine sales is to tie employee request fulfillment to sales performance. In this method, all you would have to do is keep track of each waitperson’s sales numbers for wine or other alcohols, and then provide preferential treatment to those servers when special requests are made. Special requests could take the form of specific days off, shift changes, special wine-related gifts, etc.

Be careful that the privileges that you grant your employees don’t unintentionally skew their possibilities for greater future sales. For instance, some restaurant sections are naturally larger, more private, or more relaxing for your guests, thereby encouraging them to purchase more wine. If a top-selling employee asks to be placed in this section night after night, it may be even more difficult for your other employees to increase their own sales.


Complex strategy: Start up some contests

If the idea of tying performance to benefits makes you nervous, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Since special requests are “special,” they usually spring from exceptional circumstances, and it can be hard to deny many of those special requests—performance notwithstanding. A better option for many restaurateurs is to create employee contests.

Depending on your restaurant’s culture, one of these ideas may appeal to you:

  • Employee-of-the-month reward: This reward works well because it automatically sets up your employees to expect that a different person will be rewarded each month, and it renews employee motivation continually. As a gift, you could provide gift cards to local businesses, or a free dinner for two so that your employee can bring in a guest for a free meal.
  • Mystery shopper reward: This type of reward can be fun for everyone, and can also keep your servers on their toes if you feel they need that extra push. To do this effectively, buy gift cards to local businesses and hand them to your delegated (and super-secret) mystery shoppers. The shoppers can be instructed to instantly reward servers who upsell and cross-sell at key junctures, such as during the ordering process or right before dessert.

Don’t let your staff motivation tactics get musty

The one thing you must never do is repeat the same contests or incentive programs over and over. When your staff feels that you are predictable, your sales levels will immediately take a dive. The best idea is to introduce new ideas periodically, perhaps aligned with more difficult sales seasons. Remember, the main point of motivating your employees is to increase your overall restaurant wine sales—if the sales are already strong, you don’t need to do anything extra.

How to sell more bottles

When you offer inventive programs to your wait staff for upselling and cross-selling effectively and increasing wine sales, your restaurant (and your employees) benefit. Whether you choose to offer a simple reward strategy and grant special requests to top performers, or whether you choose to employ a more complex strategy that involves selecting and rewarding a new employee each month or hiring mystery shoppers to pinpoint great sales leaders, the one thing you must remember to do is be fair. Try implementing one of these motivational techniques the next time your wine sales dip, and watch as your restaurant’s wine cellar quickly empties.

 Photo licensed by Emiliano De Laurentiis