9 Jul

                                by Stu Leventhal


There’s no doubt about it, asking your service staff to push for wine sales can boost your restaurant’s revenue. But, what is the best wine sales building strategy? Obviously, your accountant will be quick to point out, if your wait staff sells glasses of wine, you make more profit than if they push for the bottle sale. But, ask your bartenders and they’ll tell you filling all these glasses, is a lot of unnecessary work, not just for the bartender but for the server who has to run back and forth to the bar re-filling the glasses. Just open up a bottle and leave it on the table or in a bowl of ice and let them serve themselves. It’s cheaper for the guests too, so everybody wins. But you say, it is your servers’ job to run the bill up, not make things easier for your bartender. We’re leaving money on the table. And so, should we be couching our staff to push for the bottle sale or the glasses? And so, the debate goes on…

To find the answer we went to the source; the waitresses and waiters who rely on their tips, which are based on a percentage of the total bill. Any top server will tell you selling by both bottle and glasses are necessary. Experienced servers know how to gage each table full of customers based on the circumstances to know whether to push for wine by the glass or bottle. Many issues apply and the answer is determined by past experience that is hard to explain. Let’s just start by saying different circumstances require different tactics. Listing both choices on your menus, allows your seasoned wait-staff to determine the best way to go. Your best servers know how to run up the tab, don’t handcuff them. Let them teach your new hires the tricks of the trade.

Many restaurants seem to struggle with wine sales. That is usually because just having a few bottles of vino on a list doesn’t constitute a wine program. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and the first thing you notice is there seems to be a bottle of wine sitting on every table? Even if you aren’t really a wine drinker, you sort of feel obligated to start the meal off with a bottle. This is because the whole restaurant has built up a culture, of building a spectacular dining experience around their wine offerings. There may be a wine steward ready to share his advice on what he recommends pairing with the chef’s specialties of the night. He’s ready with a quick colorful story or two about the history of the vineyard or the founding vineyard owner. The opening of the bottle, allowing it to breath, pouring of the sample taste; is a whole, well-rehearsed dramatic little vignette that no one wants to miss out on.

If you want to sell wines, really sell wines, you have to invest in creating the whole grand production. That is not to suggest that you need to install the biggest wine cellar in town. But, you do have to put some thinking into the wines you are going to offer.

Obviously, your wines by the glass offerings have to be limited. You can’t offer to open every bottle of wine for a one glass sale, especially the real expensive bottles! But, we need to have a decent variety of tastes and price ranges represented. Your bottle list should present a much deeper selection as well as some big money names to capitalize on celebrating big occasions as  well as sating customers with big egos that enjoy showing off by ordering the most expensive bottle in the house. When you are new to wine, selling it is normal to get nervous about investing in inventory when you aren’t sure which wines are going to sell. The key to being successful is working with your vendor.

Trust that the vendor has your best interest at heart. No decent wine vendor wants to make one sale off of you. They all are in this for the long haul and repeating orders. That means suggesting a wine program to you that will work for your type of restaurant. Wine Vendors are always excited to have new restaurants join their platform. They are used to answering the questions and solving the concerns of new managers and owners who are skeptical and unknowledgeable about wine. They know they must get involved with the training of your wait staff and invest with promotional bottles as well as helping you with marketing if you are to be successful. Utilize all the free stuff they offer and listen to their experienced advice. The vendor only succeeds when you succeed.

When it comes to introducing your new wine program to your staff as well as to your customers, your vendor is your partner. All good wine vendors should offer to teach your staff everything they need to know any time they add a new wine to your program. The training should include a history lesson on wines in that category, including what types of food it pairs well with, as well as background info on the particular label and what to say to sell more of that particular wine. They should be anxious to spring for a bottle so your staff can taste the new vino. Actually knowing what the wine tastes like will help the servers better describe it to their customers. Your vendor should also supply you with plenty of complimentary bottles for you to use to promote your new wine list. Don’t be shy about giving free tastes away. Supplying sample tastes to your customers makes launching your new wine services a breeze. Once your customers are aware you have a real wine program word of mouth will build this lucrative new addition to your business model fast!

Scheduling a wine tasting event with your vendor on the day you plan to officially introduce your customers to the new vino list is a no brainer because, once again your vendor will supply the wine free and they usually offer to contribute to your marketing cost for the event also! Welcome to the fabulous business of wine! Everyone is treated like family!

*The best tip I can give you is not to worry about the big name wines that everyone has on their lists. The real key to building up successful wine sales is having a decent selection of wines that no other restaurant in your vicinity can get. That is why partnering with one good wine vendor, medium to smaller is much better and more important than trying to have the biggest wine list in town. Besides, often having too many choices can be a hindrance to wine sales. Americans traditionally aren’t very knowledgeable about wine. We know beer! So, when it comes to choosing a bottle of vino to toast a special occasion information overload from a ten page wine list is more annoying than impressive.

Smaller wine vendors understand the value and prestige that exclusivity will bring your restaurant! They can guarantee that no one else in your area will be serving your bottles! That’s powerful! Together you and your vendor will slowly turn your beer drinking clientele and community into wine connoisseurs! And your relationship with your wine vendor will only grow stronger and stronger with time! Plus, the best part is once your customers fall in love with a particular wine, they will have to come back and dine with you to enjoy it!

As always feel free to blog comment us with any and all of your restaurant management questions and we’ll get you the answers. That is how we come up with the future topics for your blog.

*If your restaurant caters or is considering catering check out our sister website for great free catering sales advice:  Adding catering or expanding a restaurant’s catering services is a fantastic way for any restaurant to build sales and profit. Here, you’ll find out the effective ways to grow a strong catering business.

*If you are having trouble creating your business advertising copy and marketing text try browsing through some of the free business writing tips at:  They also have very affordable web writing services at:


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