So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

On Wine, Pt 4

What are some keys to selling more wine?

First, you must have a basic knowledge of the various wine varietals that your restaurant offers. That’s the best place to start, since most restaurants only offer about 10 different varietals. If you don’t know that Pinot Noir is great with grilled salmon because you’re always heard that only whites go with fish, you’re missing selling opportunities. If you don’t the basic differences between Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons, how can you guide your guests toward the best wine to have with their lamb chops?

So, you need to establish the basic flavor profiles for the various grapes.

Once you do that, then you should focus on a couple of mid-priced offerings in each category and try to discover the actual differences between them. If you can taste them, that’s the best thing. If not, get your manager to get you some tech sheets from the wine reps. These usually have specific statements about body and flavor.

It’s easiest to sell what you like, so if you have some favorites, work on trying to specifically describe them to your guests. Your enthusiasm for the wine can only help you in your selling.

No, you don’t have to know every flavor profile of every bottle on the list, but once you get the general profiles of the various grapes, there are some flavor profiles that crop up repeatedly and you’re usually pretty save employing them. for instance, dark berry fruits are common to Cabernet Sauvignons. Chardonnay often offers apple and mineral flavors. Sauvignon Blancs can have tropical fruit overtones (especially those from New Zealand), or they can have more melon and grassy overtones like those in California.

The more you can quantify the differences, the better you can guide your guest. You don’t want to come off as a professor, but you want to show that you know what you’re talking about by using specific language, such as, “You should try this Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc with your grouper with lemon beurre blanc because it’s a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s got a zingy grapefruit flavor that goes well with the lemon and it’s acidic enough to cut through the cream of the sauce”. Or something like that.

Just make sure that you’re not just blatantly making stuff up. Just because some Cabernet Sauvignons have tobacco and cedar overtones doesn’t mean that the one that you’re “randomly” recommending will. You’re probably safe to say something specific-sounding but still generic like “dark berry fruit”.

This is where homework comes in handy. If you’re new to wines in general, starting with only the grapes that your restaurant offers is a good start. Then move to specific wines that you can get specific about. You might also check out some of my previous posts on wine. As I’ve written, there’s only so much you can cover in a blog. Fortunately, there are quite a few very good wine blogs and wine sites. Google is your friend.

I think just concentrating on wine will help you drive your wine sales. There’s no one single category of product that you serve that drives a check average more than wine.

Good luck and happy studying!

2 responses to “On Wine, Pt 4

  1. AK August 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    This is helpful, thanks! I’m making it my personal challenge to upsell wines… makes a big difference in tips. 😉

  2. Pingback: On Wine, Pt 4 « So You Want To Be A Waiter « Eugene, Oregon, Wines, and Vineyards

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