How to Increase Your Wine Sales
The most effective way to increase your restaurant’s wine sales is to care. A lot. Everyday. In fact, the most tried-and-true method of increasing wine sales is to make it part of your company mission. This means talking about it with staff members on a daily basis, posting pictures and descriptions throughout the kitchen, offering specials printed on menu inserts, and offering rewards for top sales. Effective wine sales must be a cultural priority that influences the entire staff.
Sound far-fetched? Restaurant managers and operators have far too few opportunities to shape the culture of their business. Sure, they hire, train, and schedule the people that fill their business. But the restaurant generally takes the shape of its employees, who may have their own ideas on what to sell. The best way to boost wine sales over the long haul is to let the priority infiltrate the hiring, training, and scheduling processes. Make it your restaurant’s mission to sell wine, and reap the rewards over the years.
Here are a few keys to indoctrinating your staff on the fine art of selling wine.
High wine sales have to be part of the training process. In most restaurants, sales tactics are not discussed during server training. They should be in all upscale restaurants and most restaurants that sell wine. Trainees who are exposed to tastings, descriptions and recommendations from the first days of employment get the hint – wine sales are critical to job success.
Re-training is another important strategy for employees, especially those whose sales totals are lagging. It’s a good idea to tab a few motivated, high-selling servers to discuss successful tips and favorite bottles to sell.
Wine tastings get employees thinking about wine, whether they like the wine being tasted or not. They force servers to linger on the wine, apply descriptive terms, and learn the characteristics of different varietals. They’re also a great way to get the staff together and discuss what is working and what is not when it comes to wine sales.
Nearly every wine vendor should be willing and eager to discuss wines with staff members. They should also be encouraged to drop off samples, conduct tastings, and offer discounts for large purchases. A good vendor can be an operator’s right hand when it comes to merchandising wines. They know the guests and the strengths of the staff, along with those of the winemaker. It’s worthwhile to cultivate helpful vendor relationships that lead to lasting sales success.
In short, contests work. In most restaurants with large inventories, not using wine-selling contests to boost sales is lazy. They motivate most employees by shining attention on winners. They also reveal who is not working to improve sales. A good contest can offer rewards provided by a wine vendor at no cost to the operator. It can cover the entire inventory, or specific wines that the operator wants to unload. Ultimately, there’s no reason not to use contests as a tool to increase sales.
Employ Big Sellers
Most successful server staffs are a money-motivated group, and big wine sellers in the next section over can be a great motivator. This is especially true when that seller’s tips are a reflection of those sales. The big sellers of the sales floor should be rewarded with good tables, sections, and schedules. New employees, and those lagging behind, should see tangible rewards that go to the top sellers, and be motivated by the example.
Helpful Sales Tips
A few helpful tips can be all it takes to turn a server into a wine-selling expert:
• Suggest Higher-end Wines: Follow this by recommending a wine at a mid-range price point that is just as good. Don’t mention the price; simply let the guest notice the difference and place the order.
• Tell a Good Story: An anecdote from personal experience or a morsel of wine knowledge can tip the scale in your favor. Regaling guests with the story of the mysterious woman on the bottle of Adelsheim Pinot Noir often wins them over.
• Suggest Pairings: Don’t merely suggest a pairing, but evoke the complimentary flavors of an entrée and wine to get a mouth-watering response from guests.
• Act like an Expert: A server who can sell a wine he’s never tried is a true artist. Many great sales follow a key descriptive phrase taken from the back of the bottle. Great sellers speak like experts even when they’re not.
• Know Your Guests: Great servers gauge the table based on the occasion and potential to buy. Overselling and underselling are equally bad mistakes.
• Decent Boldness: Great servers and sommeliers have the kindness to develop rapport and the boldness to recommend a huge wine for a huge occasion. This strategy relies on guests who trust the expertise of the employee.
A culture that values sales can turn most good new hires into wine-selling experts. Start indoctrinating your staff on the value of being a good salesperson, and watch your business reap the benefits.
Here are some more tips on how to sell wine to your guests.