This is the third article in our special series–Sales, Service, Taste–on how to develop a successful wine training program.
SALES: THE SECOND BOTTLE
Since 1983, when wine first exceeded beer and liquor sales in our restaurants, it has become increasingly important to take advantage of your customers’ keen interest in wine.
Customers who begin with wine in your lounge or bar seem more likely to order more wine at the dining room table than those who do not. This certainly represents a solid sales opportunity to offer these guests new and different wine selections with their dinner. This trend also suggests that a more aggressive attempt at merchandising wine in your bar can make suggesting wine easier for your waitstaff in the dining room.
If you decide to increase your emphasis on the wine in the lounge, here are some points to remember:
1. When ordered in the bar/lounge, wine is often one of the first impressions of the quality that your operation offers; make sure the wine you serve is a quality product.
2. Make sure you let the customer know that they are getting a recognized brand when it comes to house wine. Make an effort to pour house wines from the bottle. This shows that you’re proud of what you serve (a glass of red or white on a cocktail tray has no perceived quality or brand identity).
3. When in the lounge, try to pour wines from the bottle so that the customer can see the label. If the customer knows what they’ve been served in the lounge, it’s easier for them to request the same wine in the dining room.
One of the best ways to increase your average check is, of course, to sell more appetizers and desserts. Similarly with wine, the sale of that “second bottle’ can significantly increase profits. Here are some points to teach your sales staff that will enable them to sell the second bottle more easily:
Obviously, the second bottle can’t be recommended until the customer has been served the first one. Stress the importance of taking the wine order with the food order. This way, the waiter can get the first bottle on the table as soon as possible.
In order to sell the second bottle, serve the first bottle with the appetizers so that a new wine can be suggested with the main course. In order to use “The Recommended Approach,’ you must train your staff how to create the opportunity to sell the second bottle. Once the fundamental technique is understood everyone will become more successful salespersons. Examine the appropriate steps to be taken.
Assume you’re serving a party of four persons who have just ordered a bottle of wine.
Make sure that your staff brings the bottle to the table first (before serving the appetizers). This gets everyone involved in tasting the wine.
Just before the main course is served, teach your staff to approach the table and pour the remaining wine into the glasses.
Have the staff then say . . . “Your dinner is almost ready to be served, would you like to try a different wine with the main course or perhaps you’d like to stay with another bottle of your first choice.’
By using the latter approach your staff will be much more successful in raising their average checks, not to mention their tips!
Remember, it all hinges on getting the first bottle served early, the second should soon easily follow.
SERVICE: HANDLING WINE
Good service in the restaurant is something that customers expect and usually receive. Exceptional service, especially when it comes to wine is what creates particular interest in your operation such that it becomes a “wine destintation.’
Your goal should be to have everyone who handles wine in the dining room, do it with an air of professionalism. Customers are not used to seeing professional wine service because most waitstaff persons haven’t been trained properly. Here, is your opportunity to polish your staff’s wine service skills and impress your clientele.
Basically what you need to do is to educate your waiters and waitresses as to what the customer likes and dislikes regarding the service of wine. Here are some things to focus on:
All staff should carry bottles of wine in the dining room with an air of respect for their contents. Many waiters can be seen running with bottles, finally plunking them on the table as they would a bottle of catsup. Teach them to move slowly and gracefully in approaching the table. This leads the guests to believe something special is about to arrive. The bottle should be placed gently on the table with the label facing all the guests.
The capsule should be cut cleanly around the top without picking up the bottle from the table. Care must be taken not to tear the capsule as it is part of the aesthetic presentation of the wine. Never twist the bottle; twist the corkscrew until all of its five coils have completely penetrated the cork. This ensures a secure grip on the cork so that it can be removed in its entirety.
Once the cork is removed it should be placed to the right of the host. Never smell the cork! The cork’s purpose is to protect the wine from air and thus, is inspected to ensure that it’s not all dried out. The wine itself is what should be smelled; teaching your waitstaff not to smell corks, and why, is an important step in improving your wine service.
Careful attention must be paid when the wine is actually poured. Most often this is done in a hurried fashion. Time should be taken to pour slowly and elegantly, again showing respect for what’s inside the bottle. Never let the mouth of the bottle touch the wine glass. Handling the wine with respect each time it is poured has a profound effect on the image of professionalism of your operation.
Many customers do not feel comfortable with the ritual of tasting the wine to see if it is all rights. I don’t blame them. After all, we don’t ask them to taste their steak, do we?
In order to make the customer more at ease with the initial sampling procedure, ask that the person who pours the wine for the host stand out of direct contact (sight) with them. Many waiters pour a taste sample and then stare at the host. This makes the person uncomfortable, leading them to rush through the procedure just to get it over with. This is precisely what inhibits people from ordering wine with their meal.
The term body refers to how the wine feels in the mouth or how it “fills’ the mouth. In all wines we find sugars, alcohol, glycerine, acids, tannins, etc. Some wines, we say, are better endowed than others because they have more of these particular substances. When you describe a wine’s feeling in the mouth, you say it is either “light-bodied,’ “medium-bodied,’ or “full-bodied.’
Light-bodied wines are easy to drink. They go down as easily as water. They go down as easily as water.
Medium-bodied wines have more substance to them; they seem to weigh more on the palate. They fill the mouth with a richer, more velvety quality.
Full-bodied wines make their presence known in the mouth. They are assertive, they can coat the tongue. A simple analogy is that light-bodied wines are like water, medium-bodied wines can be compared to skim-milk, and full-bodied wines are like rich, whole milk.
Body is an important concept when it comes to matching wines with foods. Light-bodied wines go better with simple, everyday foods that don’t require seasonings or sauces. As the wines become full-bodied, they tend to go better with dishes of a more assertive nature. The more intensely flavored (strong spices, rich sauces) the food, the more full-bodied the wines must be so as not to be dominated by the food flavors.
In order to ensure that your staff is comfortable with the term “body,’ and how to use it, you should conduct tastings to demonstrate wines of differing bodies. The easiest way is to start with a simple house white wine and compare it simultaneously with a full-bodied Chardonnay from California (e.g. Edna Valley, Chalone, and Far Niete.)
Don’t forget to conduct these tastings for your staff in a blind, side-byside comparison format. Then it will be easier to perceive the taste difference that you’ll be trying to demonstrate.
After they have tasted the two wines, ask them to identify on the scale where each wine falls in relation to body as far as the other is concerned.
Once your staff is familiar with describing wines of extreme differences, than you should compare two Chardonnays blind. This is where you should start if your staff is more advanced than others.