July 2006 Edition
Raising a Glass

More customers are looking for  wider choices in a glass of wine

 

As diners become more interested in wines, many restaurants are offering more options in wines by the glass.

“It’s a great idea,” says Gilberto Bojaca, Ontario Chair of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Offering wines by the glass provides an opportunity to increase profitability, offer more variety to diners, and create bonds with customers.

“I think that it most definitely improves the bottom line,” Bojaca says. “When people order by the glass, they usually drink more, because they don’t feel the restraint to order just one bottle.”

It also gives customers the opportunity to have a different wine with each course, which can mean bigger sales, and a better showcase for your menu.

 

Selection

 

Choosing which wines to serve is the first step in expanding a restaurant’s wine-by-the-glass repertoire.

“A house wine should be a wine that’s representative of the house,” Bojaca says, but many restaurants don’t put much thought into their house wines. The house wine shouldn’t be chosen solely because it’s cost effective or easily available. It should complement the menu and provide good value for the customer, which doesn’t necessarily mean it should be as cheap as possible. The wine should be worth the price charged by the restaurant.

“We’re looking for wines that appeal to people’s value to quality ratio,” Bojaca says.

He suggests that a good establishment such as a midrange bistro should be able to serve three whites and three reds by the glass. These selections should represent three different styles.

“A simple way to look at it is light, medium and full-bodied,” Bojaca says.

He also recommends changing the wine selections every so often, to keep regular customers interested and curious about your wine selections.

It can be a particular selling point to serve wines that offer something distinctive.

“They have a certain conversational twist, or a little bit of history behind it. Wines that are interesting,” Bojaca says. A bit of lore about where it comes from or how it’s made can help promote the wine.

 

Training

 

Good servers are a key factor in selling wines by the glass. It’s important for them to be able to describe the wines to offer, and to know what to do if a customer rejects a wine.

“You have to train the staff. Everyone on the floor should be able to taste the wine before they can recommend it to the consumer,” Bojaca says. “The service should be engaging.”

Customers will often ask for a glass of house wine. A server can then ask what they would prefer: White or red? Something light in style, or with a bit more body? Do you prefer wines of a certain region, country or grape variety? Engaging the customer in conversation

makes it easy for them to try something new.

“Knowledge brings confidence. Confidence brings enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is engaging, which in the bottom line is good,” Bojaca says. “For the establishment, you’ll be able to sell more. For the servers they’ll be able to get more tips.”

Servers who can inform customers about the wines they can order by the glass sound credible and instil confidence.

“It will give me the sense that he’s a professional,” Bojaca says. “And not only that, it creates a relationship.”

That bond with the customer, and the interest in the wines and the menu that is created by engaging them, may be what brings the customer back — and what makes them bring friends to your restaurant.

 

Promotion

 

To sell a lot of wine by the glass, the place has to be wine friendly. Don’t ignore the basics: ensure that you’re storing wine properly and serving it at the right temperature, in

proper glassware of the best feasible quality that is well maintained and clean.

Bojaca adds that there are elements of atmosphere that contribute to a customer wanting to order a glass of wine.

“You see labels, you see bottles, you see displays, you see all those wonderful things that make our minds engage.”

These elements can attract customers to your wine offerings in the same way that the sight and aromas of food carried past by servers piques appetite and interest in menu items. Combined with suitable wine selections and a well-trained staff, these factors can form the foundation of strong wine sales.

 

By Patricia Nicholson