Looking to sell more wine bottles at your restaurant? It’s true that guests usually prefer wine sold by the glass, but with the right strategies and a knowledgeable staff, you can boost your wine-by-the-bottle sales.

how to sell wine

Train Servers and Host Staff Wine Tastings

A knowledgeable staff is the key to increasing your bottle sales, but make sure that your training is effective. Wine is an incredibly complex industry, and servers can easily become overwhelmed if you try to present too much information at once. Instead, provide basic knowledge regarding grape varieties and regions. Depending on your wine list, you may want to provide more detailed information to your staff when appropriate. 

Training your staff on how to sell wine will require patience and ongoing “refresher” training sessions.

Another great way to get your staff more familiar with your wine selection is to host staff wine tastings. You may offer three tastings of the same type of wine: one rich, one unoaked and a third less expensive option. These tastings will give your servers the opportunity to experience the differences between each wine and to become familiar with the characteristics of the grape. 

Timing is Key

When training your staff on how to sell wine to customers, stress the importance of timing and recognizing opportunities. 

If the customer is glancing at the wine-by-the-bottle section, servers can take this opportunity to offer some assistance in their selection process. In order for this to be successful, your servers must know the menu and how the wines will pair with it to steer them towards a bottle that will serve them best. 

There is also a chance that the customer will know exactly which bottle they want, and in this case, the server should give them exactly what they want without offering additional suggestions or pushing for a different wine.

Additionally, your servers should be able to recognize the point at which it becomes more practical and economical to buy a bottle instead of a glass. If a customer plans to order three or more glasses of the same wine, it’s generally less expensive and more practical to simply order a bottle instead. 

sell wine bottles

Focus on Your Wine Menu

Staff training is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to wine selling. It’s also important to ensure that you’re using the right words on your menu. 

There are some customers who prefer to make their own decision when choosing wine. The words you use in your descriptions should help them make their decision. Along with the basics – region of origin, year and type – you should also include descriptive words, like: bold, fruity, light, earthy, sweet, dry or dessert. These words give customers a better idea of what the wine will taste like and how well it will pair with their meal.

Make sure that your wine menu is updated and current. The last thing you want is for your servers to recommend a wine that is no longer in inventory. It also shows that you invest in your wine program and update your selection regularly. 

Give Opportunities for Tastings

The best way to sell wine is to give customers a chance to sample your selections. There are several ways to do that.

Consider opening your bar for tasting events. You don’t necessarily need to offer samples of every wine on your menu, but hosting the occasional tasting or wine pairing event can bring in new customers on a slow night. It’s also a great way for your regulars to try out different wines and potentially order a bottle in the future. 

Another option is to bring in a few bottles of something new each month. Promote these new wines on your email list, and invite your regulars to come in for a glass (or bottle) of your featured wine.

basic wine knowledge for servers

Open the Door for Suggestions

The server’s relationship with the customer starts the moment they walk through the door. By developing a friendly repertoire and engaging in conversation, server opens the door for opportunities to offer suggestions.

If the customers feel comfortable with the server and the server is confident and knowledgeable about the wine, they may ask for some guidance. This is the perfect opportunity for your server to recommend a bottle of wine that will pair well with their meals.

When servers take the time to talk about wine selection, it’s much easier and more natural to suggest appetizers and other menu options. This helps form a relationship and makes guests more likely to consider the server’s recommendations.

Personalized Service

When training your staff on how to sell wine as a server, another important thing to focus on is delivering personalized service. 

Each guest should be treated as an individual, and servers should take the time to listen to what they want. If the customer seems to be unsure about which bottle of wine to order, this is the ideal opportunity for the server to jump in and offer suggestions. But it’s important for your servers not to be too pushy or to come off as salesy. 

how to serve wine in a restaurant

Visual Appeal

Want to know how to upsell wine? Use the power of suggestion. Having the right wine glasses laid out on the table can influence guests to order wine. Seeing other customers enjoy glasses or bottles of wine may also encourage them to indulge. In this particular scenario, you’re planting seeds and encouraging an upsell before your servers even open their mouths.

In order for visual appeal to be effective, you need the right glassware. The right wine glasses will elevate the presentation and also the perceived value of the wine. 

Tell Stories

Customers want to learn more about the wines you sell so that they can make a more informed decision. One of the best ways to do this is to tell stories about the wines that you offer. 

Romanticizing the drinking experience will encourage customers to order a bottle and enjoy it with their meal. Use descriptive language, and offer unique bits of information (when applicable) about the region, identity of the winemaker, or the winemaking technique.

Make sure that your staff can share these little bits of knowledge with customers. They don’t necessarily need to memorize the descriptions, but they should be able to offer a unique or memorable detail about the wine. 

how to sell wine to customers

Quick Service

Ideally, servers should get customer wine orders as soon as they are seated. This will increase the chance that they will order a second bottle of wine before the evening is through. If servers wait too long to get the wine order, customers may instead choose a BTG wine instead of a bottle. 

Once the order is placed, the time that it takes to arrive at the table should also be as short as possible. Bottles should be easy to retrieve and serve to increase the chance of the table ordering another bottle during the meal.

Selling wine by the bottle can be a challenge for restaurants, particularly when most tables consist of smaller parties. However, if your staff is knowledgeable and you implement the right strategies, you can increase your bottle sales and encourage customers to order more bottles in the future.