During my time as a General Manager there were a number of challenges we faced when it came to wine service. Now I’m working from the supply side I see the same challenges faced by my customers.

  1. Wine Menus. First impressions count for a hell of a lot. When the customer comes through those doors they are taking everything in and are forming their opinion of your establishment in those first few minutes. Usually the first thing they are handed are the Wine Menus. I advise customers now to make sure these are smart and concise. Customers like to be guided through a well thought out list. Staff recommendations also help at this point (this will be covered later with staff training).
  2. Staff knowledge. The majority of customers want to do as little work as possible when dining out and when staff make informed recommendations these won’t go ignored. The only way FOH staff can be confident in giving customers advice is through training. Also, thankfully the only way you can learn more about wine is by drinking more wine! This being said I can’t stress the importance of staff training and having staff try the wines. We do this by giving staff blank tasting sheets so they are able to communicate how the wine tastes to them. We then, rather than looking at the full food menu we will pick key dishes and pair them with chosen wines from the wine list. This means the staff only have to remember a couple of key lines.
    1. Upselling. By picking a couple of key lines we can give the staff confidence to upsell these to customers when asked for recommendations.
    2. Serving the wine. The main focus on serving is confidence. Guiding staff through the stages of serving wine, from showing the customer the bottle to pouring the wine. We have a number of ways to help aid in training, from role play to our industry leading online training platform.

To some up knowledge is king. The more information we can give to the FOH staff the better chance they have of gaining the confidence to serve wine effectively. This also will make the job easier for your staff, help them to enjoy their job a lot more and aid in staff retention. Lastly, keep encouraging staff to try new wines and new dishes. This makes their job of recommendations easier and makes the customer feel at ease and safe in the knowledge the FOH staff know their product!