1. Make guests feel valued
The first interaction with your customers should be as soon as they step into your restaurant. Simple actions like eye contact and greetings will make a difference. Asking informal questions such as “how are you today?” or “are you celebrating a special occasion?” while showing customers to their table will make them feel appreciated and could offer an opportunity to suggest an aperitif or Champagne to start.
2. Give your guests time to breathe
Let people have a look at the menu, maybe bring some water to the table before asking whether they are ready to order. A minute to relax and become familiar with the restaurant will encourage customers to see what’s on offer instead of just ordering a familiar wine or the second on the list.
3. Personally engage with guests and encourage experimentation
A motivated and happy waiter will naturally build a rapport with a customer. Guests will find it easier to trust the recommendations of your waiter when they are genuine and not just trying to sell them a more expensive wine. Your customers have chosen to spend time at your place, make them feel special and suggest new things for them to try that will appeal to their personal tastes.
4. Equip staff with product knowledge
Knowing your food and drink menu is essential for any restaurant staff. However, to be able to upsell they need to understand the difference between your wines, spirits and cocktails and why they have a place on your drinks menu. Which one will complement your guest’s food choice? Which drink will offer something unusual for more adventurous customers? Which is similar to their usual favourite? Good understanding of grape varieties, wine regions and factors affecting the aroma and flavours will help staff to sell higher quality wines. Same principle applies to spirits.
5. Don’t forget the table once the food has arrived
The last think you want is for customers to have to worry about the service. A good moment to ask your guests whether they would like another drink is just before their bottle or glass is finished. Don’t wait until they call the waiter for more drinks. You will increase the number of customers that order a second bottle or glass if you offer the option before they even consider it.
6. Capitalise on the end of the meal
The end of the meal should also be considered an important part of the service and an opportunity to upsell. Did they enjoy the meal? How was the choice of drinks? What about a liquor or sweet wine before they go? This is a good moment for your waiter to find out about their experience and whether they enjoyed his/her recommendations. It will also leave a good memory and they will be more likely to come back and try new things.
7. Incentivise staff and customers
While pushing premium wines and spirits is clearly good for a business’ bottom line, staff may not see the direct benefits. Motivating staff through training or workplace tastings will encourage them to make an effort and can be a great team-building exercise. Incentivising the customer can also help. Good deals on wine pairings or ‘wines of the week’ can direct them towards a premium choice.
The WSET offers a wide range of professional wine courses at various locations across the UK.