wine being poured on the table after waiter sold it to a customer.

Wine sales can add a lot to your profits, but only if your servers are selling the wine. Yes, some use server tricks and tips to sell more wine, but we’ve come up with a five-step process to increase wine sales with no trickery involved.

With profit margins low on meals, beverages from the bar are key to boosting those profits. The wine list can be intimidating for some servers, and without confidence in selling wine, that may lead to lower wine sales overall.

With a few new wine selling techniques, you can boost the knowledge of your servers and increase those wine sales…
Set out 3 glasses and pour 3 examples of the same type of wine, such as 3 different wines made with Chardonnay

1- Host staff wine tastings

There really is no substitute for actual tasting when it comes to learning about wine. Wine tasting should be part of new hire training and an ongoing activity for all staff members. This can seem like an overwhelming task, but approach it from an easier and fun angle. Don’t focus on having a server taste every wine on the list and know each and every bottle, instead train them in broader wine categories and focus on each one at a time.

red wine being poured into wine glasses

One effective technique is to set out 3 glasses and pour 3 examples of the same type of wine, such as 3 different wines made with Chardonnay. Choose one that is a good example of a rich, oaked California Chardonnay, an unoaked from Chablis, and a third less expensive example from Australia. Tasters will really understand what the differences are when tasted side by side and learn the characteristics of the grape. Consider doing this with major grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Sparkling for a basic understanding of each.

Choose one that is a good example of a rich, oaked California Chardonnay, an unoaked from Chablis, and a third less expensive example from Australia.

Don’t forget to keep it fun. Encourage tasters to talk about what they’re smelling and tasting. Doing this in a small group helps enhance everyone’s experience and they’ll all learn more from each other.

Ramping up server training at your restaurant? Check out this guide. 

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2- Teach servers basic wine knowledge

There are endless grapes being used to make wine around the world, and more and more wine regions are exporting their wines. Rather than overwhelming servers with geography lessons, offer basic knowledge on grape varieties and regions. Depending on your wine list, you may want to offer some more detailed insight where appropriate. For example, if you have a vast selection of French wines, it will be helpful to let servers know information such as Sancerre being made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, but it’s not worth the brain space to know which vintages in Sancerre are better than others.

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red wine in a restaurant

3- Focus on wine categories

Depending on the size of your wine list, it could be nearly impossible for servers to memorize the detailed descriptions of every single wine. Instead of scaring them, train them on broader categories of wine. Come up with descriptions such as Bold & Fruity, Bright & Crisp and train them on which bottles fall into which categories. This allows them to ask a diner if they like their white wines bright and crisp, or round and rich, which allows for the opportunity to point them in the right direction and sell them a good bottle.

The 5 Best Server Tips and Tricks

4- Broad food pairings

While it’s a good idea to have some specific pairings in mind for popular dishes, don’t go too crazy with specific food pairings. Instead, keep with the idea of having broad categories to guide your servers. Give them suggestions like a crisp white works well with fried foods or charred meats work well with an earthy red. Having that little bit of knowledge will go a long way in helping servers feel confident they’re pointing diners in the right direction.

Don’t forget to keep it fun. Encourage tasters to talk about what they’re smelling and tasting.

5- Sell the story

The average diner wants to know something about a bottle of wine, but they don’t necessarily need to know detailed tasting notes. If someone wants that kind of detail, it’s perfectly acceptable to summon your most knowledgeable staff member over for a more in-depth discussion. Instead, train servers on knowing a detail of the wine’s story that they can share, even if it’s not something super specific. “This winery is located on the coast of France.” or “This bottle is from Patagonia, the southernmost wine growing region in South America.”

It’s all about server education when it comes to wine.  

Click here for a detailed guide to increase sales

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.