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a wall of wine barrels at an angle in a basement

Raise your glasses: Wine sales are on the rise. According to Wines & Vines, U.S. wine sales increased 5 percent from June 2016 to June 2017, meaning a $3.4 billion increase. Capitalize on demand by making sure your winery is providing top-shelf service.

At a winery or vineyard, the sale of a bottle of wine is determined by much more than the legs on the glass or the tannins on your tongue. For many, drinking wine is about the 360-degree experience. This restaurant customer experience might include providing a picturesque view, making them feel like they are on vacation, and of course any free pours that are handed out.

For some, wine bars recreate the atmosphere of wine country, a feeling of relaxation and luxury that’s experienced when they sit down for their first, second and third glass. For others, it’s just a cocktail bar with a different menu. Follow these tips to make sure you’re making the most of every customer.

Friends clinking glasses with wine above dinner table

1. Distinguish your clientele and serve them on different levels.

It is possible to make everyone happy. If you choose to promote to college kids jumping on the wine train, you’ll have no trouble selling cheap wines at beer prices. To pour more of your top rack wines, market to those who are used to paying more than $12 a bottle. Avoid clashes of interest by hosting wine tasting happy hours which attract professional clientele a few hours before college kids are ready to hit the town.

Most importantly, make sure you’re tracking and rewarding your VIPs through a loyalty program. You can use old-school punch cards, but we recommend integrating your loyalty program with your winery point of sale system so all of your data is in a single place.

2. Partner with local wine shops and vineyards.

Partner with local wine shops and vineyards to open cross-promotional opportunities. Get to know these business owners and open the door to exclusive wines, private labels and discounted prices. Wine shops can offer hand-selected bottles from all over the world, while vineyards give your rack some local charm and advertising slots.

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3. Offer tastings and let guests choose their favorites.

Since experience often trumps taste in wine selection, let your customers decide what’s “on tap.” When establishing the selection of wines to stock your shelves, try a seasonal tasting party where VIP customers can buy a ticket to taste each one you’re considering for the upcoming season.

4. Educate like a sommelier.

Don’t hire a bartender to pour wine. Hire someone who’s already in the know, or who will be intimately familiar with your wines. Ask them to join you when visiting local vineyards. Half of wine tasting is education, and your server should be able to tell customers where the wine came from, what kind of soil the grapes were grown in and what type of grapes are used in the blend.

photo of someone pouring champagne at an angle into a flute on a crowded table

5. Start marketing flights before glasses.

A wine flight is like the appetizer. Offer wine flights in order to give guests a chance to sample your favorite bottles while delivering a slightly higher price tag. Once your guests find a wine they adore, they’ll likely splurge on a full glass.

Don’t forget to offer simple accompaniments that deepen the wine’s complexity. Add cheese plates and antipasto to the menu for a touch of luxury and practicality. Guests can sample more if they have food to keep them going.

With the right combination of wine, personality and environment, wine bars have the opportunity to evoke those vineyard vibes every time you pour a glass. Want more restaurant marketing strategies?

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As part of Upserve’s family of more than 10,000 restaurants, The Chef is Restaurant Insider’s secret weapon in the kitchen. As a restaurant expert in all things marketing, menu building, management, training and more, restaurateurs trust The Chef and the award-winning Restaurant Insider to dish out the ingredients needed to make your business a sweet success.
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