angles to make the same check averages
these days.
Those angles can mean filling in the
other parts of a guest’s experience rather
than focusing on a landing a high-price
bottle. “We have a decent half-bottle se-
lection,” says Polakovicova, which gives
her staff something pricier than by-the-
glass selections when people want to start
with white wine or bubbly. At least once
a night she finds herself working for that
second bottle by reminding a guest, “You
don’t have to finish the whole bottle; you
can take the rest of the bottle home with
you. Good wines will be even better the
next day.” It makes the sale, even though
Polakovicova says, “99% of the time
they finish it here anyway.” (Note: not
all states permit guests to take home un-
finished bottles.) She says dessert is also
often a missed opportunity: “Two desserts
and after-dinner drinks can be another
$50 or $60 on the check.”
anchored by the list
A lot of upselling is being prepared with
a well-organized, smartly priced wine list.
“We try to underprice items people know,”
says Cauchon. “It gives the perception of
value.” That makes it easier for servers to
upsell less familiar brands: “Say you’ve
got Honig Cab from Napa Valley for $75,
a brand that’s not unheard of, then you
put something at $10-$15 more that’s a
natural upsell. Mount Eden, for example,
for a more Bordeaux style, a more
elegant wine,” he explains.
Once the right wines are on the list at
the right prices, the staff needs to know
about them. Cauchon says at Strip House,
their newest property, they taste one or
two wines each day, and he follows up:
“I’ll ask, ‘Who was here yesterday? Talk us
through the Beaux Freres Pinot Noir we
tasted.’ It puts peer pressure on them to
do a good job. At the end of the process
we agree on how we’re going to present it;
it’s important that guests get same answer
from different people.”
Polakovicova says she recently sourced
25 samples from suppliers, all high-end
handsells, and did a massive staff training
session on them. “If you get every single
server passionate about a wine, it’s going
to sell,” she notes.
Metcalf says product knowledge gives
a server confidence, which allows him/her
to win a guest’s trust. He adds that it helps
to dress like you know what you’re talk-
ing about. He’s worked in a suit, and in a
T-shirt; wearing the latter he notes, “you
have to do more to convince people you
have the knowledge and ability.”
Ultimately, “product knowledge is
everything when it comes to selling or
upselling,” says Kristie Petrullo of Petrullo
Wine Consulting. “Gaining the trust of a
guest is extremely important, and you do
that by letting them know that you are
an expert in your field.” That said, the
concept of upselling sticks in her craw. “I
find that upselling to every guest is short-
sighted. Understanding what they are
really asking for is more important, as in
the type of experience they want. This
establishes a relationship between you
and the guest and usually means that they
will come back. That is more important to
the bottom line. One good night in sales
is less important than a guest that comes
back once a week because they know that
you’ll have what they want and not try to
gouge them.”
n
Epic Roasthouse, San Francisco
n
Recommend a premium brand first
when a guest asks for a cocktail and
doesn’t name a brand.
n
Try to sell a second bottle or glass
before the guests receive their entrée;
otherwise they may decide to just nurse
the first. Suggesting a switch from white
to red (for pairing reasons, for example)
can help make that happen.
n
Offer the next drink before the guest
finishes their current one, so there’s no
interruption in their experience.
n
When feasible, upsell wines that
will pair better with the guests’ food;
even if they’re not interested in pair-
ing, they will likely drink it more quickly,
enabling second glass/bottle sales.
n
Favor sparkling wines; people tend to
drink them more quickly.
n
When two or more guests order the
same wine by-the-glass, upsell them to
a half-bottle or bottle of the same or a
similar wine.
n
Ask questions and recommend what
you think the guests will like, not your
own favorites.
n
A quality upsell—recommending a
better product at the same price—or
even a downsell to a lower price point
can improve the guest’s experience
and increase the tip percentage and
likelihood a guest will return, even if it
doesn’t increase the actual check.
n
Keep in mind the possibility of selling
two bottles of a cheaper wine rather
than one expensive bottle—though two
expensive bottles is even better!
n
Know your products so your guests
learn they can trust your advice.
10
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