Sommeliers are trained wine professionals who know how to store, serve and sell wine. These professional stewards add value to your wine programs and assist in controlling beverage costs by maintaining and monitoring your wine inventory. So just what can a sommelier provide for your restaurant?
Let’s examine this answer with a story. Rico Suave books reservations at your restaurant for an impressive first date with Bambi Jones. Shortly after being seated, she wants to order a bottle of wine. Rico looks down at the compendium of wine selections and is lost. Suddenly, he’s not feeling so suave. Enter the sommelier; sweeping in table side, he asks questions about flavor preferences and inquires about entree considerations. He then points out suggestions that will pair well with their orders and personal taste. His suggestions include three lovely bottles of cabernet sauvignon, each at varying price points. Rico confidently selects the one in his budget. The date goes well and Rico leaves a large tip. He leaves thinking that he has just discovered a secret dating weapon – and Rico will return.
If you carry a large selection of wine in your restaurant, you need to promote and protect your inventory. A sommelier will know what price points will maximize your profits while remaining acceptable to customers. He or she will take stock of your current inventory and will only add what is missing or low in availability.
Gain Trend Knowledge
A skilled sommelier will be knowledgeable of overages or shortages in certain wine growing regions. A surplus of pinot noir in California equals great deals for buying the varietal in bulk. Your sommelier will know this and will also know what bulk buy will be great for running a special and which can be shelved.
Educate Wait Staff
Sommeliers can share their love of wine with employees with an in-house wine education program. This enables the entire front of house staff to become comfortable with the wine list; resulting in a stronger grasp on upselling. Higher tabs with happy customers equal big tips and a happy staff…oh, and bigger profits for the business.
The sommelier can develop a comprehensive wine list with multiple price points; offering a variety of flavors for different budgets. This will include matching the wine list to your restaurant’s style and cuisine.
Connect With Your Customers
The sommelier can host a happy hour wine tasting. For example, offer a $12 flight of three one-ounce pours of Napa Valley reds. Customers will learn about the region and the elements of each pour. Increase profits and run a coinciding cheese platter or sandwich special.
During regular hours of service, the sommelier should remain available to guests in the dining area. When a new table is sat, he or she will make a brief introduction along with a presentation of the wine menu. This personal approach isn’t a hard sell, it’s friendly and inviting. The sommelier will help with bottle selection, presentation and pouring for customers.
Maybe you are too casual for a strolling sommelier to take residency in your dining room. Hire a sommelier as a consultant instead. This individual will come to your restaurant to advise you on how to save more and make more in your wine program.
If your restaurant stocks more than a house red and white, seek a higher return on your investment. Consider hiring a sommelier to assist in educating staff and stimulating wine sales. Keep wine cost manageable and customers coming back for more.