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Four Easy Steps to More Wine Sales

July/August 2007

By Heath Porter

Training your employees is the most efficient way to see a return on your profits and investments. Whether its food, booze, service or answering the phone, all staffs can better themselves and your establishment with knowledge. Daily training on the small stuff is the easiest way to avoid the big stuff.

Cover the basics-yeah, I know, “Duh!,” but it’s easy to take too much for granted. Explain incorporating air into wine and examining its color. Demonstrate what could happen if a server used his or her right hand to pour wine from the guest’s left, or why to wipe the lip of the bottle before pouring.

Be redundant. Every time we taste we cover the same things about each wine: tasting profile, origin and fit. The tasting profile can be vast or miniscule, but I like the basics: Is the wine light, medium or full-bodied? Does the wine taste of fruits or earth? What kind of fruit? What foods pair with the wine? Consistency is key. With origin we look to know where the wine is from, how produced, or some quirky detail about the winery or producer. These things help understand why the wine tastes as it does and of course give selling points. Many more bottles have been sold because of the story behind it than the juice in it. Where does it fit in your program? Is it great with swordfish? Making sense of your thinking on the wine helps the staff feel “in the know.”

Compare the wines. Put a 100 percent maloactic Napa Chardonnay with new oak next to Chablis. One smells of mango and lemon cream pie tossed with buttered popcorn, and one smells like lemon zest picked from a chalky oyster bed. Before the comparison how many employees thought the Chablis was full-bodied or the Napa chard was really acidic? It’s going to cost you dollars to try the wines, but familiarity builds confidence and knowledge. Besides, the Help Wanted ads start at $35 per day and the Chablis costs $15.

Test the employees in writing and in a restaurant setting. Put together ten situations or wine questions and set a table for pre-shift. Pull the questions from a hat and act them out with timing and accuracy. Use examples from the last month on the floor and mistakes from times past. Just remember, luck is when preparation meets opportunity!

Heath Porter is Sommelier at The Cloister on Sea Island. He won Best Young Sommelier Hawaii 2004 and holds an Introductory Certificate in the Court of Master Sommeliers 2004.


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