of the day. Make it a bargain wine by
the glass, something you’ve bought at a
discount. Customers appreciate that. Give
them a deal and they will remember and
talk about your restaurant.”
Featuring a particular wine or group
of wines as a special is another good
promotion. Some restaurants put together
a half-price wine list one night a week.
Others may have a wine-of-the-week or a
wine-of-the-month promotion. These can
be brought to the attention of guests via
table tents. “But I prefer to see informed
wait staff do that job,” Schmid says.
Schmid suggests that whenever possible,
servers have a chance to meet the
winemakers who come to town. “It’s a plus
for the customer when the servers can say
they know the winemaker,” he says.
As an alternative to or in addition to selling
wine by the glass, offering flights of wine
is a good marketing technique and can
add to customers’ enjoyment by allowing
them to do a food-and-wine pairing at their
table. Instead of offering a six-ounce glass
of one wine, offer two-ounce pours of
three predetermined wines or flights.
A good way to engage servers in promoting
wine is to run contests for them, with the
winner receiving one or more bottles of
wine or some other prize. Sometimes, local
distributors will help out with incentives.
“Then customers can decide which of
the wines they prefer with the dish they
are eating,” says Albert Schmid, CEC,
CCE, CCA, chef-instructor at Sullivan
University’s National Center for Hospitality
Studies and program director of the
university’s new online associate of
science degree in beverage management.
Wine promotions—tastings, by-the-glass,
flights and special offers—coupled with
a knowledgeable wait staff can help
draw diners to your venue.
GET SERVERS INTO THE ACT
Your wait staff is your front line when
it comes to pleasing customers and
promoting your food and wine. Just as
they need to be familiar with each dish
on the menu, they need to have a good
understanding of the wines on your list.
“We run separate contests for bartenders
and servers,” Harper explains. “They get
their names in a hat for every 50 glasses
of wine sold. Bottle sales are counted as
multiple glasses. Flights are counted for a
“We have our servers taste wines
regularly—we want them to have an idea
of what wines go well with which foods,”
Harper says. “That way, they are able to
recommend a wine with every entrée and
can adjust with an alternate wine if the
customer indicates a preference for, say, a
white instead of a red.”
At Chiara Bistro, the person with the
highest sales for the night gets his or her
name in a drawing.
While traditional print advertising may be
used to advertise wine promotions, most
restaurateurs today rely on the Internet to
get the word out. Social media, e-blasts, Web
sites and e-mail newsletters are good ways
to create excitement about your promotions.
And, whatever wine promotions you run, keep
your customers’ comfort level in mind. Elkhay
says, “It’s good to make a big deal when a
customer orders a really special bottle of
wine. But customers should never be made
to feel stupid or bad about a wine selection.”
Suzanne Hall has been writing about chefs,
restaurants, food and wine from her home in
Soddy Daisy, Tenn., for more than 25 years.