Simple ideas for better restaurant wine service

It seems every restaurant’s wine service can be easily improved. With so much attention being paid to craft cocktails today, let’s take some of that energy and attention to detail and apply it to the wine program. 

Here’s a smattering of ideas that any restaurant or wine bar can use:

  • Have all wines by the glass poured tableside so the guest can see the label. This is done successfully at all Eataly locations.
  • Train servers to put their thumb on the upper corner of the wine label when pouring. It keeps the label facing forward without having to think about it.
  • Proof those glasses! Then proof them again.
  • What temperature are you serving at? Do you really know or are you guessing? (Your kitchen has a thermometer available. Try it out.)
  • Keep a three ring binder with tech sheets on all your wines, in page protectors. Organize it so the staff can easily find information as needed. Your sales reps can help put this together (stay on them, give them a deadline of ‘by the end of the week’).
  • On slower evenings have “obscure samples” for all guests that order a wine. Here’s how it works: have one odd but delicious white and one odd but delicious red open. For every wine by the glass that goes out, also send out a one ounce free pour of the obscure wine, and have the server explain to guest what it is.
  • Test servers on the physical act of opening bottles. You can have them open the by the glass options, or ask your distributor for a case of old wine that they are going to toss out, just for the practice of opening bottles (then just dump it out … don’t try to sell it).
  • Spot quiz servers on wine knowledge. Be sure the managers have a sheet of questions they can reference.
  • Have new servers help with inventory every week. Then they have to hold the bottles, look at the labels, and know what is what.
  • Simplify your ordering by having one spreadsheet that you keep inventory on, then send it CC to all of your sales reps. Let them see what you are ordering from the other distributors. No need for multiple phone calls or multiple emails. Include on the spreadsheet a line for bottle replacements from breakage, cork taint, or staff training.
  • Never forget the big question: why do you buy a new wine? Convey the reasons to the service staff.