Suggestive Selling – Alcoholic Beverages

Are your servers simply order takers?  What can you do to help them sell more?  The simple, yet highly effective way is to teach them to suggestive sell.  The more your service team knows about the club’s food and beverages, the better able they will be to make dining suggestions to members and guests.  Alcoholic beverages present a wide variety of upselling opportunities:

Know the Club’s Premium Brands. One of the easiest ways to increase the average check is to suggest premium brands of alcohol.  Not only must they know and correctly pronounce their names, but they should know what makes them special.  Things they need to know include: the age such as a 12-year old scotch or fine bourbon, proprietary flavorings as in single malt scotches or the 10 ingredients in Bombay Sapphire gin, or quality of production and distillation such as in Belvedere vodka’s being distilled four times.

Beers.  For many years, there was a great consolidation of local and regional breweries that resulted in a handful of dominant companies offering very similar products.  In recent years, though, there has been an explosion of small, niche breweries offering well-crafted, artisanal beers of unique tastes.  The more your servers know about beer varieties such as, stout, ales, lagers, and pilsners, and the specific brands you carry, either bottled or on tap, the better able they are to suggest a particular beer with a particular meal.  Often, a member or guest will ask what beers you carry.  This is the perfect opportunity to ask them whether they like a lightly flavored or more robust beer, and then suggest one of the club’s premium brands.  The key to success is knowledge.  Get more ideas by talking to your bartender, searching online for information, or buying any one of a number of recently published beer guides.

Wines.  Wines present an almost infinite body of knowledge to truly master, but servers can start with the basics such as grape varieties, countries and locales of origin, wine terminology, and common wine descriptors.  As with any other body of knowledge, start small, learn the basics, and learn something new every day or week.  In time they’ll be a fount of knowledge and wine information.

Wine Pairings.  Certain wines go best with different foods.  The basic rules are: Sparkling wine and Champagne – appetizers, wild game, caviar, roasted almonds, oysters, and fruit; Rosé wine – ham, turkey, sausages, and pork; White wine – seafood, poultry, shellfish, veal, cream sauces, mild cheeses, and light dishes such as salads; Medium-bodied red wine – pork, wild game, lamb, blackened fish or poultry, pâté, mild cheeses; Full-bodied red wine – steak, roast beef, blackened red meat, heavier dishes, cheeses from mild to sharp; Dessert wines – fruits, pastries, simple desserts; Dry sherry – appetizers and soups; Port and sweet sherry – after dinner and with cheeses.

Liqueurs. The terms cordial and liqueur are synonymous. There are many opportunities to upsell with liqueurs.  Cordials are alcoholic beverages prepared by mixing and redistilling various spirits (brandy, whiskey, rum, gin, or other spirits) with certain flavoring materials, such as fruits, flowers, herbs, seeds, barks, roots, peels, berries, juices, or other natural flavoring substances.  Cordials differ from all other spirits because they must contain at least 2½ % sugar by weight.   Most cordials contain up to 35% of a sweetening agent.  Liqueurs can be consumed straight up, “on the rocks,” diluted with water, mixed with sparkling water as a spritzer, or served over ice cream.  Make sure your team knows the major flavorings of each.  Here’s a free guide to the most common proprietary liqueurs.

Cognac, Brandies, Sipping Whiskeys, Ports.  All of these make superb after dinner drinks.  These are best suggested when it’s apparent that the diners are going to linger at the table over coffee or conversation.

Make sure your service team knows what brands you carry and have them learn as much as they can about each.  The more they learn, the more confident they’ll be to sell, and the higher your average check will be.

Excerpted from Food Service Management on the Go

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

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