6 ways to keep beverage sales top of mind for your servers
Improving beverage sales is a great way to drive higher average checks at your restaurant. Most guests order at least one drink, therefore, getting them to order a higher value drink and encouraging repeat orders is an achievable goal to set for your service team. Across our restaurant customer base, beverage accounts for 35.2 percent of total sales which is important because your beverage items should have a better profit margin than food.
Polishing each server’s beverage knowledge is the key to increasing drink sales. Encouraging them to share that knowledge with their customers creates a win-win situation. Your guests will appreciate the server’s attention to detail and even if they don’t order the items the server suggests, a conversation about food, wine, and your signature experiences is happening at every table. Your servers can walk out with higher tips by applying this knowledge and working smarter, not harder.
Here are some best practices to follow:
1. Discuss successful beverage strategies in your pre-shift meetings
Let your servers know how important beverage sales are when it comes to increasing their per person average. Identify likely upsells, popular pairings, and items with good profit margins. Be sure to include your experienced servers and bartenders in these trainings so they can translate their sales success into suggestions and phrasing that can resonate with your entire service team.
2. Pick a new beer or wine to showcase each week
Discuss, describe, and taste the wine/beer with your team members. Give your servers key phrases and ingredient highlights to use when they’re interacting with their customers. Focusing on one beverage at a time helps servers develop deeper knowledge than learning the entire bar menu at once. And after 3 months, each server will have a strong repertoire of 10-12 drinks under their belt.
3. Have servers spend a few hours working a shift in the bar section
More familiarity with beverage service can help servers gain confidence in their ability to describe and recommend drinks and transfer those skills to the dining room. Serving bar guests and even shadowing the bartender can help give servers more in-depth knowledge of drink ingredients and varieties.
4. Have servers script signature drinks and role play recommendations
Understanding how to describe a drink or varietal of wine in a way that resonates with guests, is the key to successful selling. Help your servers develop this skill. You can also give them tips on how to leverage situational selling like recommending a bottle of champagne for a couple celebrating an anniversary or a punch bowl for a bachelorette party. It’s important to make sure your servers are practicing this skill.
5. Host a wine tasting for servers
Instruct servers on the proper way to taste wine. Include general wine pairing information and let them experience it first hand with items from your menu. Have an open discussion about what they’re tasting and smelling and note the differences between people’s reactions and preferences. Finish by asking servers to write and present their own descriptions of the wine to the group.
6. Put servers’ beverage knowledge to the test with a sales contest
Use Avero to run beverage contests to keep your servers focused after training. Judging contests by item quantity is one popular method but we really love item/cover percentage, which shows which percentage of your server’s guests order signature items. This metric is great to level the playing field and get even your part time servers motivated to sell the right items. As far as contest rewards, see if you can get an extra bottle of wine from your rep to motivate your team!