- Speed counts. Once the order is taken (and this goes for cocktail orders, as well), get the bottle to the table as fast as you can.
- Make the word “wine” slip into every single first approach to a table, whether it’s a single diner or a crowd. Practice this approach on friends and family. “We have several new wines on the list, my favorite is…,” or “I’ll be right back with your cocktails, and I will leave the wine list with you to select something for your dinner.”
- Always assume that your guests want wine. It’s only a matter of which one they want. “Would you like a red or a white this evening?” Or how about “…wine for this evening? I love this Sauvignon Blanc with our mussels,” or “the veggie pizza is great with this Zinfandel — would you like to try a bottle?”
- Up sell the two glasses to a bottle. “We offer the wines by the glass by the bottle as well, and they are a great value when you’re both having the same thing — shall I bring a bottle?”
- When emptying a bottle, (always to the host) ask “would you like another bottle of the same or would you like to see the list again?”
- Don’t spend too much time worrying about what goes with what. Everyone has their own taste, and while there are good choices and great choices, screwing it up entirely is rare.
- Be aware of any wines that may be unavailable, so that you may inform the guest at the moment they order it, and suggest an alternative. Again, avoid delays; they cripple your sales.
- Even if you don’t drink wine, you can sell it. Find some wines with which you are familiar. Selling is storytelling, and remarking to a guest that the owner loves a certain wine or that the winemaker recently visited the restaurant for dinner can sell a bottle. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
Wine Service 101
How to remove a cork intact, and a bunch of other basic rules of wine service that every server and manager should know are listed below. Copy this list and hand it out to your staff at your next lineup.
- The bottle is presented to the host. The host is whoever ordered the wine. Pay attention to this — don’t present the bottle to the gentleman if the lady ordered it. Say the wine’s name and vintage, confirming their choice, before opening.
- The bottle may be set on the table or a geridon (a French term for a side table), or opened “in the air.” Make this determination based on your style of service and set a policy for consistency.
- The server shall have a clean folded cloth napkin in hand. Cut the capsule cleanly below the second lip, and wipe bottle with napkin. The cut capsule goes into servers’ pocket, and never on the table or in an ice bucket.
- Insert the corkscrew, but not dead center, or the opener will spiral down to one side. Look at the top of the cork like the face of a clock and insert it between the center and 1 o’clock (11 o’clock if you are a southpaw).
- Withdraw cork using the action of the opener as a lever. Avoid pulling the cork to one side as it comes up. When the cork can easily be removed, twist the cork with your hand and remove. Avoid popping the cork out. Place cork on table next to host’s glass.
- Wipe the bottle top again.
- Pour 1 to 2 ounces for the host to taste.
- Upon acceptance, pour clockwise (label facing guest) all women first, and then gentlemen, and then host last (male or female). One 750-ml bottle is 25 ounces, and serves four, with wine left over in the bottle. Do not try to empty on the first pour – it looks pushy. No matter what your glass capacity, serve no more than 4 or 5 ounces. You may have to stretch a bottle for 6, but do not short anyone on that initial pour.
- Wish the party well by saying “enjoy” and remove the cork, unless they would like to keep it. (Never re-cork the bottle on the table.)
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