These days at restaurants across the board, it’s less common to hear, “I’ll just have a glass of your house red.” As customers grow more informed and restaurants increasingly invest in their wine programs, by-the-glass lists have grown extensively. These selctions are also is as important to an enjoyable dining experience as ordering a bottle.
Restaurants of small to moderate scale have seen the rise of tableside wine service, which can provide the server or sommelier with an opportunity to add value to the guest experience. Having the chance to show the guest the bottle, or offer thoughts on how the wine will match with a dish helps establish a diner’s sensory memory.
Strong staff knowledge of both the wine by-the-glass offerings and the food menu demonstrates professionalism and pride in their job, and contributes to making the guest feel at ease with their choices. Product knowledge is core and servers need to be trained regularly on by-the-glass offerings through tastings, discussion and testing.
Training and management are key aspects of controlling pours. One of the biggest challenges of pouring wines tableside is controlling the pour amounts. Over-pouring is common on a bustling floor so some bars and restaurants go as far as to cleverly etch a mark on the side of each glass to indicate the correct pour. This gives guidance to servers and in turn minimizes waste. Whichever method is employed at your venue, remember that consistency is crucial to maintain both the guest experience and a healthy profit margin for the restaurant.
Ideally, all wines by-the-glass should be tasted, before service in order to prevent corked wine from reaching the table. Verify that the wines by-the-glass are sound just as you would for bottles before presenting them. Once wines are in circulation on the floor, it is important to check that there is ample wine in the bottle to yield a glass pour before serving. It is less than desirable for guests to receive the tail end of a bottle and then have to wait for the server to return. Before approaching your table, confirm that there is sufficient wine in the bottle.
The follow through at the table continues once you present the bottle to the guest and offer them a taste. The bottle and the label presentation establish a visual connection, which can enrich the dining experience. Pour sufficient wine into the glass so that the customer can really smell and taste it. Wait for their approval before proceeding with the pour, and if the wine is not to their liking, even though there may be no fault with it, assist them in finding an alternative. Always offer customers the opportunity to taste wine from bottles with screwcap closures, just as you would do with cork closures, more as a courtesy to ensure they are happy with the wine, rather than as a quality check. Polished and personalized wine by-the-glass service can go great lengths in winning customers over and creating a loyal clientele.
Step by Step
1. Educate staff regularly on wines by the glass and discuss menu pairings.
2. Train staff on correct portions for by-the-glass pours.
3. Open wines by-the-glass prior to service and check for quality.
4. Confirm that there is ample wine in the bottle for a glass pour before approaching a table.
5. Allow guests to taste and approve the wine before pouring a full glass.