In the hospitality business we always stress how crucial it is to make a great first impression. While greeting the guest warmly and without delay is paramount, the final impression we leave is also vital. Ask yourself: how often do you maintain the same high level of enthusiastic service throughout the whole guest experience?
Today, with more people than ever eating at the bar, it’s especially critical to communicate conviviality until it’s absolutely clear that each guest wants his or her bill. An outstanding way to do this is to skillfully present a dessert wine or other luscious alcoholic beverage after the main course. Inviting diners to linger will not always result in incremental sales, but it does signal a desire to be service oriented and introduce something delicious beyond the main part of the meal. And what could be more satisfying than to have guests finish on a sweet note, just prior to settling their check and deciding on a gratuity?
Although dessert beverages complete the experience in a special way, comparatively few guests ever request them. Of all wines, therefore, they require heightened levels of description and more recommendation. It goes without saying that knowing how to pronounce, describe and present the ones you carry are skills essential to success.
Among the most common dessert wines today, some are fortified with additional alcohol (Port, Sherry and Madeira, all of which have long shelf lives), some are sparkling and very light in body (the low alcohol and semi-fizzy, highly fashionable Moscato, which loses its zip within three to four days, even if tightly re-capped), while the majority are white and contain varying quantities of “residual sugar” left after fermentation (rieslings and chenin blanc-based wines, or concentrated generally oak aged nectars made from the influence of “noble rot” on semillon and sauvignon blanc, like Sauternes; all of which store well after opening for a few weeks). Additional categories that complement dessert would be liqueurs, cocktails made with them and also specialty beers.
The Story Sells
None of these will sell themselves, so researching and knowing their history, how they’re made and how to make them sound tempting with the specific desserts you offer is paramount. While each beverage is distinct, the richer ones are most complementary to chocolate based desserts. Lighter colored wines tend to work better with fruit desserts.
Don’t overpour, especially those wines that are fortified with high alcohol! Dessert wines are for sipping. The biggest no-no? Asking: “Have you saved room for dessert?” There are few worse restaurant service turn-offs.
1. Remember the last impression! Leave the guest with a sweet taste in their mouth.
2. Learn to pronounce, describe and present the dessert wines and other beverages you carry.
3. Understand the different uses and shelf-lives of the three major categories of sweet wine (fortified, sparkling and white), liqueurs and dessert cocktails and beers.
4. Have a short story prepared to recommend each of the ones you carry to compliment specific desserts and then pour the proper portion.
5. Don’t ask “Have you saved room for dessert?” Ever!