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RESOURCES FOR SERVERS
Drinks - this is a GOLD MINE!
GENERAL SALES FACTS - how to sell follows
People generally dine out for one or more of these 3 reasons: they don't want to cook (or can't for one reason or another - these are typically value conscious diners), they are celebrating an event or they are out for the experience of dining out. There's nothing wrong with the first one, you will have to "make do" with them and they are easy to spot. You don't want to sell them, that's not what they are there for. They want simple and easy. In and out with the least fuss and expense. So give that to them. The second two types are the ones you want to concentrate on anyway. They want the experience, they want a good time. It's your job as a server to lead them to that and give them what they want. After all that's your job, you are there to give the guests what they want.
If you walk up to the table and your sales technique is, "Can I get you something to drink?" you are missing the best opportunity in the business. You are killing your sales yourself. They're going to give you their "pat" answer, I'll have a diet Coke. This is not what you want to hear. Worse yet they might say the "w" word AND ask for lemon (and lots of it please).
Instead, let them know what they could be enjoying. You're not pushing alcohol on them, you're inviting them to enjoy themselves. You want them to think about what "could be" not what "usually is". If they're not already thinking about having a drink when they sit down, you not mentioning it isn't going to sell a cocktail (or several) or bottle of wine is it? Take the few seconds it requires to put the thought in their head, your bank account will thank you.
"Hello, welcome to <restaurant X>, how are you this <time of day>. I'm <your name>, I'll be serving you. We offer a full bar, a great wine menu, Coke products, iced tea and <other beverage offered>." How long does it truly take to say that? The chance to sell a bar drink is well worth the time investment in my opinion.
The income opportunities don't stop there either. We're just beginning. It starts with them wanting a cocktail, beer or wine. For soft drinks you bring a refill when their glass is about half full right? You do do that right? It's a part of great service. Don't ask them if they want another, just do it. So the same thing holds true for a bar drink too (or it should). When they are about half way through their drink, ask them if they would like another. You don't want to say, "Would you like me to bring you another double Belvedere on the rocks and add another $18.50 to your check?". That would be insane. You want them to enjoy their meal to it's fullest. The overall want is for their enjoyment, not your bottom line. It is this enjoyment that is going to make you your money. It's your perception of the events not their overall effect that you want to concentrate on. I realize for most servers, paying $20 for a drink is cost prohibitive. I get that! You can't allow your personal view to cloud the picture. What is too much to you may or may not be too much for them.
I find servers are happy with the order of a cocktail and don't want to "press their luck" with a liquor up sell. Total mistake! Once again, the want is not to push up the ticket price but rather to increase their enjoyment of the experience you are helping to create and provide them with. To this end, better alcohol makes a better drink, always offer call brands. How you offer them is key to actually selling them. To simply say nothing and brining the well liquor is a disservice to the guest in my opinion. Have you tasted your well liquors in comparison with a call brand you enjoy? That stuff is vile! Now if they're having a screwdriver it might not make much difference, but a martini?!? Um, yea! HUGE difference. So let's offer the upgrade in a manner that is most likely to sell it. Sound good? Always ask multiple yes questions, never a yes or no question. So you could say, "we have stoli, belvedere and grey goose". Or you could say, "would you prefer stoli, belvedere or grey goose". You might want the "open ended" question of, "Stoli... Belvedere... Grey Goose..." pausing with each for them to either ask for their favorite or say yes. You can end with, "or did you have something else in mind?", or "what's your favorite?", or, "what do you most enjoy?". They key is I'm offering three, not two, not call or well but three premium liquors. This leads them to select one of the three instead of saying no. Offering three also causes them to actually process the question and make a selection. People are used to getting yes or no questions and often answer without thought. It's more difficult to ask a multiple selection question and people tend to not take the time required to do it. Use this to your advantage. It will increase your income and the enjoyment of your guests which is your over all goal.
Liquor is a world unto itself. Gin, Vodka, Scotch, Tequila, Bourbon and Whiskey. Each has a wide variety of tastes and makes different drinks better for it's own reason. Learn what each liquor tastes like in all it's varieties your restaurant offers. It is only then you can make great suggestions. When you learn what they taste like you can make informed suggestions based on the flavor of the brand they like that you don't offer.
When you're offering another drink, offer in a way that suggests it's no problem, most would do it, you're simply confirming their want before ordering another. I motion to the glass (usually pointing to the base of the glass with an open hand - NOT pointing with a finger but rather extending all my fingers) and ask, "another?" or "one more time?". I don't say "would you like another <names drink>". I might say "another <liquor name>?". Often, they are accustomed to ordering multiple drinks, that's what they do, so when I motion to the drink they don't even look at me and nod their head. They appreciate the fact I didn't interrupt the group to get their order and tip accordingly as well *smile*. I'm offering them the service they want.
You don't need to be a sommelier to help a guest pick a good wine, you only need to know what decent selections are on your restaurant's wine list. After all, beauty is in the eye of the wine-holder. It is the guest who needs to enjoy the selection and their tastes are without doubt different than yours. Have a good idea of what wine pairs well with what entrees and you're golden!
Your restaurant should want you to become familiar with your wine menu. They should offer tasting of anything sold by the glass, for you or your guests. Maybe they do a wine sampling for employees once in a while or during your initial training. Either way, make sure you sample everything and make notes if you want. You should know the menu when you taste the wines so you can see what pairs well with what in your opinion. Remember, if you think it's great, the guest may very well think it's great also. You don't have to be precise, tastes differ and so do opinions about pairings. As long as you're close to the mark you'll be just fine.
When I started out I made a cheat sheet for me to use tableside. It had all the liquors and wines and for the wines I had rough pairings. There's nothing wrong with letting the guest know it's a lot of information so you made notes. It both shows you care about their experience and are willing to do what it takes to make it as fantastic as possible. I also made notes about menu items and their preparation and ingredients. Again, when you start out it's a lot of information and I feel it's more important to get it right than to look "superman like" and try to remember everything. You're bound to get something wrong or have to go ask. I'd rather have the information at my fingertips and get it right. It doesn't embarrass me in the slightest to refer to my notes.