SERVICE: Boost beverage sales with these simple table-side tactics.

Dec. 30, 2003

Paul Paz is a "career waiter" turned hospitality consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the author of "Service At Its Best: Waiter Waitress Training—A Guide to Becoming a Successful Server" (Prentice-Hall), and operates the hospitality information Web site

As we approach the crescendo of holiday wining and dining (plus all those bowl games coming up) here's some useful beverage sales ideas to share with your service staff.

What sort of impact do increased beverage sales have on an operation and a server? Take a look at this example:

If a server

Paul C. Paz

sold just three $20 bottles of wine a week, that's $3,120 more annual revenue (multiply that out by just 10 servers and the numbers really get interesting). And if this server was typically earned 20 percent gratuity, he'd have enough to pay for a seven-day cruise to Mexico.

By my calculations, it would take less than eight hours a year to offer and present that wine, which I'd call a very good return on the time invested.

Useful sales tips and techniques

Good servers always encourage guests to buy premium beverages, not only because they're typically better than house/well brands, but because they boost check averages.

But few things turn customer off more than feeling the server is simply pushing expensive drinks on them rather than genuinely trying to enhance their dining experience. Upselling properly is where great salesmanship comes in.

For example, offering local products is a great way to encourage a customer to "step up" to something beyond the average offering. Local customers appreciate hometown offerings partly because they're patronizing a local business, and visitors especially like to experience the favorite flavors of that destination.

Got a customer who wants beer? Try saying, "You need to try some Oregon beers, like Rogue's award-winning Dead Guy Ale or Full Sail's summer seasonal Hangtime Ale." Your mentioning the "need to" try something nearly always generates the question, "Why?" That question then creates an opportunity for a mouth-watering merchandizing description.

Good salesmanship always looks to sell a refill. But since you've sold beverage number one, the second sale must be more subtle, such as placing a fresh beverage napkin in front of the customer while asking, "Would you like another?" The author of "Service That Sells," suggests you nod your head "yes" when offering refills because guests almost instinctively mimic your nod.

Servers who sell the most and the best beverages know how to get them to the table quickly and presented correctly. To streamline beverage delivery to the table, take these ideas from a book I coauthored called "Service and Its Best" (Prentice-Hall Publishers).

Tray service and glassware

Balancing glassware: Cluster glassware and bottles on a beverage tray so they touch, as it will stabilize them as you move through the crowd.

Use a large ice-scoop to fill three or more glasses at once verses filling one at a time. Once iced, put them directly onto a clean tray, not on a counter; that's a wasted movement.

Never pick up glassware--clean or dirty—by the mouth/rim. It's wise to wash your hands frequently after handling dirty glassware.


Be sure the glassware is clean and is at the proper temperature for that type of beer.

Since you never want to deliver a flat draft beer to the table, be sure to pick it up immediately after its drawn. If a frothy head is allowed to dissipate, no amount of stirring with a straw will revive it. If it's flat, then draw a fresh one.


One way to present a single glass of wine with style and panache (especially if it is a high-end wine) is to hold the glass at the edge of the base with your thumb and forefinger (like a saucer).

If two glasses of the same wine are ordered at a table, offer the guests a bottle for celebration and value. If a second bottle is ordered, present it with fresh glasses.

It's important to pronounce wine names correctly, just as it's important to describe them correctly. If you're uncertain about a wine's characteristics, read the back label on the bottle, where you'll find adequate descriptions.

Also, never begin a shift without a wine key.

Coffee and espresso

Never refill a customer's coffee without asking first. He may have just finished blending that "perfect" cup of coffee with cream and sugar, or it just cooled to the temperature she prefers.

When offering coffee, don't forget to mention espresso service and flavored syrups, if your operation offers them. Try this script, "Do you prefer regular, decaf or and Irish-Coffee?" Offer to add some schnapps or spiced rum to it. Hot chocolate and ciders can be served on the rocks too!

Note: Whenever upselling coffees, be sure to use the word "add" so the customer understands there is an extra cost.


Here's a simple but oft-broken rule: Serve cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot.

Blended drinks (such as margaritas) must be delivered to the table promptly. If allowed to separate before the customer gets it, the presentation suffers and the flavor and mouth-feel of the drink are changed.

Selling verses informing

Professional servers craft sales pitches that provide information on products that match customers' tastes. That adds value to the experience because the customers' options are broadened, which allows them to make more satisfying choices.

"Informing" customers includes providing alternatives to mainstay items. For example, if someone asks for water, suggested as bottled waters or sport drinks. If a customer requests coffee, offer them chilled coffee or espresso.

Validate customers' choices

People like to believe they've made a good choice when they order, so validate your customers' choices. Use verbiage like, "Oh, you're going to love that ale. It's brewed specially for our restaurant." After you've delivered the food and are checking back, say, "Doesn't that ale go perfectly with your pizza?"

* Find a great selection of beverage links for ideas, recipes and contacts from WaitersWorld, Inc. by visiting

See you on that cruise to Mexico!

Remember, Make it fun ... Make it easy ... Make some money!

More advice from Paul Paz ...

* SERVICE: Whether the holidays are happy depends on your attitude
* SERVICE: It takes a desire to please the customer to deliver exceptional service
* SERVICE: Schedule flexibility is a benefit -- not an entitlement -- of this industry
* SERVICE: Promote the pizza industry as a career choice
* SERVICE: Cheaters never prosper, especially in restaurants
* SERVICE: Say hello or they'll say goodbye
* SERVICE: Treat coworkers as courteously as customers
* SERVICE: What's There to Smile About?

Topics: Service

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