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The 7-Keys to Beverage Sales Success

Avoid Pitfalls and Embrace Best Practices

Beverages are the elixir of sharing, celebration, and romance. We commiserate over our favorite libation. We toast the closing of a deal, a reunion, or an anniversary. And yet, although a galaxy of beverages lies hidden and crying out as if to say, “Buy me!” this liquid gold is left unnamed, unnoticed, and poorly offered. So how do we take advantage and close the gap?

Key 1: Bottled water.    

Pitfall. We buy bottled water at the grocery story, gas station, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, and McDonald’s. But when was the last time you were offered bottled water other than in the Per Se’s of the world? You mostly hear, “Will it be bottled or tap?” Or, “Would you like still or sparkling?” In the end, tap reigns. And you can’t boost sales when you pour tap the moment guests are seated?

Best practice. Don’t ask. Gently suggest, “By the way, we offer Evian still or San Pelligrino  sparkling.” No pressure there. The “just letting you know” approach is soft and effective. Class things up by placing a bottle of Aqua Panna in an iced wine bucket, and show off by seductively pouring off the bottle.

Key 2: Wine.   

Pitfall. Wine is perplexing. When servers don’t know the basic characteristics of the most popular varietals like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, they avoid talking about vino altogether. Or, worse, they fake their way through their fear. I once heard a waiter describe a Shiraz as “kind of fruity and dry.”

Best practice. Demystify with wine lyrics, a few well-chosen words that describe wine in a simple yet classy way. Create lyrics using a simple formula: body, texture, sweetness or dryness, and flavor. For example, Chardonnay is full-bodied, fresh, and dry with flavors of Granny Smith apple, vanilla, and oak. Servers relax when they know Cab is full and rich and Pinot Grigio is light and crisp. Then, they won’t put the wine list down like a piece of dead wood and run for the hills.

Key 3: Cocktails. 

Pitfall. Remember the number-one rule. Avoid “yes/no” questions. Don’t ask, “May I get you a drink?” The response is likely to be, “I’ll have water with lemon. And bring me plenty of sugar packets so I can make my own lemonade.” Plus, when guests order a vodka tonic, don’t make them work with, “Do you have a preference?” or the manipulative, “Will that be Grey Goose or Belvedere?”

Best practice. Use names, places, and brands to inspire the brain to listen. “By the way, Phil from Philadelphia makes a fabulous Grey Goose martini.”  Furthermore, if a guest orders a vodka tonic, use the gentle listing approach: “By the way, we offer some great vodkas like Kettle One, Grey Goose, Belvedere, Absolut Citron, and Sky.”

Key 4: Beer.  

Pitfall. It’s common to rattle off beers like an auctioneer. “We have Bud, Bud, Bud Lite … Miller, Miller, Miller Lite … Coors, Coors, Coors Lite, Da, Da, Do, Do—Da.” The robotic indifference says, “I hate my job.”

Best practice. Engage with the slow rhythm technique. Recite beers with a calm, commanding cadence and emotive inflection while sprinkling in enticing tidbits: “For beer, we offer Heineken … Becks … Sam Adams … Corona … Stella Artois … and Peroni from Italy. And, for microbrews, we have Wicked Bitch from Chicago and non-pasteurized, Pacman Yeast brewed Rouge Dead Guy Ale from Oregon.

Key 5: Non-alcoholic beverages.   

Pitfall. When it comes to boozeless beverages, sales go by the wayside, in spite of an onslaught of unique offerings.

Best practice. Oyamel of Washington, DC, offers a unique and refreshing Organic Passion Fruit Iced Tea. Or, instead of the dated Shirley Temple, consider the Texas Tornado with pineapple and freshly squeezed orange juice, grenadine, and Sprite garnished with a cherry. From Red Bull to Rooibos Tea, enticing options are endless. And, don’t forget that a Virgin Mojito costs about the same as one with booze.

Key 6: Cordials and Cognacs.   

Pitfall. Cordials and Cognacs are rarely mentioned by brand or enticingly described. “Would you like coffee or an after-dinner drink?” “No!”

Best practice. Group options, “For the grand finale, we offer a great selection of goodies including white chocolate banana mousse pie, ginger crème brulée, and housemade key lime pie. We also offer Sambuca, Frangelico, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, and Baileys. Plus, our special cappuccino comes with a half shot of Kahlua, half shot of Frangelico, and our famous chocolate disappearing spoon.” One guest will order a key lime pie giving another permission to order a Grand Marnier.

Key 7: Champagne. 

Pitfall. You’re not taking advantage of the signs of celebration and romance if you don’t offer Champagne.  

Best Practice. When guests arrive dressed to the nines and carrying Nordstrom gift-wrapped packages, open with, “Welcome, you look like you’re celebrating.” When they reply, “It’s our 10th university, jump right in with, “Congratulations! That calls for a bottle of Veuve Cliquot.”

There is much low-hanging fruit ready for the plucking if managers and staff are given the knowledge and a savvy set of strategies to open the 7 Keys of Beverage Sales Success.

Contact Bob for DVD 7 Keys of Beverage Sales Success at 703-726-9020.

About the Author

Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions (bobbrownss.com) pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program; worked with Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton; internationally with Burj Al Arab in Dubai; has appeared on the Food Network; authored The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success. Contact Bob at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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