Ways to Increase Restaurant Wine Sales

With permission from and courtesy of Wine & Spirits Daily

Dear Client:

Listing wine prices without a dollar sign is one way for restaurants to increase wine sales, according to a new wine research study from Cornell University that was funded by a grant from Southern Wine & Spirits.  Other ways to increase wine sales include: featuring the wine list on the food menu; listing wines from certain wineries known for their quality; and including “reserve” wines or another special section.  One tactic connected with lower sales is organizing a wine list by wine style (such as sweet, bold, dry).  We assume some consumers find this confusing, so that doesn’t surprise us.

Researchers tested 46 different wine list techniques from 270 restaurants in major metropolitan areas (i.e., Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, the New York metro area, Orlando, the San Francisco Bay area, Southern California, and Tampa).  Interestingly, they only “found four practices that correlated with higher sales across all restaurants and two others that were effective only in casual-dining restaurants”, said Michael Lynn, Ph.D.

PRICE AND LENGTH OF WINE MENU.  A notable difference between fine dining and casual dining is that price has no relationship with wine sales at fine dining restaurants.  As prices go up in casual restaurants, however, sales decrease.  The study also found that wine sales increased with the number of wines offered on the menu until it reached 150.  At that point sales in casual dining restaurants start to decline. The correlation between having a longer wine list and higher wine sales was found to be true at casual-dining restaurants only, though, as wine sales at fine-dining restaurants showed no relationship with the length of the wine list.

Researchers found that “too many choices may intimidate and confuse the guest into not buying anything from the wine list, thereby decreasing wine sales.” I suppose you could also assume that people who frequent fine restaurants know more about wine, but even wine connoisseurs enjoy a nice trip to Chili’s or P.F. Chang’s from time to time.

WINE FLIGHTS AND BY-THE-GLASS SALES.  They found no evidence that wine flights and wines by the glass offerings increase bottle sales despite popular belief.  In fact they proposed “that future research examine the possibility that flights and by-the-glass purchases cannibalize full-bottle purchases.”

WIDE RANGE ENCOURAGES GROWTH.  Finally, offering a large range of prices could increase sales on the low end and/or the high end.  Including a list of higher price wine options might make the less expensive wines look like a bargain, or could give the impression that the higher priced wines are better quality.