Room Service

Ned Barker - Grill Ventures Consulting, Inc. - in the Mix Magazine

Angling for More Wine Sales

Last fall, in a column entitled “Mixed Up,” I wrote “…I’ve never seen a room service dinner mix that wasn’t dominated by wine, regardless of the lounge figures.” Okay. So what?

Here’s what: knowing that your room service guests gravitate toward wine rather than beer or spirits presents a great sales opportunity. It’s like going fishing and knowing ahead of time that the fish will almost always bite at a specific type of lure or fly. So, wouldn’t you fill your tackle box with that type lure or fly?

First let’s consider some evidence. I looked at six hotels spread across six major markets, each displaying one of three different upscale flags, and each with a respectable number of guestrooms. On average, two-thirds of their room service beverage sales were wine sales. In the restaurants and bars combined, the wine revenue percentage was less than one-third of all beverage sales. So the wine share of beverage sales in room service is more than double the share in restaurants and bars, on average.

In fact, total wine revenue in room service exceeded total wine revenue in the restaurant at three of the six hotels that were studied. Does this apply to you? And that’s not all. The average price of a room service wine item sold is nearly three times the average revenue produced by a spirit/beer sale. In other words, hotels are selling a lot of full bottles in room service.

Let’s shift to now. You’re in room service and the phone rings. A guest is calling – are you prepared to reel in that wine sale? If you’re not, here are a few hooks you might consider using.

  • Offer a premium wine or two by the glass each evening. A $15, $20, or $25 glass can be communicated by the order taker or with a menu slip that says “ask about our nightly premium BTG offerings.”
  • If you don’t have a broad half-bottle selection, consider a portion size larger than your standard glass but smaller than a half bottle. Some restaurants (Babbo in NYC takes credit for the concept) are referring to this as a quartino, a quarter of a liter, or about 8 ounces. A wine bar in San Francisco makes a similar offer of 250ml decanter portions.
  • Do you offer splits of champagne? More than one brand? Promote this to the road warrior with this enticement: “Celebrate the end of your work day with _______.”
  • What wine(s) do you recommend with your best-selling food item? I’ve yet to see a room service menu mix that didn’t have a burger at or near the top of the list. What is your “burger wine”? How about an upscale house-made Sangria? A premium Beaujolais, Syrah, or Zinfandel? What does your menu recommend; what does your order taker recommend?
  • How good is your wine service? Are BTG selections poured from the bottle in front of the guest? Are the white selections brought in a bucket? Is the guest given a last chance to upgrade to a quartino?
  • And while we’re on the topic of service, do you support the integrity of your room service wine program by using a wine glass for room service equal to the quality of your restaurant wine glass?
  • Menu design: is your wine offering buried at the back of the menu or positioned up front with the starters?

Finally, how easy is it for your room service staff to sell and serve wine? Have you removed every possible obstacle to your team’s ability to sell wine?

What is the cost of implementing these ideas? Many of them are low-risk propositions, especially when you’re simply taking advantage of what you already know the guest wants. It’s like catching fish in a barrel – just sharpen your hooks.

Ned Barker
Grill Ventures Consulting, Inc.