Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how sommeliers influence wine sales in US restaurants and to understand how US restaurant sommeliers sell wine to customers, select for the wine list, and keep current on wines. Design/methodology/approach – Data from 250 telephone interviews among people at fine restaurants who were in charge of the selection and recommendation of wines for customers was reviewed. Fine restaurants were selected from wine spectator's “Gold Medal Winners” list and supplemented by Zagat's top 2,000 restaurants. The interviews averaged 29 minutes in length. Findings – On an average, customers ask a sommelier to provide wine recommendations 38 per cent of the time and sommeliers volunteer wine recommendations 42 per cent of the time. While wine is becoming increasingly popular and consumers are more knowledgeable, sommeliers play an important role in identifying best products available to meet restaurant customers' expectations. Practical implications – Sommeliers play an important role in influencing the sale of wine in restaurants, in particular, in smaller restaurants and in fine dining restaurants. Focusing on value for money, winery reputation, type of variety and tracking customer preference are all critical factors that respondents considered when selecting wines and when recommending wines to customers. Originality/value – This paper addresses the advantage of employing a sommelier in fine dining restaurants, given that when there is a designated sommelier more parties order wine (an average 76 per cent vs an average 70 per cent), the average check is higher ($62 vs $55) and the wine list is updated more frequently. Fine dining restaurant managers, owners and sommeliers will find value in this paper.
International Journal of Wine Business Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 6, 2008
Keywords: Wines; Restaurants; Training; Sales turnover; United States of America