7 Tips for a Better Wine-By-The-Glass Program, featuring Select Brands

Jul. 19, 2019

Wine by the glass header


A thoughtful, diverse wine by-the-glass menu is a great way to build a profitable wine program which offers customers a plethora of low-investment options. 

According to Nielsen, there is incredible growth for wine-by-the-glass varietals at the very profitable price point of $15 - $20, with varietals like cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, rosé, sauvignon blanc, and zinfandel all enjoying more than a 10% bump over the last year.

We asked two of our wine aficionados, Christopher Rowell, Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and Breakthru Beverage Wine Educator, and Chad Wemischner, Business Manager, to share their tips on building and maintaining a successful wine-by-the-glass program.


Christopher Rowell: The first thing to do is look at your numbers and see which wines are performing best. If you have a sauvignon blanc that is 60% of your wine sales, offer some variants of that. You can see indications of what your customers are drinking, so put something similar on the menu and expand on that, and then consider replacing the ones that just aren’t working for you.

Also, think about space in terms of wine preservation: once opened, white wines generally last about three to five days, and reds around two to three days. Make sure you have a suitable place to store these wines, and establish a service protocol over how to properly managed open bottles. 


Chad Wemischner: Keep your by-the-glass pricing comparable to the entree pricing and offer multiple price points with those options closer in pricing. A consumer is more likely to upgrade from a $10 glass to a $12 glass than making a big leap from $10 to $22.

CR: Offer some diversity by including some obscure wines. They could be marked up to help level out your margins.


CR: Make sure you have what I like to call the warm and fuzzies, which are the staples—the wines that are familiar to your customers. Then, save a couple spots for the adventurous customer that likes to explore. 

CW: Offer the customer some variety and choice while minimizing waste and pour cost. Featuring many options can help raise the profile of the wine program and bring in more revenue.


CW: Champagne is not just for New Year’s Eve and other celebrations anymore. Consider offering high-end bottles like Champagne on weekends or around holidays. Creating a sense of urgency with specific time frames conveys the idea of a special, limited-time offer.

Much like a chef’s dish specials, why not offer that on the beverage side as well? Also, consider alternative sizing and packaging to cut down on waste.


CR: I’ve only seen it a handful of times, but I love the idea of featuring a “mystery wine” which is priced less than the regular BTG offerings. The specifics of the wine are not listed, and the selections rotate often, which can build a sense of anticipation with their regular customers. 

I also love a good wine flight. Create something that’s customizable, perhaps with a theme, to offer options for the table. This can also create a fun debate for customers to talk about what they’re picking up in each varietal.


CW: Make your wine list seasonal and update it every six months, possibly even every three months to keep it fresh.

CR: Keep up with the occasional menu reprints for those regular customers you have coming in. They’ll take notice and appreciate the seasonal updates. Maybe consider rotating wines throughout the week or weekends to stimulate interest among staff (include some education, if possible) and customers alike.


CW: A menu will describe food beautifully, but then often it leaves out a comprehensive wine description. It’s important to add a taste profile, fun fact, or a reason to choose this specific wine. You can also offer a pairing recommendation.

CR: Keep up with the occasional menu reprints for those regular customers you have coming in. They’ll take notice and appreciate the seasonal updates. Maybe consider rotating wine features throughout the week, or on weekends, to stimulate interest among staff and customers alike.

Conducting brief wine seminars during pre-shift meetings can be a highly effective method of building the wine culture in your concept. When done routinely, you can gradually work your way through the entire list, but in smaller increments that your servers retain better. 



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