By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
Branding and wine label design have been shown to affect how a customer enjoys the beverage itself. Knowing this, if someone likes the way a bottle looks, he or she will also like the way it tastes. Or at the very least, a person will be more inclined to like a wine if he or she first likes its design. It’s a matter of personal identification.
You may recall the fabled lesson, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and indeed I’ve adapted this in the past to likewise say, “Don’t judge by a bottle by its label.” But alas, I may be giving the buyer too much credit. The average consumer is apparently unable to subconscious uncouple looks from flavor.
Knowing these two senses are irrevocably linked, therefore, can clue you into a slight modification of your service standards that will enhance meal satisfaction and hopefully result in more beverage sales.
First let’s talk wine by the glass. You have your brief list of available reds and whites; your servers have completed basic training in order to discuss key features, tasting notes and narrative details of each. But when patrons choose one wine or another, instead of proceeding straight to the question of how big a pour these customers want, now we can insert an extra step, knowing full well that it is integral to the overall dining experience.
Show them the bottle! And don’t just flash it before stowing it back on the shelf. Be patient and take the time to display the artistic creativity of the bottle. Place it on the bar countertop or the table and let the guest touch it for a proper inspection (with obvious exceptions being dispenser wall units or if a table is too far away). It’s a few extra moments spent on your part but heightening the design-flavor connection may end up being the wildcard that will convince a patron to order another round.
Now consider the applications here for full bottle orders. The traditional procedure is to write out your list, have the sommelier make recommendations on said list, present the selected bottle, open said bottle right away and have one person do a perfunctory tasting before pouring for the rest of the table.
But what if upon seeing the chosen bottle, the customer didn’t like the label? Suppose a customer orders an expensive Old World wine, but when the bottle appears, it doesn’t have the classic design of heavily scripted fonts on an off-white background with minimal iconography. A mental disconnect between geography and print composition can induce confusion and anxiety. What then?
This creeping sense of buyer’s remorse may silently hinder maximal enjoyment of the wine, thereby stymying further purchases. And if the wine is perceived as mediocre then this could halo onto the food and ultimately onto whether or not this patron recommends your restaurant.
It’s a slippery slope. Armed with this new insight, however, you would be wise to do your best to avoid any psychological follies. As a start, upon physical presentation, train your servers to ask, “What do you think of the label?” Again, be patient, hand over the unopened bottle and let the guest touch it. In this way, inquiring about the design itself will help to elucidate any consternations before popping the top, so that the waiter can then be ready to go back and select another bottle with a different design.
Then there are other tech-centric solutions such as transposing your entire wine list into a tablet app whereby guests can not only browse through names, varietals and vintages but also bottle designs, subliminally prescreening any that they may not agree with and may cripple meal satisfaction. There are other benefits to such apps including better inventory management and analytics, so this is definitely a project worth consideration.
There’s a bigger conversation to be had here in terms of ensuring that the style of label designs for all wines matches the personality and theme of your restaurant, but this is a far loftier goal. For now, though, this will always come down to staff training. If you know that presentation plays a critical role, then everyone must be educated on its importance and the small steps necessary to properly elaborate upon these seemingly inconsequential aspects of the overall experience.