Sommelier Perspective: Repeat Customers are Essential

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By Sommelier Jorn Kleinhans

14-10pg20SPJoeysHeadShotCustomer loyalty is one of the holy grails of long-term success in restaurant management.

It’s great to see a new restaurant open and everyone come to try it. Unfortunately, after the initial run is over, some owners and managers find themselves disappointed: They are not able to cultivate repeat guests who make it a habit to come a few times a month.

Building a group of repeat dining guests can be achieved systematically, through a set of best practices, and one of the most effective methods is implemented in connection with the wine program.

By offering a monthly sommelier-guided wine tasting dinner, locals can look forward to joining an ongoing dinner series that they can mark in their calendar in advance, where they meet fellow wine lovers and have a reason to go out and experience an educational and delicious evening.

It’s critical to let an independent sommelier (as opposed a wine salesman) run the evening. Customers don’t respond well to the hit-and-run business of many restaurants where the immediate sale is pushed too hard. The high lifetime value of a repeat customer needs to be protected, by building an ongoing relationship with the guests.

An entertaining and educational evening of wine (taken from the restaurant menu), paired with a few chef highlights that change each month can turn the slow Tuesday or Wednesday night into a profitable highlight that will get media attention and word of mouth referrals. With every course served, 2-3 wines are tasted, compared and put into perspective by the sommelier. Guests have interactive discussions and enjoy social time with new acquaintances at a large shared dinner table.

Some restaurants where I have run events like this have so much success that they close the venue once a month for such an otherwise slow Tuesday evening; others accommodate the sommelier dinner in a separate section of room of the restaurant to control for noise overlap.

Wine is an important trend that is best experienced when it is put into proper context by a good speaker. The dinners are an opportunity to show off the chef skills, make the GM more visible and innovate through the means of a guided dinner experience adding a classy touch to your venue.

Please look forward to our next column, when we share the best ways to increase wine sales to everyone’s happiness, by making smart enhancements to your dinner menu.

Sommelier Jorn Kleinhans is a Certified Specialist of Wine, and the owner of the Wine Elite Sommelier Company, based in Huntington Beach.

The Wine Elite Sommelier Company builds and executes award-winning profitable wine programs in partnership with Southern California restaurants and hotels.

The Wine Elite is also the best resource to find sommeliers and wine educators to hire, for restaurant floor service or special events.

Visit http://www.WineElite.org or call 310 467 5582.