Building a solid rapport with customers starts with the ability to listen to what they like, and then make sure your team is well placed to offer the right suggestions. 

If you write a wine list, it’s really easy to let your ego get in the way. To let that vinous power, go straight to your head. 

“oh, I love this wine… let’s put it on the list”

“Ah, yes I had an awesome Malbec from Austria once, stick that on the menu”  

Time and again I say: list the wines that your customers want to drink, not what you want the to drink. 

This is where it starts, and if you’re not careful, you will end up with a wine list that just doesn’t work for your guests. Then you will start to pass the pressure of selling through your weak listings on to the staff- check out my latest piece with The Buyer for the full story on that shit-show. 

Writing a modern, profitable and effective wine list is rooted in the ability to listen to your customers. Sure, you can write a list with all the regular motley crew listings and it’d do alright. But if you want to take it to the next level, then we all need to listen to our customers. And that means knowing, on a regional level, what people really like to drink. And then diluting that with a little bit of interest and esoterica. 

If you have done this well, the next part is easy. But the approach still needs to be all about listening to the customer. 

Some of the best advice I ever got from somebody was: “Never assume that you know more than the guest about wine”.

Effective wine training is a beautiful thing. And a successful session should give your team the confidence to offer your customers lots of choice when it comes to the wine list. But too much confidence can backfire. It can lead to over-pushy service and a lack of empathy towards them. 

Being a good listener is a powerful thing. Having a team of good listeners is invaluable. I need to stress, you don’t need a team of wine confident, super knowledgeable staff to be able to be good listeners. A simple enquiry into someone’s day is the best start, so long as the answer is heard. If you can demonstrate that the answer has been heard, then you start to make connections and affirmations with the customer, that’s where it starts to get good. 

So, before you send your team out onto to floor to sell those wines you can’t budge. I recommend that you run a training session NOT on the wine in question, but on how to ask the right questions and more importantly, how to listen to the answers. 

If you need more information on this, you know where to find me. 


Harry Crowther

Founder & Legend