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The role of the sommeliers and their influence on US restaurant wine sales

B.W.A. Ben Dewald (The Collins School of Hospitality Management, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California, USA)

International Journal of Wine Business Research

ISSN: 1751-1062

Article publication date: 6 June 2008

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Citation

Ben Dewald, B.W.A. (2008), "The role of the sommeliers and their influence on US restaurant wine sales", International Journal of Wine Business Research, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 111-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/17511060810883740

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited