Before Dinner Drinks

The correct time + the correct approach = sales = tips.


It also makes good sense to suggest the fitting beverage with each dinner course served. If I am into sales, offering beverages has to happen at the right time.

In my field of work, as a waiter, the best time to make money is when there are paying guests. On some busy days I cannot do much selling, trying to keep up with the overwhelming numbers of guests and orders, is all I can do then. And there are also days when we have so little business that I wish I had more customers to wait on.

To me it makes sense that there is a formula such as “the correct time + the correct approach = sales = tips” or in short, “timing is two-thirds of the battle.”

The majority of customers would love to have some sort of refreshment before dinner. Arriving guests are much in need of such libations, may it be to wash the dust out of their throats or to set their moods. Drinks also stimulate the taste buds.

True, I can drop off a round of iced waters at my table. By the time whenever I come back to the table, to take the guests’ food order, the likelihood to get an order for a round of before-dinner-drinks is reduced to a slim chance. By then the guests are more likely concentrating on what to order with their dinner. For most dinner guests, getting ready to order food, the question on their mind is “How much do I want to spend for a bottle of wine?”

And it is my own fault if I didn’t take the time to offer drinks when the guests were ready for such. It is equally important to offer after dinner drinks after the meal is finished. It also makes good sense to suggest the fitting beverage with each dinner course served. If I am into sales, offering beverages has to happen at the appropriate time.

I make a big mistake if I let the crucial time pass, the moment when the guest takes the weight of his legs and gets comfortable at the table. Something is missing right then. A drink in his hand sounds like a good solution. Until than the customer might not have thought about drinking, but only about eating. The sheer mentioning of a before-dinner-drink should make him think of how thirsty he is.
Each and every time that I do not offer drinks, before dinner, I neglect my job as waiter, which where I work means sales. Questions like “Would you care for a drink before studying the menu?” or “Would anyone care for a cocktail or a glass of bubbly California wine?” open the communication. As I see some interest, I explain to my guest(s) what kind of bubbly we have to offer, “we do serve California Chandon by the glass. Made by the same people who are famous for the DOM Perignon made in Epernay, back in the old country. The locally produced Chandon has a hint of pink to it. It’s the Blanc de Noir.”

If a guest gives me the what-else-do-you-have-look, I add “We do have a full bar!” How about some sparkling wine? What about a Champagne cocktail? A Mimosa? Or something much better: “Have one of our special Kir Royal!”
Getting asked “What’s so special about it?” My answer makes it sound special “It’s what we put into it, we use Chambord, one of the finest raspberry liquors ever made by mankind.” Many a times once the curiosity sets in I sell one of them. If the guest likes the idea of a dash of Chambord I might as well offer the same in other drinks, like in Gin Martinis with a smidgen of Chambord, some people love it.
Three out of four men know exactly what they want. I don’t try to sell them anything but question their habit with “Sir what’s your preference for a before dinner drink?” Most men tell me without a second thought. All I need then to complete their order is to ask “You like yours neat, up, or on the rocks?” and am on my way to ring the sales up. I gladly bring the customers their much deserved libations and go on to the next table.

If it is up to me I allow my guests time to sip on their drinks before I try to sell them appetizers. I figure two-hundred-and-fifty nights worked, ten before dinner drinks sold a night equals two thousand five hundred drinks sold in a year. “Let’s say I make only fifty cents on each drink, I still make good money which I wouldn’t if I hadn’t offered before dinner drinks to all my guests.”

Waiting on tables is nothing but direct-sales, face to face with the consumer. The higher the sales – the higher the tips – the higher my take-home-pay!

by helmut schonwalder