The Seven Keys of Beverage Sales Success

Editor’s Note: Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions,, pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program and has worked with clients such as Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. He will be presenting on The Seven Keys of Beverage Sales Success at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show on March 19th. Make sure to check out his session by clicking HERE.

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Beverages are the elixir of sharing, celebration, and romance. We commiserate over our favorite libation. We toast the closing of a deal, a reunion, or an anniversary. Yet, this liquid gold is left unnamed, unnoticed and poorly offered.

Key 1: Bottled water - the forgotten one. Bottled water is pervasive. We buy it at the grocery story, gas station, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, and even MacDonald’s. Yet, when was the last time you were offered bottled water? When you ask, “Will that be bottled or tap?” tap reigns. Plus, pouring tap discourages the sale of all beverages. Try, "If you enjoy bottled water, we offer Evian still or Perrier sparkling.” Never utter the word 'tap.'

Key 2: Wine - land of fear and confusion. Wine is perplexing even scary. Uninformed team members put the wine list down like a piece of dead wood and run for the hills. Demystify with wine lyrics—simple descriptive phrases with a simple format: body, texture, sweetness or dryness, and flavor. Consider lyrics for Chardonnay: full-bodied, fresh, and dry with flavors of apple, vanilla, and oak.

Key 3: Cocktails - the generic ones. If you're stuck in the “yes/no” question: “Can I start you off with a beverage? You get the, No, I’ll just have water with lemon," turn down. Plus, if the guest orders a vodka tonic avoid, "Do you have a preference?” or, the manipulative “Will that be Grey Goose or Belvedere?” Leaves the guest suspicious and annoyed.  Try the gentle listing: “By the way, we offer some great vodkas that include Kettle One, Grey Goose, Belvedere, Absolut Citron, and Sky. Get interesting: “By the way, Phil from Philadelphia makes a fabulous Grey Goose martini.” Names, places and brands awaken a brain at rest.  

Key 4: Beers - the auctioneer. Don't rattle off brews with robotic auctioneer indifference: “We have Bud, Bud Lite … Miller, Miller Lite, Coors, Coors Lite. It says, “I hate my job.” Use the slow rhythm technique with a calm commanding cadence and emotive inflection. Sprinkle in enticing tidbits:  “For beer we offer Heineken … Becks … Sam Adams … Corona … Stella Artois … and Peroni from Italy. And for a microbrew, New Belgium Fat Tire."

Key 5: Non-alcoholic beverages - red headed stepchild. When it comes to booze-less beverages, neglect abounds. Instead of iced water, Café Atlántico of Washington, D.C., offers a refreshing Dominican Lemonade with cranberry, lime, pineapple, and grapefruit. Move on from the Shirley Temple to a Texas Tornado with pineapple and freshly squeezed orange juice, grenadine, and Sprite. From Red Bull to Rooiboos Tea the options are endless and enticing.  

Key 6: Cordials and cognacs - the unnamed ones. Cordials and cognacs are another problem child. "Would you like coffee or an after-dinner drink?” Group desserts, specific after-dinner drinks and coffees. “For the grand finale, we offer a great selection of desserts including a white chocolate banana mousse pie, ginger crème brulée, and a homemade key lime pie. We also offer Bailey's, Amaretto and Grand Marnier. And, our special cappuccino with Kahula and our famous chocolate disappearing spoon.” More options more sales.   

Key 7: Bonus Points - delighters needed. Avoid the same old same old. Azul at JW Ihilani Marriott in Honolulu offers complementary homemade Lemoncello at the end of the meal. Unexpected, unnecessary and undeserved gifts instill loyalty.  

In the end, there's gold for the taking if you embrace drink knowledge and the seven keys of beverage sales success.


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