Wine List

The Painless Wine List, Neuromarketing Edition


This post is all about how you as a sommelier can stimulate the diners tender psyche with some smart wine list engineering - neuromarketing style. Neuromarketing is a rather new field of marketing research that studies how consumers brains react to certain marketing stimuli. The wine list is not only a list of wines, but a marketing tool. And most sommeliers are expected to know some basic neuromarketing techniques to increase wine sales. Much of this is done without having in mind that there is a name for this science, and of course knowing this is of minor importance. The important thing is, that its being done.   

The most widely known technique, is probably the one about not putting a €-sign or $-sign behind the price of a wine. A little adjustment like this will make the guest spend more, according to researchers at Cornell University. In everything that you do, try to eliminate all potential pain for your guest and they will reward you.

In everything that you do, try to eliminate all potential pain

A sommelier who practices more advanced techniques is sometimes typing in a couple of “decoy wines” or “mines” in the list. A decoy is a somewhat more expensively priced wine, placed strategically so that another wine (usually with high margins) is looking very much, fairy priced. Research shows that diners usually is drifting towards the middle, not buying the most expensive, nor daring to buy the cheapest wine in the list.

I’m going to tell you about a psychological issue often facing diners when they are as most vulnerable. In other words before that first glass of wine. And a potential way of solving it that I haven't seen on wine lists so far:  

When the wine list finally is presented, the guest opens it with anticipation on what to find. For a second, in the hungry mind of a diner - everything is possible. The wine list is now wide open, and the white background lights up the diners face in the sober dimmed restaurant. And its as the light wakes him up, his sight immediately strolls over the neat list of producers and vintages to end up at the right end corner of the paper (strangely this is usually where the prices are.) Numbers that as drenched in caffein reawakens the rationale and other feelings that we don't necessarily associate with a good, relaxing dinner.  

However, there is a creative way to reduce that pain. And, perhaps, sell more wine! But its not a mere way to coax diners into spending a little more money. Its about relieving the guests pain, of emphasizing the pleasurable experience of choosing wine, while taking focus from the mathematical one. So what do I suggest, taking the prices of the list? No, I suggest pricing your wines in brackets. In this way, the guest can know what it costs without having to see the numbers and comparing prices, which starts the rational brain activity. Some wines will have a slightly higher margin, but for most guest its impossible to tell which ones. And some wines will have a slightly lower margin and so appeal to the connoisseur, that feels that he is rewarded for his knowledge.  

Basically this can work for any restaurant. Its all about adjusting the parameters. For larger wine lists five price brackets might not be enough, but perhaps seven will. The example brackets I've put in this list, like Budget and Budget + can easily be changed to colors, other words, or heck, even animals! If thats you're style. You just need an explanation to go with it. 

Wine List

Juliénas 2010, Domaine du Clos du Fief   (Budget)

Aloxe-Corton 2008, M. Voarick   (Budget +)

Beaune "Les Prévoles" 2010 J. Claude Rateau 2010   (Moderate)

Vosne-Romanée "Les Beaumonts" 1976, M.G. Lafite & Cie   (Moderate +)

"The Judge" 2006, Kongsgaard    (Premium )

Dear guest: To secure that your choice of wine is as effortless as possible we only have five prices. Budget (30) Budget+ (40) Moderate (55) Moderate+ (80) Premium (150)

This wine list is not organized, the purpose is just to show you how a painless wine list can look visualy.  Have you seen this approach before? Please share your experiences in the comment section below!