After-dinner delights

“You’re beginning to look very attractive now that I’ve had my Botrytis Semillon and blue cheese.”

“You’re beginning to look very attractive now that I’ve had my Botrytis Semillon and blue cheese.”

Luring customers to spend more time and money indulging in after-meal drinks can be tricky. Fortunately, Ben Canaider knows the secret to building up your after-meal sales (but it’s a bit cheesy).

With the exception of opening an outdoor cigar lounge, one really does wonder what to do when it comes to the irksome problem of after-dinner beverage sales. How many restaurants do you know that try the hand-sell dessert idea, complete with separate menus including ideal sweet wines to match? Dessert wines themselves are declining in sales, and the return of the late-night cocktail set make things look bleak for the taking of that traditional bit of black forest cake and port profit margin come about 10.30 pm.

Certain social trends have played havoc with the third course, too. Drink-driving laws make people spend less at dinner—they are all looking at ways to deflate their potential alcohol intake. Dessert and dessert wine is one obvious deduction. Dieting and the growth of personal vanity is another problem for any restaurateur with a dessert wine list. How are you going to sell the half bottle of $50 Botrytis Semillon to table 13 if they’ve spent the night on one bottle of sauvignon blanc, three litres of mineral water, and only ordered from the entrée menu?

This, however, does leave you with a couple of places to go in search of those late-night margins. One concerns cheese; the other concerns mixology. Let me explain.

Cheese is the new golf, despite the fact no one seems to realise it is just as fattening as dessert. Everyone loves cheese nowadays because it is in celebratory food magazines and, well, it’s the only thing a lot of Australians feel comfortable about. A bit of cheese after dinner is gorgeous. It’s also sophisticated—even if it is more often than not wrong. Not just in its making and service (aka, nearly frozen), but also in the wines it is often eaten with. Blue vein cheeses and Australian red wines are more like a fight to the death than a marriage made in heaven. So there’s a chance here for you to both set some standards and make some money. This is where you can extend the after-dinner sales.

Good cheese served at the right temperature can help you sell more fortified and dessert wines than any bit of aforementioned black forest cake. Blue cheeses with the Botrytis Semillon are such a happier marriage than blue cheese with red wine—the red just tastes metallic. Hard cheeses with fortifieds such as tokay or muscat can be another revelation. Matured hard cheeses can also help you to sell older, vintaged red wines. Even full-bodied white wine with some good white mould cheese can help get things moving later in the evening. Other fortifieds—like tawny port, which keeps so well in bottle—can sort out nearly every cheese imaginable, excepting buffalo mozzarella.

If cheese isn’t your deal, then you do have another option. Change the ambience as soon as dinner has passed. Once orders are over, focus all the lighting—and staff’s attention—on the bar. And if you don’t have a bar, build one. If there’s one thing that Australians love at any time of night or day (or early morning), it’s a friendly bar where they can talk rubbish until a million o’clock. Offer your dining guests this option at meal’s end, and you’ll be very surprised what spirits, beers and other wines might yet be consumed.

A bar after the dinner—or, better still, a bar where diners from other restaurants come—is the perfect place to do some serious hand-selling of those older wines and spirits on the list that can make your night that much more worthwhile.

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