Chalking Up the Sales

Blackboard specials

It's the eternal question. How to encourage customers to trade up without relying on hand-selling.

More GP means a happier business, that much is true and not all establishments can hire a specialist wine expert to ensure profitable products get sold. So how do you enable customers to make informed decisions without needing staff to shepherd them?

A blackboard is one of the simplest, most effective ways of increasing the appeal of your wine list. Here's why it works:

Informing customers

According to Wine Intelligence only 3 in 10 drinkers feel they have sufficient wine knowledge to make an informed purchase. Got a blackboard near the bar? Put a tasting note under each wine. Staff recommendations are another time-honoured way to pass on information about your products, plus the added personality behind them can help the process feel less like a sales pitch. You'll find your customers coming to an informed decision on what they want to order before they reach the front of the queue.

Supporting your staff

If your blackboards have details about the wines written up, your staff can refer to them as a memory jog when they're hand-selling wines at higher price points. This is really useful if you have temporary staff, or a really long wine list (or both!). It also offers the customer a longer amount of time to make a decision as they can refer to the blackboard without a member of staff present, which takes off the pressure that sometimes comes with hand-selling.

 In practice, a blackboard can help add value to your wine offering by connecting with consumers in ways you may not realise at first. So here are our tips on how to maximise your returns on using a blackboard:


Limited edition will outperform bargain basement

Research has shown that limited or special editions is the joint number one factor in stimulating trade-up. it's been proven time and again that scarcity drives value. There is a way to influence consumer's decision to buy premium products and that is to reinforce the value message. Value doesn't always have to mean cheap it's about getting the most for your money. A tally of stock on each line that goes down with each bottle sold would reinforce the idea that there is only a limited stock.

Highlighting USPs

Does a wine pair well with a particular dish you serve? What’s its story? Aaker & Mogilner’s study, Time vs. Money (2009) found that many consumers respond more positively to associations of time investment rather than cash. In other words, people are looking for memorable experiences. Getting your customers to look behind the labels of your wines by highlighting their differences is one of the most powerful sales methods in the trade.

Appealing to the foodie

A recent study by Mintel drew the conclusion that high-quality ingredients can win a larger spend from 54% of wine drinkers. Take advantage of the majority of wine drinkers’ tendencies to respond to premium products by writing them up on the blackboard. Stock any biodynamic or organic wines? Mention it. Then you won’t miss out on a potential sale from the customer who is concerned about quality.


Advertising space in any other form comes at a premium, and they very rarely carry the feel and personality of a bar/shop quite so well. In terms of potential gain versus investment there isn’t much else that could match a blackboard for impact.

11th February 2015

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