Wake Up Your Menu

Images: Sage / ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas / MGM Resorts International

Sage restaurant in Las Vegas is taking a different approach to its menu and is seeing sales rise.

Located in the MGM resort Aria, the restaurant is featuring its cocktails and wines by the glass in diagrams, as an alternative to lists.

The cocktail menu is a grid, displaying cocktails depending on how sweet, dry, refreshing, bold, etc., they may be.

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“We strive to be different for the better,” says Craig Schoettler, MGM Resorts International executive director of beverage and corporate mixologist. The menu is designed, he says, to provide guests with more information so they can make an informed decision about what they’re going to drink.

Usually bars, he explains, “have esoteric [drink] names that don’t say anything to guests and they have no idea what a lot of ingredients are, so they’re shooting blind when they order. We want to provide a level of service and the utmost level of hospitality. And we want our guests to enjoy what they’re going to get. We don’t want them to order something they are expecting to be Manhattan-style and get something Cosmo-style.”

Smoke cocktail at Sage restaurant inside ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas

Because Sage provides more information, guests tend to be happier with the drinks they’ve ordered, Schoettler says. “No disappointed customers is our goal.”

Read this: The Art of the Simple Menu

This is because customers have a better idea of what they’re ordering he says, but also because the grid allows them to make a plan. “It starts to register that if you’re having more than one drink, you should maybe start on the left quadrant for the palate cleansing, aperitif-style drink and then you can finish more on the right to have the bolder-side cocktail.”

Sage at ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas cocktail and beer menu Venn diagram

“We’ve seen repeat sales and more cocktails per check. And each guest is ordering more cocktails because they’re more pleased with what they’ve ordered,” he says.

The new menu design was introduced about 18 months ago and feedback from customers has been great. Schoettler had to coach staff at first, since it’s a new way of viewing cocktails.

“We had to break the muscle memory and educate them on how to speak to the guest and explain why. Once the guest understands why it’s laid out this way, there’s buy in. Staff shouldn’t just drop a menu off; this new menu plays into their introduction and gives them a reason to converse and engage with guests. And any time we can engage the guest and get them comfortable and excited and build the anticipation of the drink that’s coming, they have more buy in.”

The grid features 10 cocktails, five of which are staples; the remainder revolve.

Sage at ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas wine menu Venn diagram

At the same time as rolling out the new cocktail menu, Sage launched a new wine-by-the-glass menu design. This is a Venn diagram, showing which wines pair with which food items, with overlaps, of course. Wines are also shown in colors, corresponding to their flavor profiles. Sancerre is green, for example, because it’s very vegetal. Riesling’s a less bold green because it’s less robust. The boldest reds are purple.

“Ordering a glass of wine with your meal can be intimidating, and asking for the sommelier can also be intimidating. So, we wanted to give guests a road map of ordering a glass of wine,” Schoettler explains.

This, he says, is helping guide customers’ experiences to be the best they can be by giving them the ability to choose which wines works for them.

Sales of wine by the glass have increased since the Venn diagram menu was launched, “but it’s also increased wine sales overall because it opens up the conversation,” Schoettler says. “If a guest has a glass that goes well, they might end up getting a bottle of it. It’s all about creating education and letting the guests do it with their own free will rather than being dictated to.”

Since the Venn diagram, is, in his words, “totally breaking the norm,” Sage also provides information on wines in a traditional list for guests who don’t want to deal with the diagram.

“We want to break the mold of the pretentious beverage list. The whole idea is having fun, and if you do that guests remember their experience and have a good time, and everyone is engaged. And when they leave, they remember it.”