“American customers are desiring to enjoy sake”

By Yuji Matsumoto

American customers who come to Japanese restaurants anticipate enjoying cuisine and beverages not available in general American restaurants or supermarkets. According to a previously publicized survey, 70 American customers asked what they most look forward to at a Japanese restaurant said they “wanted to enjoy Japanese sake.” In reality however, most American customers end up ordering Japanese beer or house sake.

Here, we explain how to sell Japanese sake without the presence of staff knowledgable about sake or sake sommelier.

Restaurant’s approach
1. Does the name of the sake brand, regardless of it’s price, characteristics of the flavor, and pairing recommendations with menu items (sales points) listed in the menu?

Example) XXsake Junmai Ginjo Nagano prefecture
An exquisite sake presented by a sake brewer with over 300 years of traditions. A fruity aroma very unique for a Japanese sake and balanced acidity greatly enhances the delicious flavors of richly flavored meat dishes. Pairing recommendations are the Duck marinated with miso, Cod marinated with kasuzuke.

$8.00/glass (4 oz.) $32.00/bottle (720 ml.)
(Contacting each sake vendor for information on Japanese sake brands is recommended)

2. Are sample portions offered in small quantities for tasting?
The purpose is to review sales by the glass at reasonable prices for customers to try the sake. If sake is sold by the bottle at approximately $50 to 70, customers won’t feel like sampling it, so offering glasses at $5~8 or sampler sets is recommended.

3. How is the visibility of Japanese sake brands in the store?
Advertise Japanese sake by placing empty bottles as decoration, or use POP effects to bring attention to new arrivals and recommendation of the month.

4. While American customers aren’t particular in this area, is there variety offered in “appetizers that encourage the enjoyment of Japanese sake?”
Please take this into consideration.

Server side’s Approach
1. Understand the sake characteristics (sales point) and brand names recommended by the restaurant. It is especially important to train American servers to practice pronouncing difficult Japanese sake names correctly.

2. For recommending sake, have servers actually sample the sake individually and also paired with menu selections, so they can recommend each brand with confidence.

3. Consider offering incentives such as commission to servers for selling the sake.



① メニューに日本酒の名前、価格のみならず味の特徴、食事とのペアリング(セールスポイント)が書かれているか?
例)XX酒  純米吟醸  長野県
$8.00/グラス(4 oz.) $32.00/ボトル(720ml.)

② 顧客が試しに飲んでもよい容量でサーブされているか?

③ 店での日本酒の視覚的認識を高めているか?

④ アメリカ人はさほど拘らないが、それでも価格帯とポーションを考慮した“日本酒がすすむ料理”(アペタイザー)のバラエティーがあるか?


① 店側が勧める酒の特徴(セールスポイント)と名前を把握すること。

② 勧める理由を味、食事とのペアリングなど実際の体験をさせ自信を持って勧めさせる。

③ 何らかのインセンティブも検討する。