Home Hospitality In Vino Veritas XC: Choosing a Restaurant from the Wine

In Vino Veritas XC: Choosing a Restaurant from the Wine

The normal thought pattern when choosing a restaurant is to think about the location, price point, ambiance and type of cuisine, with a great wine selection as a value-add but not a primary determinant. What if wine was a key factor?

For the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely that the majority of patrons will start to search for dining options based upon the availability of specific vintages. But they may be on the lookout for a place that combines great food and great wine.

Aside from specific tactics and broader principles to help you increase your beverage sales, an overarching lesson from this column has been to start putting wine front and center as a tool for deploying zero-cost marketing and building a cachet to become a price leader. You want to get to a point where people are mentioning you in the likes of, “This place has incredible wine, so let’s go there.”

A heuristic like that takes a fully committed wine program and an equally adept marketing team to pull off. Still, it’s a powerful statement that will differentiate your product beyond the talents of your executive chef, the attentiveness of your servers and the six-figure-plus renovation you completed during COVID-19 to invigorate the space.

Besides getting a mention in the odd food blog listing off the top ten wine-focused restaurants, one of the beauties about being known for having an impressive cellar or by-the-glass selection – as opposed to, for instance, being known for tasty tacos – is that it attracts high-margin wine drinkers. And this subset of diners isn’t stopping in for just a black coffee and a single pastry.

So, our first lesson for this 90th edition is to review what we’ve already written so that you can improve your wine program as well as how you embellish it to become immediately recognizable as a purveyor of great food and wine. Simply visit our web blog and dig in!

Second and to close, we offer one other consideration that we’ve seen yield succeed – arranging the menu by wine flavor profiles instead of by the customary starters, mains and desserts format. For this, imagine having the food menu organized under subheadings which read as, ‘Sweet and Fruity’, ‘Buttery White’, ‘Light-Bodied Red’ and, ‘Bold, Dark and Full.’

It’s a radical approach that’s sure to leave an impression, and that’s the point. The pandemic has eroded regular buying habits and customer loyalty. As with hotels, in the F&B space, people flew ‘onto the apps.’ Technology made it as easy as a few extra taps to try out another restaurant, versus sticking to your local dining spot, along with all the psychological safety from knowing what you’re getting.

During the reopening, with every restaurant clamoring to fill tables, you must stand apart from the pack. While this menu reshuffling idea may not be exactly to your liking, it should get you thinking about what’s actually feasible for your specific situation. The broader objective for a wine-first menu would not only be to sell more wine by nudging beverage sales in that direction, but to further distinguish your property’s restaurant as an institution committed to offering only the best to its patrons. Specific cellar recommendations and educational snippets inserted into the menu also reinforces this mission.

Perhaps you start with the optionality. You have both regular menus on hand but start a table off by handing out the wine-first menus. This approach works even better with QR codes where a responsive webpage can be reconfigured via tabulation to arrange the menu in either format.

Above all, start thinking. There are lots of little, creative steps you can take to drum up wine sales and push your brand in this direction that also aren’t expensive and don’t put a drain on your staff.

Larry Mogelonsky
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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