Building a successful Restaurant Wine Program

Creating a great Restaurant Wine Program for your Restaurant can make a big difference to your bottom line.  It will increase the revenue and profit of the average customer as well as acting as a magnet to draw in new customers and turn them into repeat customers.  We attended David Glancy’s session on building a Successful Restaurant Wine Program to find out some of the secrets from a Master Sommelier.

Restaurant Wine Program Goals

The goal of any Restaurant Wine Program should be to balance the artistry of wine and adding profit to the Restaurant.  It must focus on:

  1. Increase revenue;
  2. Increase profit;
  3. Market Awareness; and
  4. Customer Satisfaction.

Keys to a strong wine program

  1. Budgeting –
    1. Inventory – initial and ongoing, turnover, Cost of Goods Sold (PC%) and Revenue.  Also includes the size of the list, the price range, define your low, average and high price.
    2.  Average wine bottle at 2 – 3 times the average entree price works well.  National average for restaurant wine cost = 36%.  Shrinkage, spills and breakage, spoilage, theft, over-pouring and un-recorded comps.
    3. To achieve 36% product cost, pricing should target 33% allowing for up to 3% shrinkage.  Budget for 3% shrinkage but aim for 1%.  Most restaurants use a slide scale averaging 3 times wholesale cost. (33% PC before shrinkage) Low cost wines, mark up 4 times, medium cost wines, mark up 3 times, and high costs wines marked up 2 times wholesale.
    4. Check your invoices – item, quantity, price and date,  tell distributors when you want wine delivered (outside of busy service times).  Two person monthly inventory is critical to accurate inventory.
  2. Selecting.
    1. What is the style of list you want?  Traditional, user friendly, edgy, region variety and flavour?
    2. Add your wine recommendations on the food menu.  Make it easy for customers to order – no intimidation – it puts customers off.  Often less is more in a wine program.  Food first, wine second, so make sure there is a by the glass wine to match with it.
    3. There should be a balance with low, medium and high priced items in every category.
    4. A mix of producers between comfort selections and discoveries, styles – wines for every palate, not just yours.
    5. There should also be changes in the seasonal food menu and new discoveries a few at a time.
    6. Vendor Relations – tell them what wines you are looking for.  Attend trade tastings instead of individual appointments.  Give more business to distributors who give you better service, refer you more business and spend money in your Restaurant.  Don’t make buying decisions based on your tastes – you are buying for the palate of restaurant customers, not yours.
  3. Selling
    1. Hospitality – Passionate, humble and welcoming
    2. Wine list as a sales tool
    3. Train everyone in the team to sell the wine
      1. 10 minutes a day in pre-shift line-up
      2. Make training fun
      3. Pay staff to attend mandatory training and consistently discipline employees who no-show
      4. Test employees
      5. Avoid single product staff sales contents.
      6. Laws, Tied House Laws, Dram Shop Laws LEAD Or Tips Training – can decrease your insurance bill as well
  4. Maintaining the program
    1. Par levels
    2. Countdown and 86 list, eg only 2 bottles left or out of this wine
    3. Wine list accuracy (vintages, vineyards, etc)
    4. Temperature, storage and spoilage dates


Some alternatives to wine pricing

Half price wines one night a week to drive customers on quiet nights, free corkage one night a  week, or even adjusting wine mark-ups to stimulate sales, eg increase the mark up on a wine that isn’t selling wine.  Servers want to sell the highest price wine, increasing the price will get the servers behind it.

Another idea is to discount the Champagne and have that first sale made quickly so that customers can transition to another wine next.  Have a page with “Our current favourites”,

One last tip – Don’t put cents on the menu.  Charge whole dollars.


Restaurant Wine Programs can increase revenue and customer retention

Restaurant Wine Programs can increase revenue and customer retention

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