Same Same or Different

Aside from making your food shine, a well balanced wine list can inject individuality and boost your bottom line

Every now and then I am hired as a consultant to design a bar and restaurant’s wine list. What all my clients have in common is that they all want to have an outstanding wine list, and they all want to be successful in bringing wine lovers to their premises, however, what they want to have on their wine menu differs considerably, and more often than not, it also differs to what I recommend.

As a consultant I usually have 3 big battles to fight.

The first one is about “wine by the glass.” Most restaurants offer just a few wines by the glass, and almost all the time just the cheap ones. I understand their policy: the less wines available by the glass the less bottles they have to open, and the less likely that they have to throw wine away because it was not sold. Likewise, the cheapest the wine they offer, the biggest margin they can have and the cheaper they can offer it to attract more customers. However, if a restaurant wants to attract wine lovers—people who not only love wine but spend (a lot) of money on wine—they could not make a bigger mistake than having just a few and inexpensive wines by the glass. I go to many restaurants, with very few exceptions like Lubu or Mad House, which do not have nice quality wines available by the glass, I am usually forced to drink a beer, which is preferred to having a cheap wine. I am not the only one.

My second battle is about the number of suppliers to have. I work with most of them, and even the biggest ones cannot provide a perfect wine list. My strong recommendation is for restaurants to work with at least 10 suppliers, and get the best each have to offer. It is a terrible operational mistake to go for a single supplier, which some do as it is easier for them, but they should put customers first.

And my third fight is about regions and grape varieties. Everyone wants Champagne, Bordeaux and the usual suspects. And although I am in favor of having the 12 to 20 usual suspects (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rioja, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.) because there is a demand for it, but if you want to attract wine lovers, your wine menu must have some wines that are different: different unusual grapes and/or different unusual regions so that wine lovers, who always want to discover new things, will find yet another reason to visit your place.

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