We all know the fairy tale of Goldilocks happening upon the Three Bears’ house and trying the porridge and beds until she finds ones that are “just right.” There is a basic marketing lesson in that story: consumers pass on products until they find one that meets their needs. In fact, studies show that today’s consumers are becoming increasingly demanding. In response, retailers are offering an ever-increasing array of quality options and are competing for their disposable income dollars.
When it comes to beverages, the myriad of choices is dizzying these days. American retailers have long catered to segments, day parts, and the expanding need-states of the customer. There’s a growing trend to personalize purchase options by packaging beverages in varying sizes to fit every possible occasion. Just walk into any convenience store if you need further proof of the proliferation of these serving choices, big and small.
Why all the custom sizing? Because savvy marketers realize that “just-right” sizes mean increased opportunities to meet the right-here, right-now needs of more consumers. And, these days, that can mean the difference between a sale and no sale at all.
How does all of this relate to wine service on-premises? How many times have you witnessed your guests conclude that a glass of wine is not enough and a 750 ml bottle is excessive? Or, you observe that the table cannot agree on a bottle that is to everyone’s preference. Or your guests reason that it would be nice to start with one wine and change gears for the entre, but a full bottle of each is just too much?
Are we really giving consumers enough on-premises wine-portion options to make wine more accessible for all dining occasions? Is our industry creative enough to challenge the way we think about wine portions in a restaurant environment? If we truly want to expand the number of wine occasions for consumers, let’s borrow a page out of the retail playbook and expand wine-portion options for our guests.
Of course, wine-by-the-glass programs are supposedly accomplishing this mission. They give guests ultimate flexibility in their dining experience. But in the real world of a busy restaurant, how many second glasses go unserved because we missed the slim window between a guest finishing the first glass and being ready for the second? How often are servers absent at that critical moment when there’s not enough wine to complete the meal but any further ordering delay means that the wine will likely arrive too late to be enjoyed?
Half-bottles are great if you have access to brands that fit your concept, guests who don’t mind paying more than half the price for half the product, menu space and storage to stock extra skus, and . . . well, you get my point. They can be cumbersome to say the least, and they are not the best consumer value.
Reinventing the Carafe
Could it be time to consider the rebirth of the carafe? I’m not talking about the jelly-jar jugs of cheap house wine of yesteryear, but carafes done well in upgraded vessels---those that could do justice to the quality of the wine and that come in a size that helps fill the gap between a glass and a bottle. Casually elegant carafes still fulfill that communal hospitality gesture of being able to top off our guests’ glasses, a pleasantry totally foregone in by-the-glass service.
Imagine consumers opting for a 375 ml decanter of any wine on your list and enjoying commensurate value. Imagine your guests’ second glass already at the table and ready whenever they are. Just as by-the-glass service made wine accessible to a broader number of consumers, wine by-the-carafe could help take hospitality up another notch to make portions not too big, not too small, but “just right” in a manner that would make Goldilocks proud.