SPENDING PATTERNS OF THE PROSPEROUS
To ensure heightened wine sales now and for years to come, it would be wise for hospitality professionals to create sales-building programs that cater to these extremely stable—and thirsty— consumers. The best way to do that is to design marketing programs to raise wine awareness and sales. There are dozens of ways to create custom wine-marketing programs. Here are a couple of winning ideas to consider.
Design fun wine-themed promotions that fit your restaurant. A great example is the Manhattan-based Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group’s (SWRG) semiannual National Wine Week — diners can taste ten wines for $10 when they choose a special prix fixe menu. Your program need not be as ambitious as the SWRG promotion, but you can send your guests on a tour of Spain, Italy, boutique producers, American classics, Zinfandels, harvest specials, and so forth, and you can design your programs to last for a few days or one month.
Of course, these wine-bargain incentives require negotiating with vendors so that the diners’ indulgence doesn’t outweigh your cost. But if you build the wines into the price of the meal and institute a cost-effective advertising campaign, your program can be a good business driver and can also establish your restaurant as a wine destination.
Develop private-label wines. But rather than investing in large amounts of a “house wine” of reasonable, quaffable quality at the cheapest price you can get, why not negotiate with a reputable producer to commit to a barrel or lot? Involve the producer in a label design that honors both your restaurant and the winery or create a special private cuvée together. Santé contributor and Caparoso Wines founder Randy Caparoso established the standard for this type of program as the principal wine buyer for Roy’s Restaurants. He worked with Oregon’s Rex Hill Vineyards and Santa Barbara’s Au Bon Climat, among other outstanding producers, and Roy’s experienced great success with cuvées made by good winemakers and marked to a premium.
If you’re contemplating this approach, consider attending the Premiere Napa Valley auction held each February. Wholesalers, retailers, and restaurateurs are invited to bid on five-, ten-, and 20-case lots of wine futures, which can be one-of- a-kind or limited-production cuvées. Labeled as your own and marketed as unavailable anywhere else, this wine is sure to pique diners’ palates.
Check out the next issue for more ways to heighten your wine program and reach out to that luxury consumer who’s just waiting for the opportunity to splurge on quality-of-life-enhancing products and experiences.
PARTNER WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES.
With effective promotions and follow-up, their customers become yours, too. For example, you can make a deal with a local theater to drive drama enthusiasts to your establishment before or after a show. An ad in the show bill offering a free appetizer or dessert when customers show their ticket stub or a preshow price-fixed dinner promoted in the local paper may increase traffic.
You can encourage these partnerships by providing a marketing effort in return, such as a promotion offering free tickets to a theater show with featured menu items. This type of program provides an ongoing opportunity for bartering gift certificates back and forth in a mutual incentive promotion. You can also foster similar programs in conjunction with museums, movie theaters, and retail outlets. Consider starting partnerships with local charity organizations—another good way to elevate awareness of your business. Stage charity dinners, create menu offerings, and sell gift certificates from which a percentage will be donated to your partner charities. In exchange for a reasonable donation, you may be able to access their mailing list to grow your customer base.
ESTABLISH YOUR RESTAURANT AS A WINE DESTINATION.
If you have shied away from this idea because of the sluggish economy of the past few years, it’s time to reconsider. Creating a series of wine-driven events and happenings provides more reasons to have the diner come to see you, for the media to cover you, and for you to galvanize your position as the place to go when it comes to fun wine- and food-related events. Consider special wine dinners, wine classes that are taught by your resident wine expert, or a wine-bar concept (for example, wines paired with small plates) to fill your seats on slow nights.
CREATE A FAMILY OR COMMUNAL TABLE FOR WINE ENTHUSIASTS.
Once you designate a table for wine lovers, you can promote a program that invites diners to bring their own wine, where legal, and share it with others at the table for a minimal corkage fee. You can also include a special by-the-glass list that features exceptional wines and is available only to that table. You provide single diners with an exciting interactive option, one that local dating services and concierges would be eager to promote if you alert them to your new program.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF REFERRAL SERVICES PROVIDED BY CONCIERGES.
These hotel employees are extremely valuable to all restaurant organizations that are smart enough to engage them. Concierges regularly offer dining suggestions to diners ready to splurge, so if you make your restaurant top of mind for them, you’re sure to get additional business. One way to leverage concierges is to host their association gatherings. Concierges get together on a fairly regular basis and often prefer to do it off premises. If your restaurant becomes the place where they have these meetings, you will garner their goodwill. Another way to get their attention is to invite them to come to your restaurant at their leisure, not yours, to sample the menu and to be appropriately coddled. Finally, visit them regularly and always bring a token of appreciation such as a gift certificate or cookies from your pastry department.
All of these ideas don’t take a lot of money or time to implement. But they do take gumption. Summon it up and put some of these ideas to work for you, and you’ll see that for the hospitality industry these days, the glass really is more than half full.