[Editor's Note: Enjoy our four-part series on wine preservation systems, by-the-glass programs, and how it may impact your business.]
Today’s wine savvy guests are looking to be enticed. They are drinking better wine at home where they have control of the quality, and know the great importance of correct serving temperatures as well as the importance of freshness and control of oxidation. They are looking to restaurants, now more than ever, for that added value – that component of luxury – that is most difficult to recreate.
But where does value begin? With wine, it might begin with the buy, the bottle itself, the brand. Before it is even opened, wine is building credibility. But it is also perishable, so it is up to the restaurant to elevate that credibility, to make sure that wines being offered by-the-glass are not compromising consistency.
Award winning restaurants such as the Elbow Room in Fresno, California, and Albany’s Yono’s Restaurant have this problem figured out. They have invested in top tier wine preservation systems, designed to remove the right amount out air from the bottle, reseal, and store at the correct temperature, pour after pour.
“You are paying thirty dollars a glass. It better be served and preserved properly,” says Michael Shirinian, owner of the Elbow Room, which boasts names like Peter Michael, Caymus, and Kistler as by-the-glass selection. He notes that it is exciting for guests to find a place that offers such a premium selection, but that this means that the stakes are now very high to leave that customer satisfied. And it’s not just about getting less complaints, he points out – a silent customer does not equal a happy one – but about fostering an atmosphere where customers are comfortable opening the discussion. Worse, for him, than customer dissatisfaction is a guest who is not certain whether the fault was in the wine itself or on their own taste buds. Dissatisfaction is far simpler to rectify than doubt.
With the Elbow Room’s preservation system, servers can extinguish any lingering doubt and cut right to the chase. With very little room for human error, servers can be confident that what they are offering tastes how it was intended from the first pour to the last.
“If you want to really consider yourself precise,” Shirinian explains, “you want the system that is taking the right amount of air out so that the wine is preserved at its peak. Having used three types of dispense systems over the years, I finally found Le Verre de Vin. It works better than anything I have ever used before.”
Multi-award winning restaurant owner and sommelier Dominick Purnomo agrees. He channels the late musical icon, Prince, when it comes to taking responsibility for customer satisfaction. “I’d rather give people what they need rather than just what they want,” he quotes.
For Purnomo, this means staying abreast with the latest wine preservation technology. He purchased his preservation system when his restaurant, Yono’s, moved locations, ten years ago, so it has been with him since opening day. “I knew that if I was going to offer a world class selection of wines by the glass, I had to have a system to protect my investment,” he says. This also sends a very clear message to potential customers: When it comes to quality, this place is ahead of the game.
Precision and quality are crucial elements, but a certain conspicuous attitude also plays a role. At the Elbow Room, visibility is key – to moving and promoting wine as well as customer education. Shirinian has found that the presence of the preservation system itself, in full view at the bar, becomes a conversation starter between customer and server. When the wine is ordered, the bartender produces the bottle and removes the resealable still wine or Champagne stopper. The wine is poured, the cap put back on, then inserted into the preservation system, which activates automatically, resealing the bottle to the controlled level.
“A green light comes on and that means it is perfectly sealed,” Shirinian explains. “The guests will see that and they will start asking, ‘wow, what is that?’ It is a conversation piece that the customers have embraced.”
Today’s guests know what they want. They expect a strong by-the-glass program that is worthy of not just their money, but also their trust. In short: they can no longer be expected to drink anything less than the very best. Wine preservation systems, like the ones at Yono’s and the Elbow Room meet these high expectations then, when matched with talented, hardworking restaurateurs, raise that bar even higher, all the while extinguishing doubt and giving that wine savvy customer the confidence to ask for more.