Placing trust in the restaurant wine buyer

How many restaurant wine lists have you opened up and found yourself completely lost over? It has happened to us all, and for many of us it is a regular frustration. Poorly constructed wine lists are all too common, but worse than that are wine lists that are there not to add value, but to maximise profits.

It is not an easy business to succeed in, I have said that before. There are various aspects that need to come together. Good management and proper running of the business is even more important than what’s being sent out of the kitchen. Needless to say of course, people won’t tolerate bad value for money, especially as every penny is being scrutinised more and more by the day.

Incredibly, many restaurants, but particularly pubs, gastro pubs and hotels, are failing at one of the easiest hurdles. Consumers are much more savvy and confident about their wine choice than they were 15 years ago. Fewer will accept paint stripper as an accompaniment to their meal, simply because they know better.

Today, managers need to source good wines at good prices, whilst remaining commercially aware of what is going to sell. Then they need to know how to sell it. For example, I would never encourage a mid-market restaurant to offer too much choice. Clutter brings inevitable confusion from the customer and a headache when it comes to stock control.

I’m not trying to undermine the importance of a wine list from the business perspective, here. The revenue through the wine list can be the difference between profit and zero profit, or zero profit and business survival. Business is business. All I’m saying is that it is not a sustainable practice to use the wine list purely as a money earner, rather than adding value to the meal and the experience as a whole.

It was brought to my attention last week at the Bandon Wine Club that a very reputable restaurant in West Cork is failing to deliver value on its current wine list and I got the impression that some of the locals have become disheartened. I then heard the same thing from a few other sources. Whatever the reasons are for going with a list that customers deem as being weak, it will be interesting to see how it effects their trade. If I was the manager, I’d be losing sleep knowing that people weren’t going away entirely happy after a night out in my restaurant.

Here’s a few tips on choosing wine in a restaurant.

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