How to balance your wine list for profit. It is important to consider a number of factors, such as price, but also other aspects.
A successful wine program will balance the wine list based on a number of factors in order to maximize overall profitability. A wine program’s core is typically the wine list. The wine program takes into account many factors, including the ambiance of the venue, its location, target markets, distributor availability, producer allocations, as well as the goals and objectives of a sommelier or wine director. It is crucial to stay true to the concept of the venue, restaurant, or wine bar. A steakhouse in Argentina should offer red wines from Argentina and not just Rhone, Napa, or Bordeaux. The list of casual bistro shouldn’t only include bottles that cost more than $80.
Two famous Montreal restaurants from a decade back have distinct memories of their wine lists: one was casual, innovative, and gourmet; the other was fine dining at the top of its class. There was no tablet, no printed list, and only an enormous chalkboard that displayed high-priced wine. The second had a beautifully printed list that was extensive and divided into sections based on region, style, price, and bottle size. A sommelier was also available to help.
The chalkboard of the first restaurant lent itself well to the overall concept and ambiance, including being anti-fine dining while still offering innovative cuisine. However, the wine experience was disappointing due to the mismatch in image, selection, and price. I was not satisfied with the wine experience, as it was in the lower price range, and there were no other options. The second restaurant was a great experience for wine and food. I started with a half-bottle of Beaujolais and moved on to a full bottle within my price range. Some provided his opinions, and the wine was paired perfectly with the food. I was happy to leave.
Balance Your Decisions
The overall experience of the guest, including satisfaction, word of mouth, online reviews, and repeat patronage, is influenced by the balance in the wine list.
All of these factors must be considered: size, price range, and format. It can be harder to balance a smaller list than a larger one. Budget and storage space will also be a constraint. For balancing purposes, start with a three-fold markup on average across the entire list. This includes the lower-cost wines, which are marked up at least four times the wholesale price (or even more, I’ve seen up to six times). The middle-cost wines can be marked up up three times, and the higher-priced wines should only be marked up twice or less. About 60% of the list should be medium-priced wines or more, depending on the market and concept. The price of the food should have a direct correlation to the wine. David Glancy, MS, from the San Francisco Wine School recommends that the average cost of a bottle of wine be between two and three times what the average entree is priced at.
The wine selection should also be based on the menu. Are you offering a variety of food, such as spicy Asian, gourmet Mexican, classic French Bistro, or a multitude of steaks? Wines should be chosen to complement the food. Do not forget about aperitif and dessert wines. You can start by deciding which wines you want to serve in a glass and then add the rest. If you sell rose by the bottle, you should have options at different price points. This means that you should have low-, medium-, and high-priced wines in every category. Don’t limit your Bourgogne wine selection to high-priced wines. Consider both comfort wines and discovery wines. At least some wines should be recognizable by customers, but not necessarily all. It may frustrate or turn off some customers if all the wines are high-end and obscure. It is a great way to create a lasting impression on guests by introducing them to new wines. This will lead to more sales.