Wine List Best Practices: Houlihan’s – A Diverse List with Upscale Features

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Houlihan’s has recently undergone a social media-driven makeover of many of its units that has increased profits an average of 12%. Very impressive considering that so far this year the casual dining segment on average has contracted 1%. For more on Houlihan’s social media campaign click here.  

 Houlihan’s wine list has features not normally found in the casual dining segment. The list we surveyed (they vary slightly by location) features 32 unique wines including 26 by-the-bottle and by-the-glass (BTG) selections, 4 half-bottles (attractively priced) and a build your own flight option of three 2-oz. servings for $9.95.  The build your own flight option is something even most upscale casual restaurants fail to offer.  Despite the slightly lower than average BTB listings (the Casual American average is 30), Houlihan’s offers wines from 8 countries and 17 varieties.

Another positive feature for consumers seeking to research a restaurant’s menu prior to dining, Houlihan’s website navigation is direct and informative. Finding the wine list menu on the site was a snap; clicking on Drinks on the homepage menu directs visitors to a list of locations to view your local wine list and menu. All menus are listed with prices, a feature especially important with this economy. The drinks list at Houlihan’s is egalitarian; wine, drinks and beer are all on the same page with an array of interesting choices, both grape and grain. This is the first casual dining chain I’ve seen offering esoteric beers in large format sizes as well as martini flights.  Another significant feature of Houlihan’s is that the food and beverage list are on the same menu. No juggling of both a food and drink menu, or worse, a single beverage menu among a pair or quartet of diners.  

Finally, Houlihan’s has introduced an eclectic small plates menu which is probably the main reason why the chain is doing so well in this recession – you can dine well and affordably. A flight of 3 decent wines and a small filet of steak or salmon (off the small plates menu) costs less than $20 without tax or tip on the menu we surveyed.  Houlihan’s innovative approach to casual dining offers much that other casual chains should emulate.

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