Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay Leads in Chain Restaurant Distribution

October 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

New data released from Winemetrics’ 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report shows Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay with the widest distribution of any product, appearing on wine lists of 61 on the 104 casual and upscale casual chains surveyed.  Beringer’s White Zinfandel took second place appearing in 57 chains. A surprising third place showing was Brown-Forman’s Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay found on the wine lists of 53 chains. With an average glass price of nearly $12 and a $43 average bottle price, it was not expected to appear on so many casual dining lists. Ranked 4th was Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Columbia Valley Riesling with 47 chains and rounding out the top 5 is Terlato International’s Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio in 39 chains, another testament to strong wine branding, as this product has an average wine list price over $46 a bottle.

For more information on our 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report,  please visit our website or download our 2010 Chain Report Excerpt

Ten Steps to Improving Wine List Profitability

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Key Features Offer Greater Wine Profits

(*based on research published by Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research)

  1. Post your wine list on your website with prices
    Your customers should have the option of seeing your wine list before committing to making a reservation.  In an upscale casual restaurant wine for a party of two core wine consumers can total 20-50% of the final tab; in the case of a fine-dining account with special bottles it can be 50-100%

  2. Put at least your BTG but hopefully part or all of your BTB list on the food menu*
    This is a no brainer. Having the by-the-glass selections or the entire wine list allows your customers to view your list as soon as they sit down without waiting for a wine/drink list to be provided. Having a wine selection on the menu also permits your more sophisticated diners to easily match their wine and food selections.
  3. Add multiple BTG (by-the-glass) serving sizes especially half-glasses*
    Having multiple glass sizes, especially half-glasses, is one of the best ways to increase wine list profitability.  A diner may wish to have atwo different wines with his/her without having to drink two full glasses. A half glass with an appetizer and a full glass with an entrée can provide that experience without the cost of 2 full glasses or bottle. Also, for some diners, a 5-6 ounce pour may not be sufficient for a hearty entrée and a half-bottle or bottle too much; a  9 ounce glass might be just right. According to the Cornell Research tasting portions increase sales by 18-47%, and if you think tasting portions are only for upscale restaurants, this study was executed in a casual seafood restaurant with a 20-item wine list.
  4. Add flights or, better, offer a build your own flight option*
    Flights are usually a group of three or four 2 to 2.5 ounce tastes. They vary from the mundane to the exotic and are generally tailored to a restaurant’s clientele. It may be prudent to let the customer create his or her own flight, an approach that seems to have worked well for P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.
  5. Add half-bottles
    Half bottles enhance a wine list only if they meet two criteria. They must be fairly priced and they should be well-known products. A diner who, prior to the recession, might splurge on a well-known $50 Pinot Noir, may still go for a half-bottle of that same wine for $25-$30.
  6. Price your wines fairly, or else.
    Nothing will infuriate a wine aficionado more than an egregiously over-priced wine list. The restaurant that commits this affront either does so out of ignorance or is trying to put one over on an unsuspecting public. Knowledgeable wine consumers are, if anything, a savvy group of consumers and they are a restaurant’s most valuable customers. They understand that an aged, USDA Prime ribeye steak should cost more than a regular T-bone on a menu, but they don’t understand why one restaurant would charge $60 for the same wine another is offering for $40. These consumers know what their favorites wines cost at retail and so are aware when are being gouged.  The 2.5 times retail markup is usually a safe standard.
  7. Expand the size of your wine list, especially if you have a casual or upscale-casual restaurant.*
    According to the Cornell research, this works up to 150 items. A general rule of thumb, a casual-dining restaurant with less than 26 wines should add selections as should an upscale-casual dining restaurant with less than 60 wines. Those are the average number of items for each segment from our 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report.
  8. Add well-known, higher-priced wines to your wine list or even add a reserve section to allow wine consumers to trade up.*
    With consumers trading down from fine dining establishments to upscale casual and casual dining venues, it is very likely those with ‘trade up’ wines will reap greater profits. Wine aficionados may be willing to save a few dollars on a meal but will not be commensurately reducing their wine choices. More likely, the bottle purchase will become a half-bottle or glass. Restaurants with the selection to attract these consumers will be rewarded.
  9. Take the $ signs off your wine list.*
    Very simple, according to the research, it works.
  10. Provide recommendations either via your waitstaff or, if your restaurant format permits, on a table tent. *
    According to Cornell’s research, “a table-tent promotion of five wines increased wine sales of promoted wines more than promotions recommending a single wine or three, spurring a 39% increase for the five featured wines, a 12% increase in overall sales and a 4% increase in total restaurant sales”. While table tents may not be part of every restaurant’s format, with desktop publishing there is no reason such recommendation cannot be made on the wine list, or even better, the dinner menu.

Another Winning Wine List: J. Gilbert’s

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Upscale Casual Steakhouse Winner: J. Gilbert’s

 J. Gilbert’s was the top-scoring winelist of the Upscale Casual Steakhouses that we surveyed in Winemetrics’ 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report and one of the highest scoring of all 104 chains surveyed. We’ve streamlined our reviews to rate specific aspects important to wine consumers seeking variety and value in the restaurant wine selections. We would greatly appreciate your comments on the value and format of this review.

Web Presence: A+, 3 clicks to a pdf wine/food menu, with prices and the entire wine list. J. Gilbert’s actually puts a date on its online menu so you can see how current it is.

Wine List Format: A+, The entire wine list is included on the dinner menu. So you can be ready with your BTG choice when your server comes to take your drink order and don’t have to worry about juggling a drink/wine list while perusing the menu.

Pricing: C+, in the middle regarding pricing. Given that J. Gilbert’s does not have any locations in expensive urban markets, we expected the prices to be more reasonable.

Serving Size Selection: A, has 2 oz. and 6 oz BTG and a 9 oz. carafe for about 30% of BTB selection, also has 3 designated flights (but with this wine list you can build your own). If it added some interesting half bottles J. Gilbert’s would get an A+. Still as casual steakhouses go, this is the best list we have ever seen. 

Regional Diversity: A,  With wines from 12 different countries, J. Gilbert’s is far ahead of its competitors.

Varietal Selection: A+,  There are 30 different varieties present on this 90+ item wine list, but mainstream wine drinkers have plenty to choose from too. There are 18 different Cabernet Sauvignons, 14 Chardonnays , 11 Merlot and 8 Pinot Noir, enough to keep traditionalists from complaining  about the stray  Gruner Veltliner and Torrontes.   

Overall Grade: A  The size of this list borders on that of a fine wine list but the prices and selection say upscale casual.

Please Note: the analysis of any restaurant appearing in the feature above is based on observations of one or more lists and may not be completely representative of a chain or restaurant group as whole. Also, no accounts appearing in this section are, or have been in the past, clients of Winemetrics. Furthermore, no person involved with Winemetrics has a financial interest in, or is any way affiliated with, the accounts mentioned in this newsletter.

Restaurant Chains Fail To Optimize Wine List Profitability

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Winemetrics’ 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report continues to provide unique insights into the structure and features of America’s wine lists.  For example, our survey indicates that nearly 2/3 (62%) of chains provide a wine list on their websites but only 49% provide wine lists with prices. Regarding wine list formats, 36% use a progressive format (light to full-bodied) and the remaining 64% use a traditional format (mostly organized by variety)

Here are some other important statistics from our report.

15% offer wine by-the-glass in multiple sizes

13% offer flights

12% offer half-bottles

10% offer a build your own flight option

About half provide by-the-glass choices on the food menu and 48% combine their entire wine and food menus.

Given the state of the economy and long-term challenges facing the restaurant industry, one would expect chains to embrace more wine list options to increase wine profits.

I’m certain that most of readers of this newsletter have heard about the groundbreaking research done by Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research as outlined in a 2007 Issue of Wines & Vines and a study found on Cornell’s CHR website.  One study, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., was performed in a casual seafood chain restaurant in Texas with a list of less than 20 wines, a chain that is included in Winemetrics 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report.  Dr. Wansink results are especially astounding for tastings (2 oz. portions) where “not only did the study find that two-ounce tasting portions increase sales by 18-47%, but the more the merrier. The single tasting promotion increased subsequent sales of full glasses by 18.2%, but when five tastes were offered, the total increase in sales for all five wines grew an astonishing 47.3% week on week”.  Given this evidence it is shocking that only 13% of chain restaurants in our survey offer tastings or flights. 

Specific details on 104 casual and upscale casual restaurant chain wine lists and how to increase their profitability (using the above research and some of our own) can be found in our 2010 Chain Restaurant Wine Distribution Report. More information and ordering details can be found here.

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