Wine & Spirits Magazine’s ‘Fine-Dining’ Restaurant Poll

March 31, 2011 § 1 Comment

First, let me preface my observations by stating that I am a frequent reader and great admirer of Wine & Spirits magazine. Their content is interesting and well-written and the wine reviews are, in my opinion, usually accurate.  I consider its content more suited to wine professionals whereas its competition clearly targets wine aficionados. Over a decade ago, when I was a wine brand manager for a major importer, I would anxiously await Wine & Spirits’ Annual Restaurant Poll (as did our brand owners) to see how the brands in our portfolio fared that year. This was during a period when the number of accounts surveyed by W&S was well over 500 nationwide and there appeared to be representative coverage of each major metro market.  Those of us in wine brand management considered the survey an annual report card of our on-premise efforts to distribute and promote our brands.  So given my past connection with the W&S poll, I was somewhat disappointed to read the 22nd Annual Restaurant Poll in this April’s issue. 

This year’s poll only was drawn from just 216 restaurants and included just 10 chains; multi-concept restaurant groups also appear to be under-represented.  Another issue uncovered was over-representation of French restaurants, which comprised 23% of all accounts included the W&S poll. And this representation is considerably higher in specific markets such as California where there French resataurants make up over 25% and Illinois where they account for 33% of the total. As a point of reference, Winemetrics’ database of  473 wine-oriented restaurants in Illinois indicates that only 11% of the restaurants can be classified as French. 

Other surprises in the poll were the complete omission of Chilean wines (#5 in total imports behind Italy, France, Australia and Argentina)  and the surprising surge in popularity of Greek wine.  A Greek producer, Gaia Estate, was ranked 40th in popularity across all restaurants in the U.S.!  When a Greek producer ranks higher than any New Zealand, Australian, Spanish and all but the top Argentine producer in what is supposed to be a representative survey of U.S. restaurants, it’s time to review your sampling procedures.

I am not certain if the W&S Poll carries as much weight now as it did a decade ago. If it does, then there are numerous brand managers, national sales managers and other wine professionals being asked to explain the decline or complete absence of their brands in this poll.  So to counter-balance any negative effects this poll might have on your brands (and career), I would like to offer a free report excerpt from Winemetrics 2010 On-Premise Wine Distribution Report. For those interested in getting a copy of Winemetrics 2010 Top 50 On-Premise Wine Producers along with a copy of the restaurants monitored for our survey (a representative sample of chains and multi-concept restaurant groups with a focus on the casual and upscale casual dining segment) contact us at lists@winemetrics.com and this information will be sent by return email.  Hopefully our information will helpful in explaining how a Greek winery ranked higher than your brand in another survey.

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