10 Ways Restaurants Undermine Their Beverage Programs

June 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

The best planned and well-conceived beverage program can be derailed or at least minimized by common mistakes. Here are 10 of them and they are far more common than you would expect.

  1. Failing to post wine and drink menus on the restaurant website OR.
    • Leaving outdated information on the site
    • Posting ‘sample’ lists that don’t reflect the diversity and scope of the beverage program
    • Incomplete list e.g have wine BTG but no BTB list or fail to include craft beer and/or a complete cocktail list
  1. Failing to provide pricing on drink list (common problem for beer and cocktails). Would you order from a dinner menu that had no prices? So why the double standard for drinks?
  2. Failing to include drinks (wine BTG, beer, cocktails) on the food menu.
  3. Using the words “Ask your server about our (reserve wine list, craft beers, small-batch bourbon, etc) .” If it’s worth selling, it is worth placing on a menu that may have to be reprinted once and a while.  Server’s have a hard enough time memorizing the daily food specials – don’t expect them to recite and describe the 20 craft beers you pour.
  4. If there is a drinks menu: failing to place the wine list, drink list, beer list on the same menu. While a ‘complete’ beverage menu  is common in casual chains, many upscale-casual and fine-dining establishments force their patrons to juggle menus.
  5. Not having a craft beer list (or a cocktail list)
  6. Not training your bartenders to have a background on what they are serving.
  7. Treating beer taps as faucets (bartenders who let a beer tap ‘run’ prior to pouring a draft is one of greatest sources of lost beverage revenue)
  8. Excessive pricing of mass-market brands.  Consumer seeing over a 3 times retail price for a wine they frequently see on an end-aisle display at their local liquor store will assume the restaurant is overcharging for everything and will probably not return (FYI, I don’t)
  9. Not having tastings or flights of wine and beer (some enterprising chains offer cocktail flights by the way).
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Eureka! The Future of Upscale Casual Dining?

June 3, 2014 § 2 Comments

I recently visited the San Luis Obispo location of a small, 10-unit restaurant chain based in California named Eureka!. And yes, like Archimedes, I do believe I found something extraordinary. Eureka! has a cutting-edge beverage list with an artisanal and local focus for its wine, beer and cocktails. The food focus is local and affordable. Only hormone and antibiotic free beef is used in the gourmet burgers which range in price from $9-$12; nearly all entrees are under $20 (their Hangar Steak is $23.50).

The beverage program, however, is what distinguishes Eureka!  By my count there were 33 draft beers available, with not a single mass-market beer among them. The taps were divided into 19 ‘tried and true’ offerings (Lagunitas IPA, Allagash White, Stone Ruination) at $5-$9 and 10 Rotating Taps that offered more expensive ($6-$11) esoteric drafts. The 10 offerings of bottled beers were mostly rarities priced over $20/bottle with the highest-priced offering $65.

The cocktail list remained true to concept with 27 artisanal spirits and 9 Classic Cocktails. The focus here was on the cocktail ingredients, not the mixology. Again, the focus was local (California) and no mass-market brands were listed on the drink menu.

Eureka!’s wine selection was the smallest segment of the beverage list, just 14 by-the-bottle and 10 by-the-glass offerings. Wines were primarily from the Central Coast area but far from artisanal. Again, no mass-market brands made the cut, but the selections were far from cutting edge.  All the offerings were from mainstream varieties (half of the selection was comprised of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir); there were no stand-out rarities. By-the-glass offerings ranged from $6-$12 and bottles from $22-$69. It appeared that wine was placed on the menu merely to appease the occasional wine drinkersthat might happen to stumble in. This assumption is reinforced by the fact that Eureka! offers both a ‘build your own’ beer and spirit flight yet no such option is offered for wine.

The only flaw in Eureka!’s execution is there is no way to see how inventive and extensive its beverage program is as no drink lists are posted on its website. (See our post “How Restaurants Undermine Their Beverage Programs”.

Evidence that the Eureka! concept resonates with Millennials can be substantiated by the success of similar concepts around the country. Umami Burger, Plan B, Slater’s 50/50 and Square 1, among others, follow the local, artisanal, beer-centric model and are adding new locations at a rapid pace.  In all of the gourmet burger chains I have visited, wine plays a secondary role, yet I doubt there is a more burger-friendly beverage on earth than a brambly, full-bodied Zinfandel. Perhaps it’s time for the wine industry to address this gap in its on-premise coverage.

(Note: Eureka! is not a client of Winemetrics, nor do any of its employees have an affliation with anyone associated with our company. Also, Eureka! has not been nor will it be solicited for any future compensatory relationship with Winemetrics).

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