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LIST mapping

Too many wine buyers approach the buying process without a concrete plan in place. Buying decisions are often made on a whim, driven by supplier, score, or perhaps sommelier ego. To make the buying process more objective, I created a concept that I call “list mapping.” My approach starts with developing the wine-list pricing structure, moves to wine categories and types, and finally progresses to selecting the wines. List mapping helps the buyer develop a sound, balanced, profitable list that all customers will enjoy.

Step 1: Develop the average bottle price range. When I hear guests say a list is “expensive,” most are referring not to the restaurant’s markup but to the wine prices in relation to the restaurant’s concept and average check. Here is the system I use that will counter this perception:

Begin with the average price of the entrées on the menu. Let’s use $20 as an example. Multiply the average entrée price by two. This number ($40) represents the lower price range of the wines that should dominate the list.

Next, add the average price of the entrée to this number for the higher price range of the wines that should dominate the list.

For this hypothetical restaurant, the bulk of the wine list should be within the $40 to $60 range. Of course, the list should have selections lower and higher, but at least 35 to 45 percent of the selections should be in this range. And the majority of the list should be in the “sweet spot”— about $20 lower to $20 higher than the calculated range.

The allocation would look some- thing like this:

$20–$40 20%
$40–$60 45%
$60–$80 15%
$80–$100 15%
$100+ 5%

Generally, as wine lists expand, the percentage of high-end selections is increased by decreasing the percentage of low-end wines. If you are expanding your list, make sure that the lower-priced wines are grouped together in their categories, which will give the perception of value, even as their percentage of the overall list decreases. Keep in mind that 60 to 80 percent of the list should still remain in the sweet spot.

Step 2: Split the list between white and red selections. This is a very subjective calculation, which will change with the concept. I try to split the list between 35 percent white wine and 65 percent red wine with most of my programs. Seafood-dominant restaurants may be as high as 50/50 white to red, while steak houses may trend toward 25/75 white to red.

Step 3: Select each wine type and price, creating a map of the program. I find that the smaller the list, the more important mapping the list becomes. As an example, let’s use a casual-concept restaurant with a 100-bottle wine list and a $20 average entrée price. We’ll plan to purchase 35 white wines and 65 red wines. Below is how I would map out the white-wine section. 

$20-$40 20% 7
$40-$60 45% 16
$60-$80 15% 5
$80-$100 15% 5
$100+ 5% 2

Once the mapping is complete, I select the types of white wine for the wine list. Below is an example:

California Chardonnay (7) ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $60–$80 ❏ $80–$100 ❏ $100+
Sauvignon Blanc (5) ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $60–$80 ❏ $80–$100

White Burgundy (6) ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $60–$80 ❏ $80–$100 ❏ $80–$100 ❏ $100+

Spanish White (2) ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $40–$60
Italian White (4) ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $60–$80
Riesling (5) ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $60–$80 ❏ $80–$100
Rhône Varietals (2) ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60
Misc (4) ❏ $20–$40 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60 ❏ $40–$60

Step 4: Select the actual wines from your suppliers. Note that list mapping forces you to consider the entire wine list. Make sure that you are also balancing the price selection in each price category. For example, in the $40 to $60 category, don’t select wines that are all $58.

List mapping provides the buyer with a solid plan and ensures a balanced, well-priced list. After the initial lists are developed, I provide wine-list maps for my buyers at each restaurant. When a restaurant runs out of a wine, the buyer may replace it with a selection of the same category, which allows for buyer input and creativity while still adhering to the structure imposed by the list map.

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The idea of LIST mapping is so amazing. I like that you develop this idea to share your views about the peoples' choice. Also here I read about the ideas that are more helpful to make the things easy to understand.
Great read on List mapping, what is your rule of thumb on the Reds? Thank you, Happy New Year