For a restaurant the ideal relationship with a winery is as a “partner” rather than just a supplier—someone who provides the goods and services with an understanding of our needs, our concept, and our ambitions. Here is some advice to wineries on how to achieve a productive relationship with a restaurant.
We love to see you and taste your wines but at the appropriate time. Call for appointments, and don’t be insulted if we don’t get to your table when you come in to eat. We love it when you come in to dine and bring some wine for us to taste later, but we prefer unopened bottles to your messy leftovers. If it’s an unlabelled barrel sample or an extreme rarity, we’ll want to taste it after our shift; please leave it with sales and price sheets, along with a personal note. And please be sure to follow the laws in states or counties that stipulate how samples are labeled and poured.
Don’t be a cheapie.
A restaurateur appreciates it when you order something off the wine list; scratch our back, and we might scratch yours. At the very least, generously tip the servers who open and pour your BYOBs.
Understand our menu and price points.
Before making your pitch, take the time to study our food menus and wine list. We’ll be happy if your products fit right in with our style of food, our chosen theme, and especially our price points.
If our restaurant averages $35 to $45 covers, our average bottle sales are between $30 and $50. It’s fine to sell us wines that cost us $25 (a selling point between $50 and $75—restaurant bottle markups vary widely), but keep in mind that if it’s not within the range of our maximum sales, you won’t see as many sales. Conversely, it makes little sense to offer wines that cost $5 to restaurants that average over $35 per bottle sales.
The life-blood of most restaurant wine programs is by-the-glass pours. For you, it can mean a difference between selling us one case every six months or five cases every week! The more profit we can make selling by the glass, the lower we can price our bottle selection. You can help us be competitive by knowing our price points by the glass and the size of our pours and by offering the price breaks that will help us make our margins.
Go through the proper channels.
Work with the person assigned to wine buying in the restaurant, who could be the owner, a chef/owner, an assistant manager, a sommelier, or a bartender. Don’t waste your own time and sample budget by pitching the wrong person.
Remember us, and play it straight.
We’re miffed when our loyalty is repaid by your forgetting us at allocation time, when you raise prices in the middle of a glass program or buy-in, or when you play the game of you-get-one-case-of-this-if-you-buy-five-of-that. Behave this way at your own peril—it’s the fastest way to get kicked out.
Show us your best.
We want your best—not your rarest, most expensive wines, but your best-tastingwines, whatever the price. Restaurateurs with the longest track records of success know that guests prefer their wines to be as smooth and delicious as possible—flavorful and complex, yes, but also easy to drink and to appreciate.
There’s nothing in the world like turning people on to something they’ve never had before and to hear a response that it’s the best they’ve ever had in their lives. That’s a home run. And the object of every ambitious restaurant is to hit home run after home run—the best food, service, view, prices, overall experience, and, hopefully, wine made by you. So do you want our undying love and loyalty? Then show us the delicious-tasting wines that will make our customers come back over and over again.