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9 Tips to Write a Profitable Wine List for Your Restaurant

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To create a functional and profitable wine menu is not a simple task even for an experienced sommelier.

The wine list is the ultimate business card for restaurants. To create a functional and profitable one is not a simple task even for an experienced sommelier. Here are some 9 tips to consider when curating a wine list that will increase profits for your restaurant.

1. Understand your target audience. Evaluate your target audience according to the proposed menu (quality standards, sophistication and prices). The ambience of the restaurant will relate directly to the wine menu. A casual dining space would call for easy drinking wines and the prices would go hand-in-hand with the dining fare. An Italian restaurant without Prosecco and Chianti does not complete the menu. The location of the restaurant also plays a key role. A restaurant or a wine bar situated in the center of a metropolis can afford greater ease in choosing the wines to be put in the list, thanks to tourism from around the world.

A restaurant that is "off the beaten track", with a loyal customer base, will focus on the exclusivity of its menu, the originality of their proposals and a careful selection of wines from across the country and around the world. Ensuring both a selection of "always present" wines, which allow you to build customer loyalty, and the introduction of new items from time-to-time will allow your restaurant to please your patrons’ palate. A great strategy is to involve your customers in selecting next month’s “new release” by asking them to vote from a proposal of wines. Customers will feel like a part of your restaurant’s framework and be curious to know if the wine that they voted for made next month’s release. They could choose to provide their contact details and be informed of the results of the vote, making their affiliation with your restaurant more personal.

2. Meet, know and taste the wine Taste the wines you would like to include in your wine list together with the team of your restaurant and note each team member’s feedback. Also try to organize a wine tasting with your restaurant’s distributors, sales agents, and, if possible, the producers themselves, on a day that the restaurant is closed for business. Focus not only on the sensory evaluation of the wine but on a deeper knowledge of the story behind each production. Stories that will be very useful in proposing a label to customers. If you are not well-versed in the field, get assistance from partners, employees, sommeliers or a wine expert.

3.Don’t forget local wine There isn’t a sadder thing than to be in a restaurant with typical local cuisine but missing wines from the local area. Taste wines from the wineries in your vicinity or a neighboring wine-growing state and keep a selection of these on your wine list. They will complement the carte du jour and as you have chosen to serve local cuisine at your restaurant, the target audience would also love to try the indigenous wines. By supporting wineries in your area, you, in turn, will build a network in the community and wineries may recommend your restaurant to their customers.

4.Seasonality of the menu Besides a fixed wine list, you can have a variable wine list that changes with the seasonality of the fare. People routinely make a shift towards whites in the summer months and reds in the cooler months so change your selection accordingly. Ciders become popular in Fall so having a few of these in this season will sit well with your customers. Align your menu with different times of the year; for example, market wine as the Harvest Special for a month.

5.It’s all about the right order in the list An ascending order of price is an enticingly easy route to take, but it is not always the most appropriate since a novice wine-drinker will always stop at the first proposals.Grouping wines by type, region and vintage (for example: separate new world wines from the old world) would give a chance to the customer to acquaint themselves with the wine menu, without being influenced too much by the price.

6.Be concise, selective but inclusive. Regardless of the level of your restaurant, unless you're renowned for a high-level cellar, don't abuse your customer’s patience by creating excessively heavy and long wine lists. Not only will this cause inventory issues for your restaurant, but a carefully curated list will be much appreciated by your customers. It will be easier for you to educate your servers about the wines on the menu so they may, in turn, offer knowledgeable recommendations. Be inclusive of the different categories of wine. For example, have two to three selections of dessert wine on the menu. Have at least one champagne that you can offer to customers celebrating a special occasion at your restaurant.

7.Hot Category wines. Keep abreast of trending products and make sure these are included in your wine list (especially if you have a comprehensive list).There is no good reason to exclude these popular products from your list. For a novice wine drinker, it will add a level of comfort to try a varietal that they are familiar with or have heard of. Even for a connoisseur, good quality wine in a popular category will not be one to pass up on easily. If possible, also add some value wines to the menu. It will make the difference between a yay or nay for some of your customers.

8. Source and Price Correctly Wines of certain varietals and from different regions have expected price points. Introducing an exorbitantly priced wine from an area that is known for low price points is not advisable. This will look out of place and may also cause the customer to mistrust your pricing and product selection. If the menu is moderately priced, so should the wines. This goes hand in hand. Don’t overprice wines compared to their selling price in retail or online stores. Today’s customer comes aware and researched and nobody wants to feel like they have been taken for.

9. Changing Table Cards No longer are designing and printing costs so astronomical that one may not be able to change wine cards once they are printed and placed on the table. By using table stands where print inserts are changeable, these can be replaced periodically. There are simple design resources available online that small to medium-sized restaurant owners can use to modify wine cards from time to time. Make use of these to highlight new or seasonal products. People who frequent your restaurant will appreciate the change as these small touches keep the experience of visiting your restaurant fresh and interesting for them. Meet Importers, State Distributors, Retailers and Press of the USA in New York City and Grow Your Distribution.