Have You Got Them on Your (Wine) List? These Ideas Should Not Be Missed!

With restaurant visits down, it makes sense to raise the tab by selling more wine to each and every patron. I’m sure there is consumer behavioral science involved in creating the optimal wine list, and certainly knowledge of wine, but my sense is that most restaurateurs and wine bar owners simply do it their own way. So here are a few thoughts on making a wine list more attractive and consumer friendly.
  • First Principle: Readability PLEASE! No patron should need to pull out reading glasses to see what’s on the list… kind of destroys the romance, I think. So if you can print your wine list in 11-pt type or above, you’ll be ‘way ahead of the competition. There really should be no compromise on this principle. Use more pages. Or feature fewer wines.

  • Intrigue the customer. I really enjoyed the list at Six Peaks Grille, the fine dining restaurant at the Resort at Squaw Valley. Rose Chehade is in charge of the wine selection there. She divided the list by the usual categories – white wines, red wines, and then added a separate category for small formats and large formats of each. Who could resist looking at Ms Chehade’s selections called Particularly Diverse Whites, and Diverse and Extraordinary Reds? Ka-ching!

  • Educate the customer. It’s nice to help your patrons understand the AVA or region that the wine is from, but that information can take up a lot of space on a wine list, threatening readability. One clever way around this conflict is the solution used by Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg, CA. They’ve abbreviated those terroir designators and put the index to abbreviations at the end of their list with only the abbreviations next to the winery-vineyard-varietal-year information. For example, AV – Alexander Valley, CH – Chalk Hill, DCV – Dry Creek Valley, and so on.

  • Offer a good selection of 375 ml bottles. This probably goes without saying, but it’s one way to offer fine wines at an affordable price point.

  • Make your list a souvenir. Giving a copy of your wine list to your customers just makes good sense … it’s more powerful as a marketing tool and more compelling for repeat or word-of-mouth business than that dinky business card. And why not offer your customers a pencil to make notes directly on that give-away list, nothing what they liked about the wine they chose?

Feedback, anyone? Comments welcome on your favs and gripes about wine lists!

1 comment:

  1. Barbara,

    Kudos on a very well written piece. Though your ideas are not 'earth shattering', they all make sense and are very practical - things that we all KNOW we should do but are oftentimes overlooked . . .

    I think one of the other keys here is to understand your customer base. If your 'usual' customer is a little more sophisticated, you can make your list a bit more sophisticated.

    Also, I am very much a fan of a 'personalized' favorites list - kind of like a Times Best Sellers list. And I like the idea of using the somms or chef's name here - not their title.

    Thanks again!