Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial How Wineries Can Support Their Restaurant Customers: Tools of the Trade

How Wineries Can Support Their Restaurant Customers: Tools of the Trade


Wineries, boost your sales by building a strong restaurant connection & by improving your customer service. Here’s how you do it.

There is a very good reason for wineries to support their restaurant customers: according to one study, 50 percent of consumers who try and enjoy a wine brand at a restaurant or bar are likely to purchase that same wine later for at-home enjoyment. In other words, if restaurant patrons are regularly ordering your wines when they go out to dine, there is a very high probability that they will be looking for your wines when they are shopping at a retail store. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that wineries are constantly looking for new ways to support their restaurant customers.

Make it easy for restaurants to pour your wines

This might seem like a no-brainer, but simply improving the logistical flow of wine from the winery to the restaurant can be a huge advantage. When wineries meet with their restaurant customers, they should find out if they need weekly, biweekly or monthly deliveries. If a number of wines from the winery are offered on a by-the-glass (BTG) basis at the restaurant, there is a very strong likelihood that weekly re-orders might be the norm.

One of the most valuable qualities for any wine supplier is reliability. So simply being able to guarantee delivery of the right wines at the right time goes a long way towards forming a workable, long-term relationship. With that in mind, see if restaurant beverage directors have any specific rules or guidelines about wine deliveries. Due to time and storage constraints, they might have very limited windows open for deliveries and shipments. The more you can do to work around the schedule and constraints of the restaurant, the more you will be treated as a trusted and valuable partner.

Plan and organize dual events

Within the restaurant industry, “dual events” refers to events that involve the restaurant and an external partner, such as a winery. The most common dual event is the “winemaker dinner,” in which the head winemaker or owner of a local winery stops by the private dining room of a restaurant to provide a brief overview of the bottles being opened and then stay to chat with guests.

While the winemaker dinner takes place on premises, a similar type of dual event – the “chef’s pairing” – takes place off premises. At a chef’s pairing event, the winery hosts the chef of a local restaurant, who has created special dishes specifically for the guests of the winery. And, just like at the winemaker dinner, the chef’s pairing usually involves the chef sharing an overview of the food being enjoyed.

Another dual event is the “multi-course pairing.” This is similar to a traditional wine dinner, except it is much more elaborate. It can include four, five, six or even seven different courses, all of them accompanied by a different wine from the winery. For example, the national steakhouse chain Ruth’s Chris recently partnered with Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa Valley to create a five-course pairing for different restaurants throughout the national chain. In addition to featuring its more familiar Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines, Stags’ Leap also featured a Viognier with the carrot ginger soup first course and a Petite Sirah with the dessert course.

These dual events can be a classic “win-win” for both parties involved. For the winery, of course, these events are a way to sell more wine – both at the dinner and at a future date (when all of those restaurant patrons are going to be buying wine in retail store locations). And for the restaurant, these multi-course wine dinners are a great way to maximize the potential of the private dining room, which is a key profit driver for all restaurants.

Provide wine education seminars and tastings for restaurant staff

One of the ways that you can really help out a restaurant customer is by hosting tasting sessions and wine education events for staff members (especially servers). The more that the restaurant staff members know about your wines, the more likely they will be to recommend them to patrons, and the more confident they will be in explaining the relative advantages of your wines to others. This is particularly the case if there are elements to your production process – such as using an entirely organic winemaking approach – that stand out as unique and original. Thus, you might support a wine education night where you explain to staff members the difference between organic and traditional wines, or you might sponsor a wine tasting session, in which staff members are welcomed to try your organic wine side-by-side with a traditional wine.

Partner on local co-marketing initiatives

One way to think about wineries and local restaurants is that they are part of the same wine ecosystem for a particular region. If local wineries are thriving, then it is likely local restaurants are thriving as well – and vice versa. That’s why many restaurants and wineries partner of local co-marketing initiatives that help to support a strong, thriving wine ecosystem.

As a winery owner, you can invite restaurant partners to leave their restaurant marketing materials in your tasting room. You can create restaurant lists of local establishments in the area that serve your wines, provide maps and directions to these restaurants, and even feature individual brochures from these restaurants at special events that you host. If your winery, for example, sponsors a summer music series, it makes perfect sense to invite restaurant partners and see if they would be interested in participating as well.

On a similar note, it is also possible to partner on local tourism marketing initiatives. For example, if your region is looking to boost the number of tourists coming each summer or winter, then you might partner on something like a Wine Trail, where tourists are invited to explore the various wine-related establishments (both wineries and restaurants serving local wines) along that trail.

Create exclusive wines for restaurants

Restaurants are always looking for ways to stand out from the competition, and one hot idea in recent years has been the creation of private label wines that are offered exclusively in a single establishment. For example, a local restaurant might have a private label wine that celebrates the history and tradition of the restaurant. And a national chain might have a private label wine that represents a special blend that is designed to complement signature dishes. That was the strategic rationale at P.F. Chang’s, for example, which partnered with a Washington State winery (Browne Family Vineyards) to create the exclusive private label brand “&”. The “&” in the label was designed specifically for P.F. Chang’s – it was meant to symbolize the perfect pairing of food & wine, as well as the strong partnership between P.F. Chang’s & the winery.

If the creation of a private label brand seems to time or resource-intensive, there are plenty of other ways to give restaurants exclusive wines. For example, many wineries have a special edition, reserve or one-time wines. They can easily offer these wines first to their most trusted and valued restaurant partners. Thus, on their wine menus, the restaurant can then advertise its exclusive access to the special reserve wines from a local winery.

Come up with ideas for new marketing promotion

Some restaurants may simply be lacking in the time, staff and resources to conduct their own on-premise wine marketing efforts. In other words, restaurants may want to sell more wine but are simply stretched too thin. Here is where you can provide immediate value. For example, you can suggest innovative ideas for by-the-glass (BTG) promotions that get customers ordering more wine. You can suggest event ideas as well – just about anything involving the arts, music or entertainment will be a big hit. Thus, if your winery is planning to host a summer music series, for example, you might be able to find a way for restaurants to participate. Even if it is something simple – like showing up with a mobile food truck – it can go a long way toward enhancing the overall experience.

And, don’t forget, there are plenty of ways to help out with on-premise wine merchandising efforts as well. Restaurants may need support when it comes to highlighting their food-wine pairings. Even something as simple as providing evocative descriptions for your wines that the restaurant can add to its wine list can be a big help – and also help to sell more of your wine at the same time. Food-wine co-merchandising is a hot concept these days and refers to the various ways that restaurants can sell more food and more wine at the same time.

Expert Editorial
By Sommeliers Choice Awards

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