The festive season is nearly upon us, the most critical trading time of the year for the wine business. Most restaurant outlets will expect November and December to be worth at least double their normal trading months. With macro-economic circumstances and intense cost pressure making life tough for most operators, suppliers need to do everything in our power to help them through the season. Here are some value-creating practical tips which could make the difference in your relationship with restaurateurs for 2020.
1 Social Media
Social Media is the simplest and easiest way for restaurants to engage with consumers especially when the majority are most often local people.
In 2018 BrightLocal2018 reported that nearly 70% of consumers are most likely to read reviews for restaurants online before choosing, and that’s increased from 2017. You might think that is OK for the young ones, but its not relevant for the 55+ generation. In fact in this report 82% of 55+ read reviews, whereas just 57% of 18-34 and 55% of 35-54.
As a supplier we can do much to support this contemporary business driver. It might be as simple as choosing to dine in your restaurant customer and leaving a review. Alternatively just support the reviews that come up on line for the restaurant.
Identifying the preferred channel of the restaurant is also important. Likelihood is that Instagram is going to find the most favour in the restaurant sector.
2 No out-of-stocks
There’s a fine line to tread. Restaurants, usually, order little but often for both cash-flow and space reasons. Maintaining a close eye on orders and sales can ensure that the outlet has as full a stock as possible.
Out of stocks are the biggest killer for a wine supplier’s business. With big lists for wine, restaurants are less concerned, the consumer is in place and can choose something else. In order to remain relevant, it is critical for the wine supplier that the restaurant has a clear idea of the value that your wine brand(s) brings to their list.
For the account manager that maybe an individual wine, but much more likely several wines and the overall package that you bring as a wine supplier. Often this includes the service that you bring. Running out on a Friday night, can they call you and suck in an extra case for the Saturday?
Long term loyalty is often created by crisis situations – if you can be there then go the extra mile.
3 Loyalty programme for Jan/Feb
January has become a ‘dry’ month for many, despite the health advice, which swings cash-rich revenues in December to empty tills in January. Wine lists are often the cash-flow of a restaurant, making strong consistent margins that food often struggles to achieve. So the impact can be dramatic.
Proposing a loyalty programme around your brand(s) can help the restauranteur inject energy into their consumers New Year lethargy and provide an opportunity for them to give an unexpected benefit with the bill.
4 Making it easy – bundle a package
Convenience rules our world and that can often be in the restaurant environment too. Christmas diners are often in groups over the festive season, and they often make less personal choices. Offering a simple menu and bottle of wine deal limits the differences between consumers and makes things easy for the organiser and the staff member.
From a supplier’s perspective then the increased focus, will bring increased volume and a greater ‘must-have in stock’ status.
From the restaurant’s point of view reducing their cost to serve, as time to take the order and for the server to deliver a well embedded menu concept can be attractive at this intense time of year.
5 Gifting – making it simple
Great times mean that we want to remember them – it is just a human thing. Gifting in the wine supplier’s portfolio can add to the diners’ experience, extending it to their take-home and therefore add to the memory that the restaurant has created for the diner. Attractive looking wine gifts, gifting boxes with added value, perhaps a quality corkscrew, fine glasses or even partnered with food suppliers of the restaurant, appropriately displayed with subtlety, can add some extra value for all.
6 Display sells – especially in restaurants
It has been said that wine labels don’t really matter for restaurants. However an informal question and answer session with sommeliers at the recent 2019 London Wine Competition confirms that presentation is critical in validating their selection in the eyes of their consumers. Displays sell, even in the fine dining setting.
These have to be carefully handled as restaurants don their ‘game face’ during this critical trading time. The brand has to be well aligned to the restaurants values and its customers, look great and say something to the diner. Once again careful judgement needs to be employed by the account manager, but great display can inspire, intrigue and drive sales and value for all.
7 Tasting in October/November – selling in December
Why do retailers display Christmas stuff in August, when summer isn’t even over? It is simply that customers need to see things before they make a decision and they need to see them several times before they are ready to buy. Consumers parting with hard earned cash is a carefully considered decision. This old adage from retailers holds true in restaurants.
Creating a tasting programme in the run up to the festivities helps regular consumers get used to the restaurants’ wines. It informs them more deeply about your wines than your competitors and creates more likelihood that on return they select your wines for the festivities. Win-win!
8 Staffing is the biggest issue – how can you help staff loyalty
The biggest issue for UK hospitality currently is staffing – recruiting and retaining good quality staff. Wine suppliers can do their bit to help. Wineries are situated in some of the most attractive parts of the world, often with excellent hospitality facilities themselves. How about discussing a staff loyalty programme with the restaurant owners or management? If you can create a business case to sell enough bottles over any given period then provide a structure of prizes from bottles to tasting experiences, to trips, which helps the restaurant retain staff.
The winter season is not just for celebrating with our friends and family, but also a season to extend to those less fortunate than ourselves. Forging such a relationship with a restaurant about charity, a charity that they support or perhaps a new initiative which is aligned to the restaurant and wine supplier, is a great way to engage with consumers in a different way. It can also bring much needed local PR.
10 Festive cheer
If all else fails suggest a meet and greet tasting. Let’s face it the week before Christmas is down time for trade sales so why not offer to use the time, say a lunch time offering a ‘meet and greet’ sample as consumers come into the restaurant?