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When it comes to supporting their restaurant partners, wineries can do more than just supply great wine on a regular basis. They can also partner on a number of marketing and promotional activities, including special winemaker dinners and educational seminars. The role of a winery should be to help restaurants sell more wine. The following tips below will help you do just that.
One of the classic forms of collaboration between wineries and restaurants involves winemaker dinners. These dinners can be as lavish as you want them to be. In some cases, these winemaker dinners can consist of multiple different courses, with a single wine from your winery’s portfolio specifically paired with each new course. These winemaker dinners typically feature one or more members from your winemaking team appearing at the event, where they can explain how and why the wine was created, and answer specific questions about the winemaking process at your winery.
For wineries, these events are obviously a great way to sell more wine. Even better, these dinners give you a way to showcase some of your less popular wines that might need a little extra support. For example, if your winery is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines, then these winemaker dinners might be a way to highlight other wines in your portfolio, such as a sweeter Riesling wine that might be paired with a dessert course.
And, for restaurants, these events are also a great way to boost their overall profitability. That’s because they generate additional business for their private dining rooms, which are a key driver of overall profitability. If restaurants are able to sell out winemaker dinners on a regular basis, they are going to have a very high likelihood of meeting all their revenue and profitability targets.
Within the restaurant industry, “dual events” refer to events that involve both the restaurant and an external partner, such as a winery. You can think of these dual events as leveraging the unique talents of both partners in order to create a very distinctive and memorable experience. For example, instead of a winemaker dinner, you might host an evening of music and dance that is specifically tied to a certain category of wine on your wine list. If you’ve just added Malbec wines to your wine list from a producer from Mendoza, for example, you might collaborate on a tango night experience, where guests can learn more about the culture of Argentina while also enjoying bottles of high-end Malbec and dancing the night away.
One key factor to keep in mind here is the need to make events as unique, memorable and distinctive as possible. Customers will always remember the little special touch that creates a very personalized experience. Why not, for example, invite winemakers to sign bottles at the restaurant, and then have customers purchase these bottles later? In many ways, this is similar to the thrill of buying a book from your favorite author that has also been signed, autographed and addressed to you. Your goal, at the end of the day, is to create a connection in the mind of the customer with your restaurant – and the way to do that is via wine.
The more that staff members know about your wine, the more likely they will be to recommend the wine to others. Thus, your winemaking team can play a very valuable role in helping to sell more wine by hosting wine education seminars and tasting sessions for restaurant staff. The best time to host these events is right after your wines have been added to the wine menu. This ensures that cases of your wine won’t be languishing in the restaurant’s inventory for a long period of time. When it comes to recommending a new wine to a restaurant guest, your wine will be top of mind.
Remember – restaurants are typically short on resources, especially if they are small, family-owned restaurants. For that reason, being able to volunteer the services of your head winemaker to come in and educate staff members about wine can be a great way to deepen your overall relationship. That’s especially the case if your wines represent a new category, a new varietal, or new winemaking style for the restaurants. If you are an organic winemaker, for example, you could help to educate staff members about the basics of organic winemaking, and also help servers anticipate some of the questions that they might receive when patrons see it on the wine menu for the first time.
Yes, social media platforms like Instagram can be a great way to highlight photos of your vineyard or to showcase your brand new tasting room – but they also can be used to mention key restaurant partners. To celebrate your first delivery of a certain wine to a restaurant, for example, you might post about it on Instagram or Twitter, and then use hashtags or location tags that will help fans find the wine in real life.
These days, just about every city or region has a “Food Week” or a “Food & Wine Week.” This is a great opportunity for you and your restaurant partner to combine forces on marketing these events. In a similar way, you can collaborate with restaurant partners to promote upcoming wine tourism events, special festivals, or charitable events where you both are participating.
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One way to help your restaurant partners really stand out from the competition is by offering them an exclusive, private label wine. This might be a particularly good option if your restaurant partner is a national chain, or if it has a high-volume wine business. A national steakhouse chain, for example, would be a natural fit for an exclusive, private label Cabernet Sauvignon that has been customized and personalized for a business clientele.
If you are introducing a new wine to a region, or if a restaurant is partnering with you for the first time – it could be a great occasion to send out a press release to the local media. The goal here is to generate media buzz for both you and your restaurant partner. Journalists and bloggers are constantly looking for new story angles, and so your job is to come up with an attention-getting press release that is also newsworthy.
As a winery, you might already be promoting the retail locations where fans and followers can purchase your wine. So why not also promote all of the local restaurants in your area that are featuring your wine on their wine lists? If a customer is trying to decide between several different restaurants for a night out, the fact that your wine is on the wine list of one of these restaurants might be the difference maker.
In any restaurant, there are plenty of customer touch points where you can help to merchandise your wines – everything from coasters to table tents. When designing a table tent, it’s best to come up with a unique, eye-catching design that will also be a good fit for the restaurant’s brand. For example, a table tent for an upscale, white tablecloth restaurant is going to look a lot different from a table tent for a family-oriented “fast casual” national chain.
Finally, it is absolutely vital to becoming a trusted, reliable supplier of wine. You need to be able to anticipate when a restaurant partner might be running out of wine, and build the right type of logistical infrastructure to ensure that wines are delivered as needed, on time, and according to the delivery windows specified by your partners. Even if the delivery is just for a single case, you need to make sure that you can go the extra mile to help out a partner.
Along the same lines, don’t try to force additional supply on a restaurant partner. If you are imposing a minimum order size on a small restaurant, you are no longer thinking like a partner. Instead, you are thinking in transactional terms. So, be aware of the specific needs of your partners. Understand what sort of sell-through they have on their wine inventory and get a good idea of how much wine they are moving on a regular basis. While you want to ensure a constant supply of your wine, you also don’t want a situation where your wine is piling up in inventory.
At the end of the day, wineries can be very valuable partners for restaurants looking to boost their on-premise wine sales. Through a variety of creative and personalized approaches, wineries can work directly with their restaurant partners to sell more wine and enhance the overall customer experience.