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Top Sommeliers on the first question they would ask the restaurant owner when getting in charge of wine sales.

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10/02/2024 Sid Patel, CEO of Sommeliers Choice Awards chats with top sommeliers on how would they approach their first question to the restaurant owner to drive a beverage program if they took over.

Here is what they had to say on the first few questions they would ask the restaurant manager or owner to design their beverage program strategy if they were to work in that restaurant.

Hristian ILIEV, Lead Sommelier at Carbone, Las Vegas: How important is wine to them? Are they willing to establish a wine culture in the restaurant? Everyone working in the team is important, from the dishwasher to the polisher, busser, server, bartender, captain! Everyone plays their part into providing a great wine experience to the guest! When everything is flawless and people care, sales will come! How much are they willing to initially invest in wine? Are the choices that we are going to offer, catered toward our clientele?

Thomas Brenner, Sommelier and Beverage Manager at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club, California: I would recommend asking about sales quotas, commission, inventory caps and various sales vehicles you wish to implement.

Thomas Brenner, Sommelier and Beverage Manager at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club, California

Karla Poeschel, Sommelier at LPM in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas: When determining the blueprint of a new program or joining a new team, the first thing you should ask is to, "Describe to me the ethos of this program?" I believe this is the most important question you can ask, especially in a place like Las Vegas, where every shiny restaurant opening has a real chance to show what how they are different than their shiny (but consistently busy and highly regarded) neighbor. What story are we trying to tell our guests? Are we trying to be a value program? Are we trying to lock in breadth and depth? Are we just trying to carry the hits, regardless of if its compatibility with our cuisine? Are we a program that is looking to constantly evolve and remain at the apex of representing burgeoning wine regions? Are we just trying to maintain the concept that was instilled 15 years ago by a corporate wine director who is no longer with the program? Getting to know what's expected, and where we want to go will lay down the road map for how far you can take your program.

Sommelier at LPM in the cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Anibal Calcagno, Head Sommelier at Anto Korean Steakhouse, New York: Do you have proper temperature-controlled facilities and proper glass ware to attract discriminating wine consumers.  Are you financially prepared to support a beverage team that will increase wine sales.  It takes a remarkable commitment to support a world class wine program.

Anibal Calcagno, Head Sommelier at Anto Korean Steakhouse, New York

Dave Gerardu, Director of wine at 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, Miami: What is the future vision for the restaurant. What has been done in the past. 

Megan Katherine McGannon, Service Director & Head Sommelier, Lazy Bear, San Francisco: Are you willing to invest in growth? The old adage 'It takes money to make money' certainly applies to wanting to grow sales in a big way. I think it's also important to ask how creative you can be - how far out of the box can we go?

Angelo Secolo, Sommelier and Wine Buyer at Altomonte's Italian Markets, Philladelphia: What type of customers we get, what's the background of the area? (are we in an Italian neighborhood, or French or whatever else is the makeup of the population that lives close by). What's the budget I have to operate? What's the marketing strategy for the wine program?

Angelo Secolo, Sommelier and Wine Buyer at Altomonte's Italian Markets, Philladelphia

Rusty Rastelo, Wine Professional Specializing in Marketing and Fine & Rare Wines and Adjunct Professor at the The Culinary Institute of America, New York: What is their goal and dream? Their goal was to make SingleThread a "legacy" restaurant and I encouraged them to invest heavily in our future and I would make sure that we could get the allocations we needed to attract the kind of wine spender we needed to ensure a very profitable wine program.

Rusty Rastelo, Wine Professional Specializing in Marketing and Fine & Rare Wines

Sandra Taylor, Head Sommelier at Las Vegas Raiders and Head Sommelier at the Waldorf Astoria, Beverly Hills: I always like to know the philosophy of the restaurant owner.  I enjoy hearing their vision so I can implement my wine program into their needs.  It's important to me as well to know what their expectations are and work together to curtail the wine collection appropriately.

Sandra Taylor, Head Sommelier at Las Vegas Raiders

Jorge Mendoza, Sommelier at The Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami: What is your growth goal, what is your primary focus cost percentage or revenue at what dollar amount "wine inventory" would become "too much inventory"

Carmelo Tripoli: Well, it all depends by various factors. It is important to have a deep understanding of the area that surrounds the restaurant, the kind of clientele - regulars and not, the restaurant's ideology and philosophy, the market with listing and pricing, and concluding with what the final goal is.

Carmelo Tripoli

Brendan O'Leary: I would ask what identity they want their list to have, what their desired cost margins are, and obviously how big they want their list to be. Also, if they're planning on sitting on any bottles to let them age and increase value.

Brendan O’leary

Carlin Karr, Wine and Beverage Director Frasca Hospitality Group, Denver: What goals matter most? Would you rather drive high end revenue or lower cost of goods and control costs? Do you want to build a long term revenue driving type of program is cash flow more important?

Carlin Karr, Wine and Beverage Director Frasca Hospitality Group, Denver

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