By Bill Edwards
As we enter the summer season, restaurants and hotels are facing unique challenges related to operating in the COVID-19 new normal environment. However, even with capacity limitations and other safety restrictions in place, on-premise businesses can still implement creative wine sales and operational strategies to drive business and improve the consumer experience.
For restaurants in particular, take-out and delivery services continue to be popular, even in markets that allow in-person dining. Preparing family-style or multi-person meal kits, bundled with a bottle of wine, is a great way to attract customers who are either looking for convenience, or still not quite comfortable dining in. When marketing these kits, take a look at your pricing strategy. A bottle of wine to-go or alternative single serve packages like cans from your restaurant becomes a retail proposition. Consumers are willing to pay a premium over retail for that convenience, but not the full mark-up they see on the wine list.
For those restaurants that are able, expanding outdoor dining is a great strategy. Warmer summer temperatures, combined with the perceived and actual safety benefits, make this a very attractive option for consumers. Canned wines, small package sizes, and buckets with canned or bottled wines on ice lend themselves well to al fresco dining. Do-it-yourself spritzes, like a carafe of Aperol with a bottle of Prosecco, soda and orange slices, is another creative way to upsell while capturing the feeling of summer. These options are festive, convenient, single-serve safe, and help simplify the logistics of serving wine and reduce touch points by a staff member.
In our new normal environment, the number one criteria that impacts a consumer’s decision to dine out is now food sanitation, even more important than food flavor. Whatever beverage strategy you implement, remember to overtly market and merchandise your cleaning and safety protocols.
Bill Edwards is the Senior Vice President, National Accounts – On-Premise, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.