- Posted by Danielle Gillespie
I’ve dined in a lot of restaurants, for better or worse. It’s just the fact of the matter. When I am searching for someplace new to try, of course, the wine list always factors into my decision. I mean, why wouldn’t it?
Whether going to an old favorite or a new restaurant, I look forward to perusing the wine list and having a conversation about its various options. It may sound strange, but I actually consider the business of selecting wine a key part of my overall experience. I take pride in picking the perfect bottle of wine for the evening based on my whim, what I might eat and my dining companions. I have been known to go so far as to order a “warm up” glass of wine to get me through the process of selection. Once satisfied with my choice, I restlessly anticipate the arrival of my golden selection. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I do actually apply the same hopeless process to a bottle of wine whether it be a $20 or a $200 bottle.) So, you can imagine my disappointment when the wine, that I have so carefully deemed worthy, is out of stock.
Now imagine if this happens more than once…in the same evening. There have been times at certain restaurants when I felt like I was in some evil game of wine roulette. Will I pick the one that’s in stock or will I not?
In this situation, and in spite of mounting frustration, I start feeling a little bad for the server, especially on a busy night. I mean how much time does the poor person waste looking for my bottle of wine? And what does that wasted time cost in terms of the other guests on his or her service? Even though it’s not the waiter or waitress’ fault, their only course of action is to profusely apologize for something that is clearly not his or her fault.
What Does it Cost?
From wine lists that resemble phone books to simple one page lists, I have never encountered a waiter or waitress who, after presenting me with the wine list, promptly told me which wines were out of stock. And, how could they? That list is usually long, riddled with complicated producer names (especially if they are European) and I wouldn’t remember anyway.
CHECK IT OUT…
I talk with a lot of wine professionals about their 86 wine list but one GM, in particular, articulated the impact that the 86 list had on his business. His observations and conclusions:
- 20 minute turn around time to retrieve a bottle of wine
- Disorganized 86 wine list means multiple trips to wine storage
- Loss of sales due to frustrated customers who switch to a glass of wine
- Throughout the course of the evening, several irritated customers to console
- Total savings = one entire staff position if wine list was accurate
(cost of time) x (cost of frustration) = LOSS of REVENUE
What Can You Do?
Do you currently have any open staffing positions? Could freeing up some of your staff’s time help your operations? Could you move more high margin product if your list was accurate?
If any of these questions are relevant in your world, you might consider adding a couple of iPads to your wine program. The result will be streamlined operations and improved server efficiency.
Tell us your 86 wine list stories…if for no other reason than for a sympathetic ear. We’ll even waive the 5¢ fee!
By the way, out of stock wine is my second pet peeve taking a back seat to wait staff that fake their wine knowledge (don’t even get me started).