It’s said success in business is all about timing. Having the right concept and offer at the right time. Well if that is the case then the one sector where you would not be looking to start a new company is in the UK restaurant and bar business. At least not with headlines of “restau-pocalypse” causing havoc across the high street. But for all the clear economic, cost and consumer issues facing the on-trade, there are still huge opportunities for those that can get their business models right according to leading industry figures.
With the dust settling on the financial woes of Conviviality, it is back to business for both Bibendum and Matthew Clark, the latter unveiling its business goals in the on-trade cocktail market. Victor Smart witnessed the final of Stir It Up, a cocktail competition that, along with countryside workshops and an online advice portal is spearheading the company’s summer cocktail communications.
Think back five years ago and the UK wine industry is in a completely different place now to what was even then a good British success story. The big difference now is it not only has the confidence of year in year out international rave reviews for its top sparkling wines, but all the hard administrative work behind the scenes to bring all the various facets of English and UK vineyard associations together under the umbrella brand of WineGB now means, says marketing director, Julia Trustram Eve, it is ready and able to drive the UK wine industry on to a completely new level.
Bibendum and Matthew Clark have had a lot of publicity in the last few weeks for all the wrong reasons, but as the dust starts to settle on C&C’s last minute deal to rescue them from Conviviality and administration it’s time to get back to the day job of selling wine to the premium on-trade. But do they have a range good enough to get them firing on all cylinders again? “Hell yes they do”, so says Roger Jones, our Michelin Star roving editor, who joined a select band of journalists to go through their portfolio on March 27 at the height of their troubles.
It’s nice talking about and throwing the spotlight on new wine regions and emerging styles of wine and little known grape varieties, but at these times of the year restaurant and bar customers are looking for the classics and the tried and tested. Which is why for our latest major debate we teamed up with Jackson Family Wines to look at what leading wine buyers, sommeliers, distributors and merchants think about Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Organising a wine tasting where all your guests are sitting in one place can prove to be a challenge at times, so you can imagine the potential for things to wrong if you then invited those guests to go on a tour of restaurants and bars around London, tasting different wines, matched to each outlet’s food along the way. It certainly made for a very different, fun, highly informative and memorable day for wineries from Sonoma County Vintners and our panel of “tour-ists” willing to go on the adventure with us.
Outside of the natural wine debate is there a more contentious issue than the one that surrounds the type of closure you have in your bottle of wine? To assess what leading on-trade buyers and sommeliers now think about closures we teamed up with Vinventions, one of the biggest suppliers of all types of closure from cork to screwcap, to make the issue of closures the latest topic in our Buyer Debate series.
Every wine as soon as it is made puts its self up for judgement. Be it the end consumer who wants to drink it with their dinner, or the trade buyers and wine critics looking to score, assess and adjudicate on whether it is suitable for listing in the first place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and Castelnau Wine Agencies was happy to put its range of wines from producers all over the world up to the test in our latest Buyer’s Case project with leading on-trade buyers and influencers in the trade.
The Buyer has been set up to help drinks producers and leading on-trade buyers better understand their needs and where possible work closer together. This is best demonstrated by The Buyer’s Case initiative where we link up with a wine producer or importer and ask leading buyers to taste, assess and offer professional feedback on their wines. Here we turn to the Languedoc-Roussillon and present wines from leading producer, Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian to leading on-trade decision makers.
France might be the best selling country in the UK on-trade, but that does not mean it could not sell. To help better understand the opportunities and challenges facing French wine in the premium on-trade, The Buyer linked up with Les Vignobles Foncalieu and leading buyers from the different types of operator, including high end restaurants, independent wine merchants and national wholesalers all working the French category in the north west of the country.
New Zealand’s enormous success in the UK off-trade, where its Sauvignon Blanc has created a category of its own, has not always been reflected in how many of its wines are on premium on-trade wine lists. The Buyer teamed up with Villa Maria, and its UK partners, Hatch Mansfield, to ask a panel of leading UK buyers to set out the challenges and opportunities for New Zealand in the premium on-trade
The Buyer’s Case is a new initiative that gives producers the chance to show specific drinks to key buyers in target channels of the on-trade. For our first Buyer’s Case we teamed up with Les Vignerons Foncalieu and selected key buyers in its main distribution areas in the UK on-trade to show their wines. Here are the results.
The Buyer teamed up with Virginia Wine and some of its key producers to help them better understand the needs of the UK premium on-trade and how buyers might relate to their wines with both a business roundtable debate with key players and a study tour of leading London restaurants, wine bars and merchants to see the kind of offers they have and where their wines might fit in.