• Bibendum’s John Graves: why wine by the glass works so well

    There are a whole stack of reasons why a by the glass range is now crucial for premium on-trade operators. They allow restaurants and sommeliers the chance to offer their customers different and more ambitious, interesting wines, they can help drive better margins and growth and they fit far more with our lifestyles where people are looking to drinks less and better, be it at lunchtime or the evening. Here John Graves, Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, explains why it has been running a by the glass promotion throughout the summer and into September.

    There are a whole stack of reasons why a by the glass range is now crucial for premium on-trade operators. They allow restaurants and sommeliers the chance to offer their customers different and more ambitious, interesting wines, they can help drive better margins and growth and they fit far more with our lifestyles where people are looking to drinks less and better, be it at lunchtime or the evening. Here John Graves, Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, explains why it has been running a by the glass promotion throughout the summer and into September.

    mm By September 4, 2019

    It might not have been the best summer for drinks sales, but those restaurants and bars that have offered more wines by the glass have still been able to do well, says John Graves at Bibendum. 

    Every restaurant, bar, pub or hotel would like to think their wine list is as well designed and structured as possible for their customer base. But you can do all you can to have the right wines, they won’t sell themselves without a bit of work from your front of house and bar and wine teams. Which is where by the glass comes in. The chance to shine the spotlight on key wines that you think best demonstrate what your wine offer is all about.

    Wines you know you can sell fast and at the right price to encourage repeat purchase and drive good margins and growth for your wine sales. Which is where working with your wine suppliers can be so beneficial in getting the mix right between the tried and trusted that are going to shift volumes, but also more off beat wines that can introduce different wines and offer something new to your customers.

    It’s why Bibendum has been running an extensive by the glass promotion throughout the summer – from July to September – focused on its New World portfolio which is all about working with its customers and introducing them to a wider selection of New World wines at affordable prices without affecting profitability. Here Bibendum’s on trade channel director, John Graves, explains how it has been working .

    Why are you doing it and why now?

    To encourage more customers to offer wines by the glass Bibendum has been running a special promotion during the summer

    We’ve just won some great awards for our New World portfolio and have a plethora of fantastic producers. It’s a tricky time for business in general and we want to keep wine exciting and encourage customers to drink great wine

    What are you hoping to achieve with the promotion for yourselves and your customers?

    For our customers, we want to encourage them to list wines by the glass and help sell them more premium New World wines. Selling more premium wines in the on-trade is not easy as people tend to play safe, they default to the “classics” which is fine , but they are missing out on some great smaller and dynamic producers from around the world

    It’s a fairly simple mechanic, we’ll give you great prices if you do the same for your customers. Some people call this cash margin, but cash margin only works if both supplier and operator are offering a great deal.

    The upsides are obvious, selling wine by the glass rather than the bottle will generate much more significant sales. We are hoping for new listings across our premium New World portfolio and its stands to reason sales for us and our customers will be strong. The benefit for our customers and their clientele is an opportunity to keep the wine category fresh and exciting and at the same time encourage repeat purchases.

    We don’t know what the volumes will be yet but early signs of uptake are very encouraging.

    John Graves says serving wines by the glass is not as straightforward as it sounds and needs to be managed carefully to be a success

    What type of customers are you looking to work with on the by the glass promotion? Who can take part?

    The promotion is open to any Bibendum customer, so any restaurant, pub or wine bar can take part. You don’t have to be “posh” or “cool” to do this!

    What advice would you give in general on handling by the glass sales? 
    Glass sizes are important and need to fit the venue and experience, but 125ml glasses make a lot more sense when selling premium wines. Most customers are looking for a taste experience here, not a “bulk” experience. For people on a fine wine session 175ml or even better a 375/500ml carafe – 250ml fish bowls not really recommended. 

    Would you recommend working on a cash margin for by the glass? If so why?

    This is not a simple thing, There are so many factors affecting margin requirements for operators. But essentially, if you can encourage a higher spend and bank more cash then you are on to a winner. By offering great prices on great wines we are trying to encourage our customers to be more adventurous with their by the glass listings.

    What successes have you seen with by the glass promotions run by some of your customers? 

    Heath Ball has transformed both the wine and food offer at the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate

    Heath Ball at the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, north London, is the perfect example of using great by the glass promotions. He makes a smaller margin on his top wines and sells them by the glass. No surprise he wins wine pub of the year two years running and wine generates more cash for his business than any other category.

    What is really interesting is that many customers discover their favourite wine trying say a 125ml glass and end up regularly buying the same wine by the bottle.

    Is by the glass a good way to introduce new varieties and countries to consumers…?

    Absolutely, as with the case in progressive operators like Heath Ball, it’s an ideal way for consumers to try new wines, or styles they haven’t tried before. As more and more consumers look to experiment when it comes to wine, offering wines by the glass is the perfect way for them to try something new before committing to a whole bottle. 

    Are you working with customers with canned wine for by the glass or do you see this as a possibility in the future? 

    It’s a very interesting category, and we think it become increasingly important. For the on-trade its all about getting the offering right and gaining customer confidence that they can drink great wine out of cans.

    The Ivy: Bibendum worked with the Bibendum the Ivy Group during English wine to offer a number of English wines by the glass

    What other advantages are there for by the glass? 

    I think the biggest is giving operators flexibility and the ability to keep their offering fresh. We’d like to encourage them to change their by the glass offering regularly which is why we are doing this promotion.

    It’s also pretty risk free, if a wine doesn’t work for an establishment the outlay is small and the option can easily be changed. Good by the glass selections encourage strong wine culture in establishments with customers and staff.

    And without sounding like a cracked record, you can offer wines that people wouldn’t regularly try.

    How have sales been over the summer in general?

    For Bibendum and our customers I would say strong, year on year sales are well ahead of last year, and we are seeing particularly strong sales in the premium wines and spirits and fine wine categories

    Any particular trends and highlights from your summer sales to date?

    We can see the rosé still category growing and not just Provence. The sales and customer engagement with lighter (often chilled) red wines has been on occasions startling. Quality Cava is also taking off which is very pleasing and English still and sparkling has been hugely successful so far. In particular we are seeing English sparkling wine taking a much higher profile at classic sporting and cultural events. 

    New Zealand is flying for us and our customers. As is regional France. 

    In general sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines are gaining in popularity.

    • If you would like to know more about Bibendum’s current by the glass promotion then please contact Victoria Vickerman at vvickerman@bibendum-plb.com. 

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