Covid-19 has tested the agility of many industries this year, none more so than hospitality. But through innovation and hard work hotel groups and restaurants have been experiencing a number of fillips, says Alan Montague-Dennis, director of prestige sales at Mentzendorff. Staycations, a new al fresco, fine dining at home and trading up on the wine list (when possible) have brought about some unexpected returns. In this insightful piece Alan explains how his role allows him to flex with changing needs and to stay nimble – literally – on his Brompton bike, a key part of the company’s approach to sustainability and mental wellbeing, and helping him keep a positive spin on things.
“This is, undeniably, a challenging time for everyone, but by responding swiftly to the innovative solutions pioneered by the on-trade, and remaining versatile, I’m confident that we can ride this crisis and emerge stronger.”
With Covid-19 still upon us and as we enter into another phase of lockdown, the hospitality sector has had to react and readjust swiftly. As director of prestige sales at Mentzendorff, I have been working with the on-trade to ensure that the transition to the ‘new-normal’ has been as smooth as possible.
The Mentzendorff culture of deep, long-term relationships with our partners is proving to be key to success in these strangest of times. The ability to hop on my bike for meetings to understand what our on-trade needs, helps me respond in the agile, nimble way needed. More of that later.
Hotels across the UK have capitalised on the buoyant trend of summer staycations. Home Grown Hotels, owners of the celebrated The Pig group and Lime Wood Group, have seen 100% guest occupancy. Meanwhile in central London, we have seen a distinct trend of people recreating the same, high-quality restaurant experience in the comfort of their own homes. Angela Hartnett, from Café Murano, has designed a sophisticated Italian four course ‘at home menu box’, to be delivered on Fridays throughout November. Similarly, the St. John Restaurant will offer a signature lockdown pie every Friday for customers to enjoy at home. These restaurateur-driven initiatives are, in turn, encouraging people to reach for fine wines to match with the food, to replicate the restaurant experience.
In the restaurant environment, with larger group celebrations on hold, customers are no longer ordering the house wine, but are displaying a marked willingness to spend more on fine wine. Restaurants are increasingly providing fine wine by the glass and using this as an opportunity to work through and rationalise their wine lists. Domaine Chanson’s Chablis and Jean-Luc Colombo’s Picpoul de Pinet by the glass have been markedly successful as has the noteworthy Akitu’s Blanc de Noirs, a white wine made using red grapes, an example of people’s greater willingness to experiment. Champagne Bollinger’s PN VZ15 has also been enjoyed by many, with premium brand Champagne sales particularly high over the summer months.
With an increased propensity for outdoor socialising, customers are wrapping up warm and the UK hospitality sector has adopted to a more European model of al fresco dining. Barrafina, The Goring Hotel, The Ritz, Ham Yard, Soho House and Café Murano have all adapted to this new way of dining, providing guests with outdoor heated terraces, patios and on-call blankets.
Our varied and carefully curated portfolio of wines, honed over many years, means we are well positioned to meet the evolving needs of the on-trade. My client visits have never been so important, and the feedback about what customers want is priceless. Part of my role is to share with them the distinct personality and values of each individual wine brand. They can then shape their list accordingly, to offer a balanced range of niche and traditional wines.
Commuting by bike is a life-saver
As the on-trade responds swiftly to consumer trends and government-imposed regulations, it has never been so important for me to get to my clients speedily. The most agile way for me to get around London is on my trusty Brompton bike. As well as being practical, it generates a pleasingly warm response from customers and Mentzendorff has an association via the Bollinger brand with this fantastic British company.
We share Brompton’s ambition to lower carbon emissions, improving urban mobility for a greener city. We therefore teamed up with them back in 2018 as a sponsor for the “Brompton World Championships” race on The Mall. And we also undertook a 3-day ride together to Champagne Bollinger’s estate. Brompton bikes are manufactured in the UK, where 100% of their energy is purchased through renewable contracts. We share the desire to keep our cities, and the citizens who live there, healthy.
During these pandemic-ridden times, the need for regular exercise to enhance our mental and physical health is hugely important. With the risk of depression 40% higher in city-dwellers compared to their rural counterparts*, regular exercise has a profoundly positive impact. A study by Glasgow University found that cycling to work lowers the risk of early death by 40%, making cycling not only the best choice for the environment, but also for physical and mental health.
Our own efforts to stay green include sustainable bottles in Flexi-Hex packaging which uses only recycled paper. This displaces a large amount of plastic and further helps to reduce our environmental footprint. As importers and distributors of two Royal Warrants to Her Majesty the Queen, Champagne Bollinger since 1884 and Taylor’s Port since 2017, we have a duty to champion a sustainable future.
This is, undeniably, a challenging time for everyone, but by responding swiftly to the innovative solutions pioneered by the on-trade, and remaining versatile, I’m confident that we can ride this crisis and emerge stronger.