The speed at which restaurants, bars and pubs switched to doing takeaways, pick-ups, deliveries and online during the Covid-19 lockdown was one of the few highlights of 2020. It is why the new UK Wine List of the Year awards, co-hosted by The Buyer and Star Wine List, includes a standalone Lockdown Wine List category to celebrate and reward the efforts that many outlets have taken to continue to serve their customers. Here John Graves explains why Bibendum is so pleased to be the category sponsor.
The UK Wine List of the Year Awards is now open for entries with a deadline of January 31 and an online awards ceremony on February 22. Click here for more details on how to take part.
It has been a deeply frustrating 10 months for the on-trade and hospitality sectors as restaurants, bars, pubs and hotels have been forced to close for so much of the time. But in adversity also comes innovation and we have seen so many businesses adapt and put in place entirely new business strategies to keep sales moving, customers happy and wine and spirits flowing through the supply chain.
Once the first lockdown was introduced at the end of March 2020 we saw a whole range of outlets introduce takeaway services, kerb side pick ups and delivery operations seemingly overnight. Many even started their own e-commerce platforms from scratch and have gone on to drive a sizeable part of their revenue through online over the subsequent months.
Lockdown list of the year – with Bibendum
It is those businesses that we want to celebrate and highlight as part of the new UK Wine List of the Year awards that The Buyer has introduced with Star Wine List with a specific category focused on what on-trade outlets have done when their doors have been shut – The Lockdown Wine List of the Year award.
But many of these businesses would not have been able to offer such a diverse and sophisticated range of takeaway, delivery or online services if it was not also for the quick thinking and actions of their suppliers.
Which is why we are particularly pleased to introduce Bibendum as the category sponsor for the Lockdown Wine List of the Year category, as it did so much so respond to the challenge and change the way it worked to ensure it could provide the range of wines at prices and margins that would make these new services work.
It even went as far as introducing the dedicated Local app that was built from scratch to provide an online database of any outlet that was providing a lockdown drinks and food service to its customers.
John Graves, Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, goes as far as saying the “March 2020 lockdown was the biggest post war challenge faced by the on-trade” sector.
As he explains: “As people tore their hair out about the situation, others adapted very quickly and used strong local reputations and their skills as hospitality operators to make the best of what they had.”
“Take away became Queen,” he adds. “Food menus were quickly adapted to offer restaurant quality food in take away containers, and it became apparent very quickly that wine lists and offerings would have to change too. Pubs and restaurants could not charge £20+ for a £7 bottle of wine and expect to sell many bottles, and like their menus the wine offering would need to be simple but compelling.”
Which, in turn, threw a fresh challenge to the Bibendum team: “We quickly recognised we would have to help our customers work on a retail model so that wines would be offered as ‘restaurant quality at wine shop prices’.
“It wasn’t possible for everyone but many smart operators picked this up very quickly and the good ones became community wine hubs for the locals. Many took it as an opportunity to be brave with the offer, finding that taking away the large restaurant margins encouraged people to experiment with wines they might normally have not risked. High quality Alto Adige Pinot Grigio, for example, super Tuscan wines, premium Provence rosé, and smaller high quality artisan producers.”
Innovating and adapting
Get it right and there were some quick gains to be had for those outlets that could get the message out to their community that they could still enjoy fine dining and great wines, but at more retail prices from their favourite local pub or restaurant.
“Local became big and this was reflected in the best wine lists,” says Graves. “Smaller producers who needed help to get through the pandemic were featured more and more and many became regular contributors to social media sites.”
He adds: “It was the worst of times, but on occasions it was the best of times and it taught everyone a lot. We learned the importance of cash margin, of local relationships and about being an operator and a supplier who knew their customer and looked after them.
“These are learnings and they are good learnings, we are going to use them when we finally come out of this pandemic, and the wine industry will be a better place for it.”
Which is why Bibendum, in turn, is delighted to have the chance to show its respect to all the on-trade operators that have responded so well to Covid-19 by supporting the Lockdown of the Year category, but also the awards in general.
As Graves says: “We are delighted to support the Wine List of the Year awards, a strong rebirth of the wine trade is vital for us all, and great wine lists will be at the heart of this.”
Criteria for Lockdown list
We are looking for those restaurants, bars or pubs that have devised special lists throughout 2020 to allow them to continue to trade be it through takeaway, delivery or online sales. We also want to hear the story behind how those changes were made and the response the outlets have had from their customers. It might have meant starting up your own e-commerce channel for the first time, started doing home deliveries, or running a takeaway drinks service from your outlet.
Any initiatives introduced in direct response to Covid-19 are eligible to enter.
How the awards works
The Lockdown category is just one of a number of opportunities for restaurants, bars, hotels and pubs to take part in the first UK Wine List of the Year awards. The competition is the UK part of what is a global competition run by Star Wine List with other events happening in other key cities and countries building up to a global final that is taking place in Vienna, Austria in May, in partnership with Austrian Wine.
All on-trade outlets that are featured on the UK’s Star Wine List are automatically entered into the awards, but other outlets can nominate themselves and suppliers, distributors and members of the trade can also make recommendations as well.
The Judging Criteria
All wine lists are assessed independently by the judging panel who will mark them based on:
- Their depth and diversity
- Value for money.
The jury’s votes are then added up to decide the finalists and the winners.
Each competition around the world has a number of categories that are the same – to help determine the global winners – but are also open to their own individual awards to reflect the tastes and styles of wines being sold in that particular country or city.
The global categories are:
- Grand Prix
- Best Austrian Wine List, presented by Austrian Wine
- By the Glass
- Special Jury Price
- Best Short list
UK specific awards
As well as the new Lockdown category supported by Bibendum, there are:
- California Wine List of the Year category, backed by The California Wine Institute.
- German Wine List of the Year, sponsored by Wines of Germany.
- New Zealand Wine List of the Year, sponsored by New Zealand Wine.
What potentially sets these awards apart is the fact they are judged by some of the world’s most awarded and respected sommeliers, including a number of former past Best Sommeliers in the World.
- Anyone looking to enter any of the categories can do so by emailing your list with a short explanation about how it has been put together to firstname.lastname@example.org including the name and address of the venue and your contact details. Closing date for entries is January 31, 2021.
- If you would like to discuss nominating or sponsoring a category then please contact Richard Siddle at email@example.com.