"The on-trade wine market has unsurprisingly been impacted by the recession as customers try to curb spending in a difficult economic climate," says ViVAS marketing manager Henry John. "However, although volumes are lower, we've seen a slower decrease in value of sales which suggests customers are buying wine less often but are still prepared to pay a bit more for a quality product.
"By closely monitoring market trends and keeping in touch with the ever-changing demands of your customer, you can offer a profitable range which will meet their needs and encourage repeat custom."
• Creating a winning wine list "Getting the basics right is key," continues John. "Start with a small but well selected range covering the key grape varieties and styles - three reds, three whites and two Rosés, one sweeter style and one dry. This will give you a good base for your list.
"There are some firm favourites - Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Shiraz as well as red and white blends - that consistently sell well. I'd also recommend including a few well-known wine brands within your list to provide consumers with familiarity and give support to the rest of the range. And remember, if your range is good value then you are likely to have repeat sales over a far longer period than having the short term gain of greater margin."
• The market Chris and Rosie Robinson's pub the Stephan Langton is thriving, but wine sales are still proving a challenge.
"Our wine sales are weak," says Chris. "I've played with the price, the presentation and the measures but still sell very few bottles of wine priced over £20. Despite having a good strong food offering and a background in wine, our wine sales aren't strong - customers are more likely to have a pint of local ale with their meal. In part, I think this is due to the economic climate and also the power of the supermarkets which discount their wine hugely. If consumers are paying £4-£5 for a decent bottle of wine in the shops, they don't see the value of buying a bottle in the pub."
According to John, the dominance of the supermarkets is being seen across the on-trade. "As well as a challenging financial landscape, the on-trade wine market is being affected by the emergence of tempting supermarket meal deals, government legislation on promotions, size of serve and duty, a fluctuating exchange rate and increasing production costs.
"By looking at research into consumers' wine buying patterns the Stephan Langton, and other pubs, restaurants and hotels looking to offer a more profitable wine solution, can turn the market to their advantage. For example, we know through its popularity that consumers like the meal deal so why not try offering a main course and a glass of wine at a set price."
• Responsible promotion and marketing "It's worth remembering that one out of every five customers makes a decision about what they are going to drink at the bar," John explains. "Research also shows that 64% of people are swayed by promotional offers when choosing their wine. Together this makes a strong case for promotions - try offering your customers a ‘buy two glasses get the rest of the bottle free' deal, or feature a wine of the month highlighted on blackboards throughout your venue. Tent cards and table talkers are also great ways to advertise special offers."
Karen Williams at the Mullberry Tree in Broughton Monchelsea understands the value of promotions and, to drive trade on quieter mid-week evenings, offers her customers a free glass of Champagne with their meal. She also pushes sales of dessert wines by highlighting matches with the puddings on her menu.
Williams says: "Over the past five weeks we formalised our matching of desserts and dessert wines. Before, customers could chat to the staff about the best wine to go with each pudding, which relied on the staff member being knowledgeable about the range. Now the advice looks more professional written on the menu and we've seen a distinct increase in sales of our dessert wines."
"These are great ways to draw attention to your wine and highlight your range," says John. "Thinking cleverly and using wine as a driver to win customers through promotional activities such as wine tastings, or wine and meal deals can really help to maximise profits. Remember the idea is to increase sales, not to give away products your customers are likely to order anyway."