When Louis Naudi first met Peter Birnie earlier this year he was "both excited and nervous because his background and experience was precisely what I was looking for in achieving our marketing objectives". At the time Naudi was in the process of repositioning the restaurant and bar, which had been transformed from selling primarily beers, to a broader-based product offering. One of Birnie's recommendations was on the wine offering which he described as old fashioned, unbalanced and unexciting, as well as lacking wines by the glass and quality wines at the £30-mark.
"Peter did not mince his words, despite his politeness. I realised that the wine needed to complement the food, the service, the presentation and ambience," Naudi says.
He buys his wine from Waverleys and has always done so but, following Birnie's advice to develop better supplier relationships, Naudi arranged to visit Waverleys' wine specialist in Haydock and design a new wine list. "The expert's advice and knowledge were quite remarkable and I was really excited about the new list. We increased wines by the glass and carafe from three to 10 including a Fairtrade wine which has proved very popular. Waverleys is currently printing the wine lists in our house style for free and it also gave me a complementary bottle of each to sample," says Naudi.
The Royal Sportsman is also a member of Beacon so Naudi buys beer, wine and spirits at discounted prices. This has been key in helping him increase market share as it means he buys alcohol cheaper and sells it cheaper than other outlets in Porthmadog, yet still makes a high margin, about 65%.
Naudi says: "The hotel bar is now one of the two most popular bars to drink in as no one else sells cocktails or wines."
Wine sales increased by 114% in April 2009 compared with April 2008, held their own in May and increased another 8% in June. In the past three months, wine sales have averaged an increase of 27% and drink sales by 23%. "If Peter had not opened up my mind to wines, I probably would not have made any changes and I cannot thank him enough as it has made us a better all-round hotel," says Naudi.
Birnie says: "I think both Louis and I would agree this is the area where I've made the most impact, in suggestions relating to number of wines by the glass, refreshing the content and look of the wine list overall, looking at the relationship with the supplier, etc. And Louis has consequently tracked a real improvement in wine takings in recent months."
131 High Street, Porthmadog, Gwynedd LL49 9HB
Turnover for the Royal Sportsman in June was up 11% compared with this time last year, meaning three good months of growth of which two were 10-year records.
In addition, on 12 June the hotel had an anonymous AA inspection and, on the basis of that, was awarded its first Rosette and the first in Porthmadog, which had always been a critical part of Louis Naudi's marketing strategy.
"The AA inspector was a very senior individual - Andrew Ford - and he was very complimentary about the food, which he said was "exciting and modern" and the hotel," Naudi says. "He made several observations on how we could improve the bedrooms and we have already implemented most of them."