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09.2009

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedOnWineReport

BUILD A WINNING WINE LIST

Restaurants have long enjoyed robust and profitable wine sales. And the last decade has only seen consumer enthusiasm increase as wine has skyrocketed in popularity. But are restaurants selling wine as effectively as they could be? Perhaps not. A recent Cornell University wine research study has identified four key strategies that coincide with higher wine sales in restaurants. In a newly released report, “Wine List Characteristics Associated with Greater Wine Sales”, certain elements of restaurant wine lists were analyzed by Cornell University’s Sybil Yang and Michael Lynn. The research was made possible by Southern Wine & Spirits of America, partnering with Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research and is available at www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/reports/2OO9.html
The study found that there are four key wine list components involved in higher wine sales: 1 Include the wine list on the food menu; 2 List prices without a dollar sign; 3 Include wines from certain wineries known for their quality; and 4 Include “reserve” wines or another special section. However, a fifth method called Wine Style, which entails using wine style as an organizational category on the list (e.g., sweet, bold, dry) was actually connected with lower sales. “We’ve seen dozens of suggestions for how restaurateurs should present their wines,” said Lynn, “but we haven’t seen any research evidence of how presentations are connected with higher sales. We tested forty-six different attributes of the wine lists in the 27O restaurants, but we found only four that correlated with higher sales across all restaurants and two others that were effective only in casual-dining restaurants.” The findings are that wine sales at fine-dining restaurants behaved differently from those at casual restaurants. For instance, at most casual restaurants, wine sales declined as prices increased. However, price seemed to have no relationship with sales at fine-dining restaurants. The correlation between having a longer wine list and higher wine sales was found to be true at casual-dining restaurants, where wine sales increased with the length of the list, up to about 15O wines.

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