One Blog |May 13, 2015 | POS Tracking Software

How To Sell More Wine? – With Better POS Marketing

Mark Fullerton

Our blog’s focus, generally speaking, is on measuring and managing at-retail promotions or at the point-of-sale marketing initiatives. This can include temporary and permanent signage, food and drink menus and business-to-business beverage sampling – All promotional activities that convert beverage shoppers into buyers.

Having said this, I want to clarify that we here at OnTrak Software don’t typically get involved in the content of your POS materials. What we do care about is in delivering solutions to track and manage these point-of-sale (POS) marketing efforts for beer, wine and spirits wholesalers, helping them closely monitor the impact of their POS investments.

This particular post, however, will diverge somewhat from that formula based on my recent dining experiences in Orlando while I was attending the April 2015 WSWA conference. The fact that I am a consumer of beverage alcohol products has been helpful in putting the following together.

The Dining Experience

You enter a restaurant and are greeted and seated by the host or hostess – part of the routine includes the presentation of the food menu to each diner and the presentation of a special stand-alone wine menu to the diner who is identified as the wine buyer for the group’s meal. The food menu typically will be two or sometimes three pages; the wine menu, on the other hand, is often many pages with wine listings on both sides of every page.

On the second night of the 2015 WSWA conference, our group was directed to one of Orlando’s top steak houses – and the above scenario played out basically as noted.  I was given both the food menu and the wine menu (most likely because I was buying) and here is what I noted:

The food menu was four pages, not two – but the first two pages contained a listing of accolades praising the restaurant’s quality and proudly pointed out its Zagat rating; page two explained why the restaurant was different from other high-end restaurants. Pages three and four contained the actual menu of items we could choose from. Nine entrees, plus three surf and turf variations were offered. There also were about a dozen appetizers, plus three salads, oysters and a mixed seafood grill. Fifteen side items plus the mention of the special of the day completed the food menu.

Sound typical, yes? I thought so.

Here’s some of the information pertaining to one of the entrees listed:

Kansas-City Strip (24 oz. bone-in): 34.95

- Known for its richness; coupled with our forty-five day aging process and open-flame cooking produces the juiciest of steaks. With a creamy horseradish sauce, add 3.50.

Again, what you would expect from the food menu at a high end steak house.

Next I opened the wine menu – let me modify that: Next I opened the thirty-three page wine menu! Let me start off by telling you that as a rule of thumb I am rarely, if ever, intimidated by wine lists, even when I know very little about the wines on them. This wine list might just be the exception to the “intimidation rule,” however.

Here’s how this book was organized: Thirty-three pages, listing offerings first by grape (the first seventeen pages) then by country of origin (the next twelve pages) then by half-bottles, dessert wines and by-the-glass features. You may think it a bit obsessive of me, but the list contained an average of thirty wine choices (including sparkling wines and Champagnes) per page.  The wines were listed in no particular order as far as I could tell unless it was from highest price to lowest (within grape or country of origin).

The listings were single-spaced and the roughly one-thousand wines became a blur as I kept turning page after page after page. The first item listed on page one was a Champagne; and, at $600, was by no means the most expensive bottle on the list; Screaming Eagle (a 2003 California Cab), at $3,500, grabbed that honor – and that one was at the top of page nine. Another twenty-three pages, mostly consisting of multi-hundred dollar per-bottle wines followed – it was almost overwhelming.

Now, imagine if the food menu had been even ten pages, let alone thirty-three. I suspect most of us could “ingest” a ten-page food menu, consisting primarily of meat and fish items without much problem, especially if the restaurant listed the items as they had listed the “Kansas City Strip” – complete with a short description of the item, perhaps something like this:

Cedar Plank Roasted Alaskan Salmon: 29.95

- Alaskan King Salmon topped with a light parmesan horseradish and dill aioli; cedar plank roasted over an open flame – delicious.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

After a wonderful and delicious evening, we returned to the Grande Lake JW Marriot Hotel for a night-cap at the lobby bar. Laying on one of the tables in the lounge area was the April 2015 issue of Beverage Dynamics – I began somewhat mindlessly paging through the magazine and all of a sudden came across this interesting – and considering my evening’s dining experience, compelling – item:

“There is still a major diner intimidation with wine lists and studies show they [customers] continually order the third item from the top . . . (not too expensive and shows minimal thought).”

Informally, I began canvassing wine distributors and asked them if they produced “restaurant and bar” wine menus (POS marketing by another name) for their customers.

Those that did I asked follow up questions:

#1. Do you think patrons are intimidated by the wine menus handed to them by most restaurants? 

#2. Do you think you could sell more wine and more variety of wines to your customers and, in turn, they to their customers if wine menus offered a few descriptive terms and “awards-won” information about the individual wines on the list – somewhat like the brief descriptions provided for entrees?

Some distributors said they’ve been trying to figure out how to provide this information on their customers’ wine lists for years. Every distributor I asked agreed that wine menus are intimidating and that providing information about the wines on virtually any wine list would go a long way toward increasing the number of items sold and also would likely increase the quantity sold, either by the bottle or by-the-glass.

Beverage Dynamics cites a 20% increase in by-the-glass sales and in bottle sales for restaurants that provide “wine education” to customers.

Whether you call it wine education or wine POS marketing is up to you. What is clear, regardless of what you call it, providing information about the wines on your wine menus and lists will very likely be correlated with both a widening and deepening of sales of your portfolio of wines marketed via menus.

“This is such an obvious way to dramatically increase by-the-glass and bottle sales, it’s a wonder we haven’t done something like this a long time ago.” – a top-ten wine and spirits distributor executive at the 2015 WSWA conference.

For more information on how to make your menus and lists – wine POS – work to increase sales of your “varietals and vintages,” click this button:

The June 1, 2015 blog entry discusses that while many have made a decision not to create more informational beverage menus, there may be strong reason to do so.

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