If anyone wonders why more people don’t drink more wine in restaurants, look no further. The answer is in this year’s Top 100 Wine Brands and Top 100 Individual Wines, a report compiled by Restaurant Wine magazine tracking restaurant wine sales in 2007.
And the reason? Restaurants sell a lot of very undistinguished wine.
The top brands on the list, compiled from restaurants that sell at least 110,000 cases a year, were mostly the mainstays of the grocery store wine business (in order): Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, Franzia, Yellow Tail, Sutter Home, Trinchero Family Estates, Inglenook, Copperidge, Cavit, Woodbridge, and Foxhorn.
Please note that the Wine Curmudgeon is not questioning the quality of these wines. He is noting that they are made in tremendous volumes, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of cases. In addition, as has been well documented here and elsewhere, restaurants charge three times what consumers pay in a grocery store for the same exact wine.
Something else to consider: There are more than 300 million cases of wine sold in the U.S. each year, and restaurant sales account for only about 25 percent of that (a number, oddly, that has stayed pretty consistent this decade). On the other hand, half of the household food budget is spent on restaurant meals, according to the National Restaurant Association. Am I the only one who sees the contradiction here?
People don’t buy wine in restaurants because too many restaurants offer too many ordinary wines, and they charge too much money for those ordinary wines. In fact, the markup – about three to one – is a disincentive to purchase it.
Want to boost sales? First, lower prices. It’s one thing to mark up a hard-to-find wine three times, since the lack of availability adds to its value. It’s another to charge $30 for Yellow Tail. Consumers aren’t that dumb. Second, put more interesting wines on the list. Yes, consumers want to see familiar names when they buy restaurant wine. But they don’t want to see the entire grocery store aisle.
Next time: Consumers are willing to take chances, and the study’s results show that.