If you sell wine in your restaurant or bar, you likely operate a wine by the glass (BTG) program. This program is popular in venues where wine can be sold in a single portion or glass instead of by the bottle.
However, while there are plenty of benefits of the wine by the glass program, there are challenges too. Every time you open a new bottle to fill a single glass, you must think about ways to finish the bottle as quickly as possible.
For a successful wine by the glass program, you need to understand how to make it work for ultimate profitability. For bar and restaurant owners and sommeliers, the aim is clear. Come up with the best possible wine selections at optimal pricing.
If you want to learn more about running a successful wine by the glass program in your bar or restaurant, we’re here to help. Keep reading to discover the benefits, challenges, and solutions to running a wine by the glass program.
The main benefit of a wine by the glass program is that it is extremely attractive to customers. Many visitors to your restaurant or bar may disagree on a bottle of wine to choose from, so a BTG program solves that issue.
Or customers may not wish to drink an entire bottle. For example, when diners visit for lunch during the week but must return to the office afterward, a single glass of wine is ideal.
If you have an exhaustive wine by the glass program, then guests are likely to love this too. A wide selection of wines by the glass allows for the perfect pairing opportunity for any dish.
As a ‘foodie’ culture develops further and further, guests’ palates are becoming more sophisticated. People don’t want to stick to one varietal. They want more choice. Offering more expensive premium wines by the glass program allows owners to provide the most suitable pairing for whatever the guests want.
As a restaurant or bar owner, a wine by the glass program allows you to benefit from the higher margins linked with piecing out wine by the glass. With extortionate operating fees nowadays, any margin growth is appreciated.
Generally, when it comes to creating a wine by the glass program, the more offerings the more attractive it is for customers. A large wine by the glass selection, gives customers a unique possibility to taste different wines that originate from wine regions worldwide and cost a range of prices.
A strong BGT program features around at least 8 different wines. While customers may love an exhaustive list of wines to choose from, offering any less than 8 wines is unlikely to make your program profitable.
However, every time you pop open a bottle to pour a glass of wine, it’s essential that you think of ways to finish it as quickly as possible. If you have more than 12 BTG wines on your menu, this can become a great obstacle to achieving maximum profitability.
The simplest wine by the glass program offers two wines, which are usually a house red and house white. Sometimes house wine offerings also include sparkling wine. However, only having two to three BTG wines on your list may be off-putting for customers.
Some restaurants and bars don’t offer standard house wines, instead providing customers with a wider choice of premium varietals by the glass. These wines by the glass are generally higher quality than standard house wines. They’re also usually available by the bottle.
A good idea is to use a house red and house white to start your BTG wine list and scale up from there. Once you choose your house red and house white, you can add more variety, such as medium-priced reds and whites and premium-priced glasses too.
Once you have more wines in your program, you have more flexibility to include new varietals. For example, if you have four reds on the list, you may offer two merlots, one pinot noir, and one cabernet sauvignons. The same goes for whites too.
Most restaurants and bars rotate their offerings every three or six months, depending on the popularity of the WBG program. Three months is long enough to learn which wines are selling and which aren’t.
It’s also an excellent way to check up on the 80/20 rule in effect. This rule determines that 20% of the wines found on your BTG menu drive 80% of your total BTG wine program profits. As a restaurant or bar owner, it’s your responsibility to focus on these top 20% wines and learn how to rotate new varieties for the other 80%.
Tracking these figures and noticing patterns and trends is essential for marketing your BTG program well.
Depending on the venue, wine by the glass selections varies from entry-level house wines to expensive fine wines.
Your BTG wines should be some of your most popular wines, so the bottles are likely to be drunk quickly. After all, you don’t want to store half-empty wine bottles for extended periods as they may spoil without the proper technology.
It’s essential to know that there are plenty of challenges in running a wine by the glass program.
One of the risks in serving wines by the glass is that they can taste flat and tired if they haven’t been stored properly. Ideally, any bottle of wine opened should be served that same day without any preservation technology. This can be tough as you may not always sell through a bottle in one night.
Once a bottle is uncorked, wine has a short shelf life. By reducing the threat of spoilage, your company can start offering a fine premium wine by the glass program instead of just providing an entire expensive bottle of wine.
Other challenges are over-pouring of wines. Many bar staff members are generous when serving single glasses of wine, and this can affect profits significantly in the long run. They may do this purposefully to receive more or higher tips, but this isn’t beneficial for the restaurant or bar.
Consistency is another issue as not every pour is served at the correct temperature or is as fresh as possible. This can lead to guests having different experiences.
Fortunately, there are wine dispensors to help staff members make precise pours and offer consistency. Many tools help users automatically dispense wine in a precise volume measure that was preset. By pouring an exact measure, bar and restaurant owners can receive a higher return on their investment, especially if the venue offers a wide selection of premium wine.
Likewise, wine machines help you offer a prompter service, as hand pouring is slower than automated pouring. These wine serving machines can also preserve wine for over a month, meaning you can reduce wastage while also offering consistent service. Each pour comes at the perfect temperature.
After choosing your wines, it’s time to think about costs. There is a rule of thumb that is applicable for nearly any bar or restaurant, regardless of size.
The rule states that the price of a single glass of wine should be equal to the wholesale cost of the bottle. So, if you can get hold of a bottle for $10, then you should charge $10 for every single glass of wine poured from that bottle.
The average price of a BTG wine ranges from $8 to $15. Any price lower than $8 is unlikely to carry high-profit margins unless you can find a supplier who sells you wine for as little as $6. A price higher than $15 for a glass of wine is unlikely to attract potential buyers.
A glass of wine costing $15 suggests that consumers are ordering some very pricy wines that may be appearing on your wine list at $45, $60, or even $75 a bottle. While these prices may work if you have many wealthy clients, it’s likely in your best interests to choose wines priced in the middle of the $8 to $15 range to reap the most sales.
Of course, your restaurant or bar may offer rarer and more extraordinary fine wines. Typically, a restaurant or bar’s premium wines by the glass selections offer red, white, rose, and sparkling wines costing $12 up to $30 a glass. These wines are a lot better in quality than basic house red or white wines.
Once you’ve chosen your wines and have come up with prices, it’s time to get creative in marketing your wine by the glass program so you can enhance the attractiveness of the wines appearing in your scheme.
For example, many sommeliers have discovered that the ‘sweet spot’ of a menu is the top right or left corner. This area is where the eye is naturally drawn to, and any content in these spots receive the most attention.
Even if you offer a busy food menu, if you place details about your wine by the glass program, your venue’s wine sales could shoot up. Consider using other visual ways to highlight your offerings to the customer even further. For example, you could frame or box the names of your BTG wines.
Some customers may assume that you only offer a single house red and white on your program. But if you frame a selection of BTG wines, you can show your program’s diversity, which may encourage them to order a glass.
Another way to market your BTG wines is simply by including a detailed description of each wine. Include the brand name or name of the winery, detailed information about the grape varietal, some information about the wine region, or details about the flavor, scent, and taste of the wine.
Include terms and phrases that help customers understand more about the flavors of the wines. For example, some great words to use include oaky, buttery, crisp, and fruity. Plus, these phrases make the wines sound delicious too, tempting your customers to order a glass or two.
As customer’s tastes and requirements change, it’s essential to adjust your BTG program accordingly. For example, some wines that were once popular may come out of flavor. As a wine sommelier or business owner, it’s essential to keep up with these trends.
Once, Shiraz was extremely popular, and many venues were keen to add it to their wine by the glass program. But the varietal is no longer as popular, and wine drinks favor Prosecco and other types of wines.
That’s why rotating and updating your wine list every few months is essential. It would help if you focused your efforts on the most popular wines while coming up with ways to replace the others.
If you’ve priced your wines suitably and you’ve spent enough time coming up with creative and innovative ways such as incorporating a wine dispensor to merchandise these wines, you shouldn’t have any issues running a wine by the glass program that’s popular with patrons.
As the popularity of wine grows, restaurant and bar owners will continue to improve their wine by the glass programs to tend to customers’ needs. If they can overcome the challenges of running a wine by the glass program, early adopters of the scheme can gain a competitive advantage.
Before we know it, almost every venue will have premium wines offered by the glass.