The holiday season is usually a busy one with plenty of people dining out and needing catering for parties. It’s a great time to bring your profit for the year up as well as pick up a few new customers. January can usually hit hard. Once the holidays are over people go back to their normal lives, the New Year is when many people make resolutions to save money, lose weight, or eat healthier which doesn’t bode well for the restaurant owner. With a little creative thinking, some advertising and a little luck you can keep the holiday momentum going well into the spring by introducing wine tastings to your schedule.
Even if people are cutting back they’ll often choose to have a glass of wine with dinner. Others will be more open to trying new wines since January is all about learning new things and having new experiences. Best of all, wine tastings are a great way to keep those new customers coming back.
You Don’t Have to Know Wine
Hosting a wine tasting may seem a bit daunting when you are not sure whether a wine has oak and citrus flavors or stone fruit and spice. Luckily you don’t need to be an expert. Hire a sommelier in to conduct the tasting and teach guests a little about each wine. Local wine shops may also be able to put you in contact with people who know enough about wine to lead your guests through a tasting.
Often a wine supplier will conduct tastings for free. After all, it’s good for his business.
Make It Private
Make it a reservation or invitation only event. Making it a little on the exclusive side will help you to build interest. Choose an evening when business is generally slow and have the tasting in a separate room or in an empty corner of the dining room. It will give your guests some privacy but will also possibly intrigue those who are not attending.
You’ll want to follow your distributor’s lead in the choosing of the wines. A couple of reds and a couple of whites tend to work best but there are hundreds of ways to conduct a tasting.
Food Should Be Special for a Wine Tasting
You don’t have to have a dinner menu for the wine tasting — a variety of fancy appetizers will work fine. You’ll find, however, that you’ll make more money if you offer dinner in several courses — one to go with each wine. The sommelier can help you create the best menu to pair with the wines as well. This is a great time to try out new appetizers and get feedback.
Check Your Inventory
You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of wine glasses to accommodate your guests during the tasting. You’ll need one glass per wine per guest. In other words if you have 10 guests and five wines to try then you’ll need 50 wine glasses at the minimum.
When you are planning the decor keep it elegant yet simple. Choose low flower arrangements with candles inside them for a romantic ambiance. Fresh grapes in bowls, fresh fruit, or small rosemary trees are all good decorating ideas that aren’t too expensive. Go with linen tableclothes, fabric napkins, and other items that speak elegance ad luxury.
Build the Interest
Build interest in your wine tastings by inviting bloggers and journalists to the first tasting and comping the cost. Hopefully they’ll have a great time and will write about how fabulous your wine tasting is.
Have a Practice Run
Choose your best servers for this and talk about exactly what you expect from them. Have a practice tasting with the whole staff trying and making notes about the wines. Encourage them to learn about each wine being served so that they can smoothly answer any questions that might come up during the tasting.
Enjoy your Guests
This is a great time to get to know your guests, ask them questions, and hopefully understand their lifestyles a little better. You’ll be able to tell whether you have a young, hipster crowd or an older, more traditional group. You’ll be collecting lots of important information that you’ll be able to use for the rest of the year.
Plan Themed Tastings
Plan on doing a wine tasting at least once a month. Constantly planning for these events can be exhausting but if you choose themes it ends up being more fun than anything. For February you could do a Valentines Day theme with chocolate and wine pairings. March could be Wines for Easter, and so on. It’s really only limited by your own imagination.
There are many ways to build your business but those, like wine tastings, that capture the imaginations of your guests are always a great idea. Before you start advertising double check with the city or county to make sure that all of your licenses and permits are in order.