There are challenges associated with every aspect of the bar inventory process, but taking inventory on wine products presents several unique issues that aren’t experienced with beer and liquor. We discussed these challenges in our last blog post, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you read it if your bar does a substantial volume of wine sales.
If you don’t account for these issues in your inventory process, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with inaccurate data that impacts your ability to track the performance of the wines you sell by the glass. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to minimize these challenges in order to optimize your wine inventory process.
Set a Hard Limit on Wines by the Glass
When determining your wine menu, it’s important to be realistic about the number of wines your business can sustain. If you carry more wines than you can manage, it creates two problems for your business:
- You’ll most likely encounter problems with your inventory process
- Your staff won’t possess a sufficient level of knowledge about each wine to talk intelligently about your menu with your customers (this is much more important with wine than with beer and liquor)
There’s no hard and fast rule regarding the number of wines you should carry. The right number for your bar will depend on how important wine sales are to your business. In general, 10-20 wines by the glass is the upper end of what most bars can reasonably sustain without having a modern wine storage system.
Always let your sales dictate your selection. Small wine sales should result in carrying a smaller selection of wines. If you only sell 50 glasses of wine per week, then don’t carry more than 5 different bottles. But if you sell hundreds of glasses of wine per week, then you can reasonably carry 10-15 selections without a problem.
Make Sure Your Wines don’t Outlast their Shelf Life
The reason your wine selection is limited by your sales is because bottles of wine only have a shelf life of 1-2 days before they start to go bad. If you keep open bottles for much longer than this, you’re forced to choose between the lesser of two evils:
- Serve wine that isn’t fresh to customers
- Throw out lots of wine because it’s no longer drinkable
An easy way to ensure you’re always serving fresh wine is to mark the date a bottle is opened with a silver sharpie. The silver sharpie will be easy for your bar staff to read, and it lets your customers know that you care about the wine you serve to them.
The one exception involves wines that you sell in very high volumes. If you’re going through several bottles of a particular type of wine every night, there’s no need to mark the date.
Organize Your Wines in a Logical Manner
It’s important that you organize your wines in a way that makes sense to your staff. By doing this, you’ll be able to train your staff more quickly, and it’ll be easier for them to make suggestions to customers.
For example, if your wines are organized from light body to full body and a customer asks for a wine with more body, your staff will know that if they pull a bottle farther down to the right on the shelf, it’ll meet the needs of your customer.
Some good ways to organize your wines include:
- Old World to New World
- Full body to light body
- By vintage
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what method of organization you choose as long as there’s thought behind your organizational process.
When creating a wine menu for your customers, always list the reds together and the whites together. This will help your customers find what they’re looking for more easily. In addition, it’s a good idea to have the bottles organized behind the bar in the same order they’re listed on your wine menu. This will help with training your bar staff.
Leverage the Benefits of Value Oriented Wines
There are certainly good reasons to carry some well-known brands of wine. Most importantly, your customers will be familiar with them and like to order them. However, the fact that people recognize these wines also means there’s no real ability to upcharge for a glass. Your customers will be aware of what these wines are supposed to cost, and this will force you to keep your prices in line with the industry standard for these selections.
For this reason, we recommend that you carry at least a few lesser known, value oriented wines. This will allow you to choose bottles at a lower price point that still taste great. Since your customers don’t know these brands as well, they won’t have an expectation as to how much they should cost. This creates an opportunity to mark up the price a little more, improving your profit margin on each glass.
It’s crucial that your bar staff is knowledgeable about your wine selections when selling value oriented wines. The more knowledgeable they are, the more easily you can leverage these selections. Since customers are unfamiliar with these brands, your staff must be able to describe the wines and make recommendations.
Rotate Your Wine List Seasonally
High end establishments that do a high volume of wine sales typically change their wine list 4 times a year. But for most bars, changing the wine list twice a year is fine. We recommend that you change your wines seasonally. If you only do it twice a year, have a summer list and a winter list. If you change them out quarterly, then you can also have a spring and a fall list.
You’ll experience the following benefits when you have a seasonal wine list:
- Reduced transaction costs – Every time you carry a new wine, you have to add it to your POS system, change your wine list, and teach your servers about the new wine. By making all of your changes to the wine list at once instead of randomly throughout the year, you can streamline the process and complete all of this work at one time. This is a more efficient way to minimize the transaction costs associated with changing your wine selection.
- Better pricing leverage – By knowing your volume of wine sales and buying for an entire season, you can purchase cases of wine in larger quantities and leverage a better price from your wine rep.
- More knowledgeable staff – If you change your wine list seasonally, you can do one training for your staff where they learn about all of the new wines at once. When you change wines randomly, it’s harder for your staff to know what selections you have and what makes these bottles special.
Make Sure Your Staff is Knowledgeable
Your goal is for every server and bartender to be able to intelligently describe each wine. They should be able to tell your customers:
- Whether it’s a heavier or lighter bodied wine
- What dishes the wine should be paired with
- Where each wine comes from and what it’s known for
Your staff should be able to have a basic understanding of the style of wine and a few snippets or tag lines to describe it to customers. It’s not realistic to expect your servers to be wine experts, but if you provide them with a well-organized wine program, it’s reasonable to expect them to have a solid knowledge of 8-10 wines.
As a general rule, don’t carry more wines than your staff can reasonably talk intelligently about. It’s better to have fewer wines and a more knowledgeable staff than an enormous wine list that your staff knows nothing about.
To schedule a free consultation regarding your wine selections or to find out how we can streamline your inventory process and help you maximize profits, please contact Bar-i today. We serve clients nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.