"You donít sell wine, you sell deals"
Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene recently wrote a provocative piece looking at the way deals are done in the off-trade. You can read it here.
Have you ever wondered why many restaurant/gastropub wine lists are just so appallingly bad? To paraphrase Geoffrey Boycott, when I look at the list plopped in front of me in an average establishment, my first thought is: 'my granny could do better than that with a stick of rhubarb.' And the people running these joints are supposed to be food and wine professionals.
Well, it seems that one of the reasons for this sort of poor performance is the deals that are struck that have nothing to do with the quality of the wine.
Here is an example of the shenanigans that go on when contacts are bid for. A group of three local pub restaurants is currently signed up to a single wine company Ė the usual penny-pinching discounted prices plus 3% retro as gravy. A fourth site is purchased and the contract comes up for renewal. The incumbent company offers a continuation of the existing generous arrangement, another very large company tenders £5,000 for the full contract of the four sites, and then one of their rivals, a specialist in spirits, minerals and beers trumps that with £7,000. After some haggling the second company reduces their offer to £5,500 whilst the original wine company stumps up £2,000 to keep the wine business in the form of an opening credit note. The contract, by the way, is for one year only.
Who suffers? The honest wine merchants whose business is squeezed by the wine bribery of others, the customer who is being sold a pup, and finally the consumers who have to drink the narrow selection of overmarked-up mediocrity. It is counter-intuitive to sacrifice quality and loyalty on the altar of short-term greed. The restaurants that take their customers for granted are making a big mistake.