Thursday, January 17, 2008

Falling short of expectations.

January it would seem is becoming the month for re-evaluating things. In the post-christmas carnage that is the sales season, we are gradually slowing down, and now we look back on the xmas festivities with a critical eye to see where we can improve, what changes are needed and believe it or not, begin to put together our 2008 package.
For me, Ive re-evaluating the stock, taking a look at certain wines that for some reason or another have failed to meet expectations, that havent delivered what was expected of them. We had quite a few over xmas, mostly burgs, roughly half white and half red. It is something of a disappointment when you open a bottle that really ought to be pretty good, to find it lacking, falling short, just missing the mark. It puts me in a difficult position, especially if I have "sold" the customer on selecting this wine. On the one hand, such is wine, thats the gamble you take, but on the other hand, our whole raison d'etre is customer satisfaction. Now while I dont believe all that bullshit that the customer is always right, I do believe that our purpose is to create a satisfying environment where the customers can enjoy their meal to the fullest extent. And these days wine is an integral part of that experience. So when chef has gone to the effort to source the best produce, expertly prepared it, delicately presented it, then it really deserves the best wine to complement it. So how to handle such a scenario?
Ultimately it is all down to balancing everyones needs. It boils down to communicating with the customer, gauging their response to the wine and in the end it may involve adding a "sommeliers discount" to the wine to make it a more reasonable value. There are a few wines on the list that are relative steals because I feel that they just arent shining in the way that they ought to and so Ive underpriced them a bit to compensate. So get shopping, read the list and you might be getting a bargain you werent expecting.


Robert McIntosh said...

I don't think I have ever come across a sommelier that has done that for me, and I think this is both very brave and a great idea for creating a relationship.

I suppose it means you've go a rather complicated life, but probably a more fulfilling one.

So, about these 'steals', ... and hints?

grazza said...

At the end of the day a big part of my role is to develop the relationship between the customers and myself. Its a big element of what makes people go back to a hotel/bar/restaurant. Screwing people over might help me achieve certain financial targets now, but the long term effects are totally negative. My relationship with my customers is one that focusses on the long term. I have developed several key relationships that have enabled me to further develop my wine-list by tailoring certain wines to certain customers, Ive sourced over a dozen wines at the specific request of people who have gone on to become regular guests.
I have to admit it is certainly easier to do this here, where I have a large degree of freedom and the responsability and empowerment to make such decisions, and that is ultimately the reason I am here and will remain here for a while to come.
As for the hints - well Grand Cru burgundy is always a fairly good place to start, especially at the lower end, but there are some cracking mature clarets that are a real steal. Im not going to say anymore!!

Anonymous said...

What exactly constitutes a steal in your eyes these days grazza old boy?

40%, 50% cost? I won't hold out for and answer. But in truth, certain mature clarets at 50% cost in an establishment such as yours does constitute something of a bargain, but again, I suppose it depends on the context.

Pinkman out!

grazza said...

I know our margins are high (higher than I would like for sure but thats the one area I have little control over) but 50% is off the mark. We have about a dozen mature clarets that are sitting on a 30% margin (70% cost of sales) look at the stuff from the 70's and early 80's. And for many of these wines when you compare them to their current market value they are even better bargains as we price them according to what we paid back in the day, not as many restaurants do, what it would cost to replace them. I agree that many of the wines, especially the more modern vintages dont offer great value for money. Their overinflated cost prices plus the high margin nakes them a bit less value than they should be. But to a greater extent my bosses are prepared to argue the case for the high margin - riedel stemware, temperature controlled storage, long term cellarage etc etc. Its an arguement that no-one will ever claim they will win, so perhaps best not to get too into it.