Although pub wine sales are increasing overall, it is still necessary to let customers know that your venue takes wine seriously. John Porter looks at how licensees can boost consumer confidence.
It ought to be simple - consumers are drinking more wine and pubs are selling more wine. All you have to do is fill up the ice bucket, polish the corkscrew and wait for the rush.
As every publican knows, however, it's never quite that easy.Wine, in particular, needs more care and attention simply because, in many consumer's eyes, it's still an uncertain commodity where pubs are concerned.
Sarah Mauritzen, brand development manager with Waverley Wine and Spirits, believes there are some very good reasons why pubs need to market their wine offer:
- to generate consumer confidence
- to let the consumer know that the outlet takes wine seriously
- to meet consumer demand.
Ms Mauritzen says: "Visibility is the single largest barrier to wine sales. Wine is a major growth category, research and statistics show that more people are drinking more wine, more often. Wine is becoming a more accessible drink option, it is a lifestyle statement.
However, consumers still need wine cues to make them think wine in a pub - no wine cues could mean no wine purchase."
Consumer behaviour is complex. Even customers who regularly drink wine at home need to be "reminded" when they get to the pub. Making wine more visible in the outlet by the use of back bar displays, fridge facings, chalkboards and wine lists all help establish the presence of wine for the consumer.
Communicating the offer clearly makes it easier for the consumer to choose wine. Effective cues include:
- back bar displays
- wine racks
- tentcards on tables and bars promoting recommended wines
- wine lists.
Making the wine list interesting and informative is one of your key marketing tools. Descriptions of the wines interest consumers and also provide staff with a useful crib-sheet, helping them to make confident recommendations.
Clear pricing on the wine list is also essential - the days when it was considered bad form to include pricing are long gone. With wine, customers are looking for a clear staircase of prices which enables them to select a wine according to the occasion.
Getting the service right is the next marketing essential.
Even the best-kept wine looks substandard if it is slopped into a small, dirty glass.
Research has shown that size, in particular, really does matter. The basic step is to move from 125ml glasses to 175ml. Greene King saw wine sales increase by 20 per cent in six weeks after it cleared all the 125ml glasses out of its tenanted estate, paying for replacement 175ml glasses for its licensees. With 175ml as the standard and 250ml as the large size, pubs increase both volumes and profits, and have an attractive offer which should bring customers back for more.
Once you've got the basics right, you can start thinking about promotions.
The most familiar are common simply because they work so well. Wine of the Month promotions, buy-two-glasses-get-the-rest-of-the-bottle-free offers, and regional or country-based promotions are easy for the consumer to understand.
For example, Ember Inns, the Six Continents-owned upmarket community pub brand, ran a very successful eight-week promotion called the "Summer Celebration of Wine" earlier this year. Customers had the opportunity to sample two new wines each week, alongside the usual selection of 11 house wines.
Ian Webb, marketing manager for Ember Inns, said: "Wine is becoming increasingly important in attracting females and light users which is why wine is such a major focus for the Ember Inns brand.
"We are committed to providing our guests with the opportunity to taste and experiment with high quality premium products they don't usually expect to get in their local pub."
A good wine supplier will be able to help you with discounted promotional wines, point-of-sale material, and staff training.
Know your customers
Understanding what it is that motivates your customers to buy wine is the key to getting your range right. Segmenting wine drinkers is well on the way to becoming a national sport.
Waverley's "Face Value" programme has been very effective in identifying the different types of wine drinker pubs need to cater for, while supplier Grants of St James's has segmented customers into five different "personalities" to help licensees tailor their operation:
- Novices are new wine drinkers of any age. Some will move on to become "experimenters"
- Experimenters, who enjoy trying different wines and reading about them, have a wide repertoire and will be tempted by promotions
- Enjoyers have narrowed down their choices but drink a lot of what they like, often on a daily basis
- Buffs are wine snobs who like to be "one up" on the rest - and never stop telling everyone
- Connoisseurs are the real wine experts. They drink at all levels, know their wines and are modest about it.
In Waverley's experience, the most common mistakes pubs make in marketing wine are:
- poor visibility - creating no wine presence
- no choice of wines/still selling house wine of low-quality
- buying on the basis of cheapest price, and so not delivering what the consumer wants
- serving in the wrong glass size - many pubs still serve in a 125ml glass rather than 175ml or 250ml
- wine served at the wrong temperature - lukewarm white or cold red
- poor service, with no emphasis placed on importance of wine within the outlet
- uneducated staff
- no promotional wine activity - pubs major on
PPS/beer/spirits and forget about wine.