Wine offer: start with a blank slate

By MA Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chardonnay

Robinson: keeping wines affordable
Robinson: keeping wines affordable
The Galphay Inn in North Yorkshire had been shut for two years, but new owner Sue Robinson is building a successful wine offer.

The Galphay Inn, near Ripon, North Yorks, had been shut for two years, but with help from WaverleyTBS, new owner Sue Robinson is finding it very straightforward to build a successful wine offer

The pub

The Galphay Inn in Galphay, just outside Ripon in North Yorkshire, reopened in time for the World Cup tournament after a two-year closure.

The owner of the freehold, Sue Robinson, who is new to the pub business, was attracted to the location and beautiful property first. With the pub set in rolling Yorkshire countryside in an archetypal English village, she decided to take the plunge into a completely new way of life. Her partner, Simon Spence, is continuing his nine-to-five job, but pitches in behind the bar on his return home each night.

A successful businesswoman (she is still the owner of a lettings business in Shipley), Robinson looked at all the competition in her area before deciding on her business plan. Opening from 12noon to 11pm every day, she has set herself no mean task in terms of trade, but has carefully planned her food and drinks to fit in with walkers and tourists during the day and local trade in the evening.

At the moment she is taking a pragmatic view, saying: "We're new to the area and to the pub trade, so have a lot to learn, and I'm taking all the advice that I can. We will continue to make changes all the time. However, our locals have been delightful so far; I think they're just so pleased that the pub is open again and they can come and have a quiet drink in a nice place with decent prices."

The project

Working with WaverleyTBS area sales manager Julie Sowden to de-vise the wine list before the pub reopened meant that they had to create something that would appeal to an unknown customer base. Together they have put together a modest list of 21 wines, featuring eight whites, eight reds, two rosés, two sparkling wines — all ranging from £10.95 to £26.50 — and Champagne for £38.50.

Two of the most popular varietals of reds and whites are sold by the glass in two different sizes, with prices ranging from £2.95 to £4.25. All this was then put together by the in-house WaverleyTBS design studio in a printed wine menu, which is available throughout the pub. Luckily, the pub already had a great back-bar area with wine-sized shelving and this is used to good effect in merchandising the wine in place of spirits.

In terms of pricing they have applied cash margin principles on the basis that it is better to have good throughput on modest margins than wines covered in dust in the cellar.

Robinson has also been surprised by the uptake of wine by the glass and reckons that 40 out of the 50 bottles sold so far have been by the glass. After just two weeks' trading she and Sowden are considering increasing the number of wines available by the glass to introduce regular customers to more of the wines on the list.

Meanwhile, she is employing a tactic adopted by the cask-beer category in having "guest" wines and has taken up the WaverleyTBS Wine of the Month promotion for her customers.

Sowden explains: "A Wine of the Month promotion means that you can introduce your customers to new styles of wines that aren't on the list. They may be seasonal or fit in with particular calendar events. So at the moment, for example, it is a South African Pinotage for the World Cup. This may be the first time that people have tried South African wine. We have also supplied point-of-sale materials and it really stands out on the bar."

Robinson has also chosen to offer a very keen price for her opening period to tempt wine drinkers, and this again is another tactic to experiment with pricing.

The next test for her is the introduction of food. Only just available, she describes her food menu as "food you'd make at home, but can't be bothered to cook". So it's sandwiches, jacket potatoes and soup for lunch, with pub-grub staples of dishes such as sausage & mash, lasagne, and scampi & chips in the evenings. Undoubtedly this will be the next big test for the wine range and Robinson hopes that the food offer will bring in more wine-by-the-bottle sales.

What next?

Again, she's looked at her local market and hopes that she has pitched her offer at the right level, adding: "We have a real mix of people here, so I want to offer good quality at affordable prices. I wouldn't want to sit in a pub and spend £70 on a meal for two and a bottle of wine; that's not sustainable business for a rural pub. I like the idea that you can splash out on a good bottle of wine if the occasion arises, but at the other end of the scale it's good quality and affordable."

So, careful not to fall into the trap of overpricing the wines, the Galphay Inn's list has a good range of prices and Robinson has been rewarded accordingly: a table of walkers eating sandwiches ordered a bottle of Sancerre one lunchtime at £22.95, and one of the regular locals decided to drink a bottle of Champagne one evening at £38.50.

Robinson adds: "I'm not sure if I have got everything right yet with my prices, but everyone seems to notice the price of a pint of beer, so I will have to be careful."

Therefore, the challenge over the next few months will be about

better education through some staff training, trying more wines by the glass — perhaps introducing carafes for diners — and a tasting night for customers to see just how far they might be prepared to go with range and price. One thing is clear: at this stage, there is everything to play for.

Compiling a wine list


As a minimum try to put three of each colour on your list — red, white and rosé — and aim to incorporate the best-selling varietals (grapes):

Red​ — Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon

White​ — Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio

Rosé​ — light and dry, medium "blush" and fuller fruit

Build the list

This is where it can become more complicated, but here are a couple of other points to think about when developing your list.

What's the age range in your pub? If your customers are older, you may need to add a Liebfraumilch or Piesporter.

What sort of wines are in the media? Varietals Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir and the Rioja region are all widely talked about at the moment.

Add some credibility to your list; for example, Chablis or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These wines will provide some window dressing for your list. They may not sell as quickly, but customers will recognise them as good wines.

Bridge the price gap. This is an opportunity to introduce some mid-range wines, perhaps from the New World, with popular varietals such as New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc or Chilean Merlot.

Add some sparkle

Sparkling wine is in such growth now that any wine list ought to have a couple of examples. It doesn't always have to be Champagne, but it's a good start. There's Cava (from Spain), Prosecco (Italian) or sparkling rosé. You can offer them all by the glass if you stock them in the single-serve format, adding risk-free glamour.

The pricing ladder

Increase prices in small jumps — the consumer is happy to spend another £1, but not another £5.

In the same way, ladder your cash margin — each more expensive wine must make a bit more cash margin.

Finally, focus on cash margin and not a percentage gross profit.

The list

Most suppliers will offer a printing service these days, so get your list printed up and out in your pub. Some suppliers will even help with tent cards and posters — remember, it's in their interests to help you sell more wine.

Related topics Training

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more