Wine seller: Boathouse in Tewkesbury

By MA Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wine list Customer service

Going for a gong: Todd is planning to promote award winning wines
Going for a gong: Todd is planning to promote award winning wines
It's four months since we first visited the Boathouse in Tewkesbury as part of our Wine Seller series. Now we're back to see what effect...

It's four months since we first visited the Boathouse in Tewkesbury as part of our Wine Seller series. Now we're back to see what effect WaverleyTBS's help and advice has had on wine sales

Back in May, manager Saul Todd was on the verge of reopening the Boathouse, following a two-year closure.

Situated against the dramatic backdrop of the meeting of the rivers Severn and Avon, the Boathouse is ideally positioned to pick up local and tourist trade from the historic town.

A refurbished building serving locally-sourced, fresh food needed a wine list to match and Todd worked with WaverleyTBS to maximise the opportunity for wine.

Todd was determined that the wines should complement the varied menu and that his team would bring them to life with service and passion.

Before they reopened he had recruited mainly local people for the front-of-house team. "I passionately believe in using local people, suppliers and services as much as possible in an operation like this. It's vital that the local population buy into our offer," he says.

WaverleyTBS wine development manager Jason Evans spent a day training the staff on the wines-by-the-glass list and had a great re-sponse in terms of enthusiasm.

However, several months into the opening there has been a steady churn of staff — a story that many operators are familiar with — but Todd feels pretty settled with the team he has in place now: "My front-of-house team now are much younger, and, to be honest, more open-minded with the training and eager to try the wines. We've had

two more wine-training sessions with Jason since opening and

they've been really enthusiastic. I then see that enthusiasm filtering out through their customer service skills. It's great watching their con-fidence grow."

Wine sales have grown steadily with food sales and wine now accounts for 65% of all wet sales. So is wine hitting all the targets?

"We had a couple of hiccups with GP at the beginning, but have sorted that now and we're pulling in a 60% to 65% cash margin," Todd admits. "In terms of volume, I'm really pleased with the list and all the wines have sold through very well. I personally sniffed, tasted and considered wines from a short list of around 50 before the opening, so I love the current list. However, we are in the process of changing it again with a couple of new ideas to boost sales."

His first idea is about adding value for customers, but also cleverly creating some additional GP by raising prices ever so slightly. The new wine list will mainly feature award-winning wines and they will be a couple of pounds more per bottle. This, he feels, will elevate the perceived quality of the food and customers won't mind paying a little bit extra for a top-quality bottle, netting the business more margin.

Staff have all taken part in choosing the new wines so have learned about the subtle improvements in quality that they can discuss with their customers. They even managed to persuade Todd to keep some of the more popular wines on the list such as the white Rioja, Montebuena Rioja Blanco.

Award winning wines

WaverleyTBS area manager Andy Bennett adds: "We're very lucky with the award-winning wines in our portfolio. Many of them are entry-level wines such as our Cape Promise Pinotage or Indomita Sauvignon Blanc, which means that they're great value for money, but with independent recognition for quality."

The second idea is to create a separate wine list to the food menu. Previously, the wine and food were combined on the same list. While it's a great way to remind customers to buy wine, once they have placed the order, the menu and wine list tend to be whisked away. Todd felt that the customer was not getting the chance to really browse through the list for their second or third glass.

Bennett is working with Todd and development manager Evans to create the new list using the design and printing service that is part of

WaverleyTBS's offer. It will save the Boathouse hundreds of pounds in printing costs.

This time, the award-winning wines on the list will display their rosettes with a short explanation about wine awards on the back page. Todd is also keen to include tasting notes that are in plain English and has challenged Waverley to do away with the flowery language. "When I tasted the Chilean Carménère, my immediate response was that it tastes like a soft Merlot. That's how I want to talk about our wines. Let's tell it how it is," he says.

As autumn draws near, Todd has his thoughts on a couple of pro-motional ideas. One is a monthly price promotion for one of the

wines on the list and another is to run a regular ladies' wine-tasting night, which would involve a "try before you buy" idea.

He is confident that wine sales will continue to grow and adds: "This list should see me through to next spring. Our first list was a toe in the water and has been very successful. In fact, a recent review in a local magazine described the wine list as 'extensive' and with 'something for everyone and every occasion'. We've had a fantastic start and WaverleyTBS has been very supportive, with hands-on service, knowledge and great quality wines. From a sales and profit point of view, I know we're just going to keep improving."

Related topics Training

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