How to improve your wine offer

By Heath Ball, MD of Frisco Group

- Last updated on GMT

How pubs can improve their wine offer

Related tags Wine Pubs Drinks Menu MA Leaders

Pubs and wine are not always a match made in heaven, as The MA recently explored in the last episode of the Lock In podcast.

But why are pubs so bad at wine and what can they do to improve their offer? We asked podcast co-host and self-confessed wine geek Heath Ball​ to give us his top tips of creating and marketing a better wine offer – after all he has a vast knowledge of the subject and has dedicated a lot of time to research:

"It drives me mad when I go out to a pub and want to drink wine, most pubs in the UK just don’t get it – the quality of wine is poor, wine knowledge is nearly non-existent and there seems to be no motivation from the retailers or pubcos to give this category the dedication it deserves…and it’s not rocket science.

"Of course, not every pub will need to have a top-end wine list, it just can’t be a mirror image of what the local convenience store knocks-out at £4.99 a bottle. So, the first job is to look at what your customer will want and then stretch them a bit with some interesting additions and avoid household brands, where people can see the retail price difference.

"My advice is to talk to a few local wine merchants and see what they have to offer – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. They are likely to offer you a free tasting of their wines, help you build a list to suit your site and offer you and the entire team training around the wines – and knowledge is power, it might even spark-off a new passion for you and the team.

"If you work under a pubco and are tied, the situation is different, but there’s no reason you can’t challenge the offer you have to choose from. We’re just seeing too many operators that are obsessed with stocking a hundred different gins that I suspect few customers could recognise in a blind tasting and a range of “craft” beers, that aren’t really craft at all.

"Take control of your wine list and you’ll have the opportunity to stock and celebrate wines from the thousands of small family growers and add a new and improved dynamic to your business. My advice would be to concentrate on a solid offering, but add a few wild cards, give your customer room to treat themselves with a special bottle or two – it’s not like you need to stock more than a couple of bottles of each.

"My top tip would be when it comes to pricing, throw the rule book out! Forget your standard multiples, move to a cash margin and sell better wine and more of it. There’s no point in stocking cheap, poor-quality wine that has a tasty margin if you don’t sell any because the customer sees right through it, or will do when they taste it.

"Give your wine list the time and effort it deserves – it should be a solid and growing part of your business if you do it well."

Heath Ball​ is MD of the Frisco Group and co-host of the MA's Lock In podcast.

To hear the latest episode on wine and where pubs fall short, listen here

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