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10 Tips To Grow Your Wine Distribution In Restaurants

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20/05/2020 Here's how you can gain distribution at the on-premise establishment such as restaurants and succeed in the competitive market.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, said Benjamin Franklin. If your wine brand wants to succeed in a contemporary competitive market and the restaurant sector is a target sector then there is much that you can do to ensure its success.

1. Self analysis saves you time

No brand can be all things to all people. Understanding who your brand appeals to and why is a valuable exercise, which, in the small producer wine industry, requires some hard self-assessment. Often the seller and marketer will be the CEO as well, so this requires real hard-core objective cold analysis. If your wine brand is small, it might be worth considering drafting in a consultant to give you that objectivity and help design your marketing. 

Assess your brand and what its core values are about. Which sort of outlets does it align with?

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2. Uniqueness

Part of that self assessment should include ‘uniqueness’. The wine market is intensely competitive and from all corners of globe as well. It is critical that your brand understands that it is in a competitive set and therefore what makes it stand out from the rest. This will also help in defining your target market. Selling a heavy red dominant range into a fish restaurant is probably not the most likely fit.

3. The Right Distributor

Having the right distributor is critical in ensuring your brand reaches the target outlets. The right distributor has a number of factors that make it up. The right people placed in the right places, serving the right outlets, financially stable with a complementary list of producers and products that leave your space on the list as unique. If you have a distributor already then it might be time to review that and examine whether they are the right choice, if you have to find new distribution then consider how you will approach that.

4. Create a Target Map

Mapping out the targets is a great way of creating a network, whilst ensuring that you are being effective in distribution targets. The map works two ways

Geographically – working the major cities and identifying the priorities, making use of available resources is helpful using a map.
Network – a map describes the web of target outlets and it helps identify patterns of similarities or perhaps crossovers which could be unhelpful. For example is one chain sensitive to distribution in another, if so which one takes priority?

5. Be committed

The listing cycle for restaurants typically moves in 6 and 12 month cycles. Timing is an important elemental factor in the equation for listings which it is important to establish early on in any discussion. Having engaged on a wine basis, one of the things that you need to discover is what their listing cycle is and whether now is a good time, if not when is a good time.

6. Talk to the decision maker

A basic mistake that many make is to not understand who they are talking to. There is little point with an early engagement in wasting marketing breath on a waiter, unless it is to find out who the right decision maker is. Make sure that you have understood the route to the decision and who is doing it.

7. Social Media

Value creating brands are the ones with direct connections in the market to consumers. Producers are always looking for ways to shorten the communication with the final consumers. This is always tough when resources of wine producers are typically stretched. However a strong social media campaign, which ignites users on line is gold-dust. Organising your social media channels focussing on ones that provide the most opportunity to engagement, is a resource saving exercise. For example twitter is not the best platform for consumer promotion but for trade and more B2B newsworthy content tends to be taken on a more professional level; whereas Instagram is much more consumer oriented. Choose your channel, script out who it is targeted at, why and how you will resource it.

8. Peer Reviews

In a market which is all about personal opinion, peer reviews can be critical. However there are layers within this too. The value of ‘Joe Bloggs’ saying that your wine is great straight off the street is different to a Robert Parker review. Equally hundreds of Joe Bloggs reviews equal market moving demand. So use your peer reviews judiciously.

9. Presentation Matters

In recent interviews sommeliers asserted that presentation is just as, if not more important for them as for retailers. This might seem counter-intuitive as the wine has been selected and delivered to the table, presentation is surely not an issue at that point. Not at all! Sommeliers need wines to look as good as their recommendations, so that guests are impressed with the story of the wine and the look of the wine when it arrives at the table, which in turn reflects back on to the Sommelier.

10. Training

Why should a wine be served in a particular way? What foods and dishes does it go best with? What quirky facts about your brand can be re-told easily?

Not every waiter is trained to serve wine in the professional sense that a sommelier is. So being able to offer training is a real benefit to the outlet removing the onus from the managers and owners, whilst providing motivation and interest for the staff.

Be prepared and organised to offer training that delivers authority – it will stick better. Developing authority requires framing the general facts and placing the brand into the context of the overall, ensuring of course that it is seen in a good or preferably unique light. Typically the humble, humourous approach, with objective information works best. Give tips on food matching, but be careful not to associate solely with one dish as that makes your wine inflexible to match with others as menus change.