New wine book is a resource for local restaurants
May 1, 2015
Restaurateurs in Utah work hard to attract customers. They have to make sure the food and ambiance delights the senses and that the servers are not only cordial, but also know the menus inside and out.
Some restaurant owners add wine lists and other alcoholic beverages to their menus. In doing so, they maneuver the requirements the state department of alcoholic beverage control has set up in order to get a liquor license.
After all that work, wouldn’t it be prudent to offer the best wine service possible to attract repeat customers?
Kirsten Fox, CEO of the Park City-based Culinary Wine Institute and headmistress of the Fox School of Wine believes so. That’s why she has published her book, "The Profitable Wine List: Three Steps to Quickly and Easily Increase Wine Sales."
The book is a resource for restaurant owners to help maximize profits from their wine offerings, Fox told The Park Record.
"The book is a study in helping independent restaurants make money from this elusive element in their services," Fox said during the interview. "I also wanted to target the book at casual to mid-level restaurants. These are restaurants that are opened by someone who loves to cook or by someone who saw a business opportunity."
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The reason was simple, she said.
"The restaurants that usually come to mind when we think of wine lists are those that I call nice to fine-dining restaurants," Fox explained. "There is an assumption of the owners of those restaurants have already placed a strong emphasis on wine.
"So, at the casual to mid-level restaurants, people don’t expect, nor do you need such a high level of wine expertise," she said. "However, you do need some basics and that’s where this book comes into play."
The book focuses on three areas of restaurant wine service — wine lists, product quality and server training.
"The usual problems with wine lists is the mix of wine, where there are too many or too few, and the prices," Fox said. "The issue isn’t just about high pricing, but random pricing that can be distracting to customers."
Product quality, on the other hand, entails knowing how a wine is supposed to be served.
"For example, if you serve a white wine that is too cold, it’s like serving a freshly cooked entrée with plastic wrap on it," Fox explained. "All the beautiful aromas that our noses give us in preparation to what we’re about to eat or drink are deadened. This happens if you serve wine too cold or too warm or even in glasses that are too small that the customer can’t swirl the wine to get the aromas going."
That issue leads to the topic of server training.
"Even if you address wine lists and product quality, if restaurants don’t have servers that can confidently sell these wines at a table, the restaurants won’t make the money they could be making," Fox said. "I remember what it was like being a waitress, like so many of us when we were young. I remember being terrified that someone would order wine or that someone would ask me about wine and I wouldn’t be able to confidently help them."
Once Fox had the three points situated in her mind, the book pretty much took a life of its own, she said.
"I started writing the book in August, and as I wrote it, I went and talked to people in the local food-and-wine industry and asked what their experiences have been," she said.
Some of the local restaurateurs and chefs quoted in the book include Hans Fuegi from Grub Steak, Chip McMullin at St. Regis, Jodie Rogers at Deer Valley, Shawn Hyer at Silver and Rebekah Abrams from Rebekah’s Kitchen (chefrebekah.com).
"I also interviewed Alan Chambers, the executive chef from Sinclair Oil Corporation and other people around the nation who weighed in," Fox said.
The idea for the book came from Fox School of Wine students who told Fox about restaurants that maybe needed some help in presenting and selling their wines.
"I also started thinking about the book because for the past two years I have been a wine representative for Southern Wine and Spirits," Fox said. "I started calling on these restaurants and saw the need for clearly defined and easy-to-follow systems that will allow them to keep control of their wine lists, product control and server quality."
Southern Wine and Spirits is an alcoholic-beverage consulting organization that provide tailored business solutions for their clients.
"It seemed to me that restaurant owners would be excited to follow a system that would help, but a week later would let it drop," Fox said. "I got my certification as an executive sommelier, and that launched me into feeling qualified to design these types of programs."
Some of the Culinary Wine Institute’s client restaurants are already following the ideas in the book, Fox said.
"They have seen a decrease in wine costs by 15 percent, but increased their wine sales by 13 percent, which resulted in a net improvement of 28 percent," she said. "I also had another restaurant who have only tackled their wine lists and haven’t gone into the other stages. But even with that adjustment, the owners found themselves, within three months, over 100 percent in sales.
"The book is a resource for those restaurant owners who go through a lot of trouble to get a liquor license," Fox said. "I believe it would seem beneficial to use this system in place so they can get the most out of their wine offerings and not go out of business."
Kirsten Fox’s "The Profitable Wine List: Three Steps to Quickly & Easily Increase Wine Sales" is available on Kindle and in paperback for $19.95 by visiting http://www.culinarywineinstitute.com and http://www.amazon.com.
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