In these extraordinary times, restaurants are pivoting to a variety of new business models to help keep them afloat in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the most lucrative means of boosting revenue quickly, some restaurants have found, is by liquidising assets, quite literally, by selling off fine wine collections to help pay wages and overheads.
At the beginning of the month, we saw Manresa offer some of their rare collection wines to regular customers, as bottles like German dry Reisling Keller G-Max flew off the shelves at hugely reduced prices. In the first week, the restaurant raised over $40,000 from rare wine sales alone, Eater reports.
Since then a slew of restaurants have followed suit including Four Horsemen in Brooklyn, considered to have one of the 'largest and deepest collections of hard-to-find natural wines' in the US. It cut wine-list prices by as much as 50% to sell to-go bottles directly to consumers, winemag reports.
It's a move that makes a lot of sense considering it's an industry with notoriously small profit margins, where wine and spirits sales form a significant percentage of dine-in sales.
Wine sold in a restaurant often has a mark-up of around 70% reports Decanter: "Within the trade, a mark-up of up of around three times what the restaurant paid to acquire the wine is often deemed acceptable." In other words, a bottle that retails at around $20 can reasonably be sold at $60 or $80 to diners.
It's a win-win situation for customers isolated at home, allowing them access to highly curated cellars, and in many cases once in a lifetime opportunities to purchase fine and rare wines for much less than usual. Plus, according to Forbes, "a take-out of a fine meal and wine is a way to bring home a taste of normalcy and hope," in these uncertain times.
Initial wine sales were sporadic and uncoordinated, as restaurants mobilised short-run, private and first-come-first-served sales. But that process just got simpler with Takeout COVID, a new map-based tool that allows users to search by city and order food, cocktails, wine, and beer for delivery or take-out and keep.
The tool currently indexes 23 US cities, plus Ottawa and Toronto in Canada, with plans to roll-out more. Listings include three-Michelin-starred SingleThread Farm in Sonoma County and New York’s two Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
As the future of the hospitality industry hangs in suspension, sommeliers are engaged in a fine balancing act between sound business sense and heartbreak. They are having to part with their beloved, carefully-curated collections, which in many cases took years to build, while freeing up sufficient capital, but holding back enough bottles to tempt customers back upon their eventual reopening.