Now that we’re nearing the end of January we can be reflective on 2009. It’s been a tough year for the restaurant business. In a recession, luxury items are always affected first and this would certainly include wine bought in restaurants.
This means I have had to change my strategy somewhat, there have been the obvious things like offering better value wines on the list and cutting some margins, but there has been so much more. In addition to the basics I’ve had to manage the cellar well – not overstocking on slow moving, esoteric wines and actively trying to push big stocks of other wines has become very important. I’ve had to streamline buying and concentrate on using up what’s in the cellar.
Smarter buying will involve smaller and more regular orders, based on sales figures and trends. Your menus and sommeliers can drive these on the floor. What do they like to recommend? What do you suggest them to recommend?
But in recessionary times sommeliers can get into that very frustrating situation of ‘piggy in the middle’ when bills are not paid on time. We get stuck between wine reps trying to sell wine, our own company stretching suppliers’ credit limits to unreasonable lengths and finally the merchants’ accountants putting you on a hold status until the bills are paid.
This situation requires diplomacy on all sides and this year it has been pushed to the maximum. It is very unfair to put wine merchants in this situation as their cash flow becomes tied up in credit to their customers. For sommeliers it means wine lists become patchy and unbalanced as we wait for wines to be delivered. So try to find creative ways to use up what you already have. Hopefully with the New Year and an economy slowly rising things will start to return to normal.