Wineries have long offered tastings. With the growth of wine clubs, wine blogs, wine-related social media and tasting culture, even smaller wineries often find their tasting rooms to be major income sources.
Restaurants can also capitalize on the explosion wine events by holding wine tastings.
Taking advantage of the popularity of wine tastings can be packaged in many different ways. These wine tastings can resemble traditional wine events with already established wine groups, or they can menu samplers, customer-driven private tasting events and theme nights where chefs get to stretch their abilities.
Marketing a Restaurant Tasting Event
In most cases, restaurants are better off if they demonstrate the full offerings of their restaurant, even they are centered around wine. The pairing of food and wine is a much more compelling marketing strategy for a restaurant, as food is the main draw of nearly all restaurants and the core of the brand.
Chef-driven tasting menus have become astonishingly popular throughout the country. Chefs can offer previews of prospective menu changes, introduce ethnic foods that don’t have enough appeal to sell regularly and offer a taste of every item on the restaurant’s menu.
- Dessert tastings are popular events for families and holidays.
- Wine and cheese tastings offer built-in revenue potential by igniting sales of wine vintages and upscale cheeses.
- Bakeries and cake decorators can arrange private tastings for people who want to order wedding or anniversary cakes, birthday cakes and desserts for conferences and crowds.
- Tasting events that benefit charity attract people with lots of discretionary income to the restaurant and help land them as regular customers.
Drawing Customers to a Tasting
Choosing and refining the tasting theme is essential for promoting the event successfully. If offering wine, decide whether to offer wines from one country, region or varietal. Build a theme around California’s Napa Valley, Australia’s Antipodes or the Mediterranean.
Similarly, managers can build food tastings around geography, sustainable local produce, restaurant menu items, ethnic foods, appetizers, entrées, soups or seasonal foods.
Promote the event with posters, press releases to local media and cooperative promotions with suppliers, charities or community organizations. Advertise the event on the restaurant’s website, social media pages and blogs. Sell tickets through participating merchants and organizations.
Some events hold silent auctions and raffles for rare wine vintages or restaurant gift certificates to ignite ticket sales. Be sure to promote the event through the restaurant’s loyalty and rewards program.
Other Revenue Opportunities at Tastings
Regardless of whether the focus of a tasting is food or wine, managers can include paired wines for each course or category. During the event, take orders for wine and gourmet foods and condiments, restaurant promotional merchandise and full-size orders of food for carryout.
In most cases, a hefty prix fixe charge applies, but managers can charge for bar items, side orders not on the menu and carryout orders.
If possible, find tie-ins that relate to the tasting. Some businesses might be willing to pay the restaurant to sell gourmet food items, wines and related souvenirs and mementos.
- Take reservations at food events for dates when new items will appear on the regular menu.
- Special foods should never be offered only once. Take contact information from diners who particularly enjoy certain foods.
- Earn money from wine through bottle sales, T-shirts, merchandise and wine-club subscriptions.
- If holding a charitable or private tasting event, be sure that each guest receives information about the restaurant and menu.
- Let attendees know that private events can be arranged.
Researching Legal Issues
Each state’s laws differ, so research is important if offering alcohol at these events. Depending on whether the restaurant has a wine and beverage license, it might be possible to apply for a temporary permit. Some states could have other restrictions about bottles, wine by the glass and drinking beverages in outdoor areas should that option be the case. For example, California Napa Valley wineries can only serve Napa wines in tasting rooms.
Tasting events can generate publicity, draw new people to a restaurant and demonstrate customer appreciation. Investigate the publicity and revenue opportunities that tasting events could provide for any restaurant.