The Mark Wine News Spring '17 Volume 7.2 - Page 11

education? BL: I am a numbers guy. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a minor in statistics. Many people in the “wine business” are inexperienced in half of their chosen field. They know the wine, but not the business of wine. You need to pay attention to menu engineering to see which price points are selling, which varietals are not and which wines have the highest COGS. Do you have too many wines priced in the $75-$90 range when your average bottle sale is $110? Are a variety of price points represented within a given category? Chardonnay represents 9% of your sales, does it make sense to carry 22 of them on a 150-bottle list? I could go on and on about questions that should be asked about any given wine list. The least important factor in any decision is whether I like the wine. The most important thing is if our guests will enjoy the wine. I would love to fill our lists with wines that I love like Austrian Gruner, South African Chenin and Loire Cab Francs, but these wines wouldn’t sell very much. The way I look at it, I am a businessman who knows a lot about wine. BL: Most of our guests stay with the tried and true steakhouse wines; Chard, Cab, Pinot and Merlot. If they are adventurous they order a Malbec, Chianti or Super Tuscan. However if the server or manager tells them a story about a wine, the vineyard or owner and a little flavor profile of the wine, people are very open to trying something new. I tell people all the time that stories sell wine, not the viticultural trivia that so many tasting notes profess. MWG: That’s fantastic. Stories are what The Mark Wine Group is all about. How do you relay the stories to your staff. Do you have a wine education program? BL: We have had various programs throughout the years, but actually, wine education is one of my major focuses this year. I want to revamp the program along with our Director or Education. The program needs more structure and content and an ongoing focus from the store managers. I can only be at one store at a time. MWG: How do your wine sales break down? BL: Overall, wine is about 65% of beverage sales. Liquor is about 30% and the remaining 5% is beer. Wines in the $80-100 bottle range sell the best and our higher priced by the glass selections are our bestselling wines; $15+ a glass. MWG: So how do you decide which wines are best for Eddie Merlot’s? There are so many to MWG: What gets you out of bed choose from. and to work everyday? BL: Simple; will our BL: Constantly meeting new guests enjoy the wine people and learning from and can I make money them. It could be a regular on it. I leave personal guest sharing a wine story, a preferences out of the winemaker, or someone on the Eddie Merlot's in Ashburn, Virginia, decision-making. For sales side. One of the things you our most recent wine list overhaul, I rated 350+ will learn about wine is that you never know enough wines on their own merit. When the last tasting was about wine. Drinking wine every day is pretty cool, done, I simply selected the top scoring wines in each too. category and I had a new wine list. I had to do some minor tweaking based on appellations, price points, Ooh, now I’ve got something new to try. But so does and regional preferences, but it was all about the Bretton. Thinking he has to try the K Syrah with that quality. New York strip and yup, we’ll be trying the Fruit Loops and Moscato d’Asti. I know we’ve got some MWG: Have you noticed any changes in what people Fruit Loops in the pantry. are drinking? SPRING 2017 9