Nick Baitzel started in 2017 as general manager for Jet Wine Bar, which offers wines from around the world to diners in Philadelphia. In 2021, he became director of operations for Jet and affiliated restaurants under the Sojourn Philly Restaurant Group.
On to-go wine sales
We really expanded that way over the past few years. In previous years, we’d offer a selection of maybe like 10 or 20 wines available. They were mostly the wines that we poured by the glass that we also offered to-go. This past year, we basically built a store inside of our bar, and we no longer did bar service indoors. We only did outdoor service.
Our indoor bar converted into a wine shop, basically, where we had over a hundred different bottles available. People could come in, look around, get advice from whoever was working, and purchase some bottles to-go, which was huge. It kept us afloat while restaurants weren’t able to do anything inside.
How have the customers responded to the change of dining experience over the past year?
When they first allowed customers to come back and dine with us again, it was just kind of like everybody looked at it as, this is a privilege, you know, we’re going to deal with whatever they tell me to do, whatever rules they have, the masks, the six feet apart, the this, the that, we’re just happy to be here again.
We missed them, they missed us, and seeing them just so happy to come out, and they were so willing to do whatever new rule the city or whoever threw out there, they didn’t care. They were just happy to be out again, which was great to see. Nobody was really unruly. People were just glad to be there.
How would you describe your wine list?
First and foremost, we don’t have any rules to our wine list. It’s good wine from anywhere, but we do try to have a focus on wines from regions you’ve probably never drunk before and grapes you’ve probably never heard of. That being said, we focus a lot on wines from the ancient world, from places like Georgia, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, you know, places that have been making wine for 5,000-plus years, but for some reason are now trendy again. Orange wines, *pét-nats, you know, the weirder the better for us.
Orange wine surprised you with its performance this year.
A segment that made up very little sales over the first 10 years of my restaurant career in the 2010s—you know most people kind of shied away from it or didn’t even know what it was—is now like, people will specifically come in looking for that. They’ll come in and ask for it, and they’ll see it on a menu, and they’ll get really excited that we have it.
It’s still not something that’s readily available in stores in Pennsylvania. So, you have to scout restaurants to find it, but since it’s been popular in media and things these days, it’s trendy. People specifically are going out looking for it, and we have a pretty wide variety and a pretty good selection, so people know that they can come to us to check it out.
This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.