Yono’s is a fine-dining destination in Albany, New York. Co-owner and wine director Dominick Purnomo has been working to introduce legislation to help support restaurants over the past year, mentioning the constant resourcefulness of restaurateurs as a source of inspiration.
On unexpectedly increased wine sales
Yes, per-guest sales are up, but as a whole, we are down tremendously. For the first three months, we sold more bottles of $500 and up than for the past three years combined. Craft cocktails and high-end wines—people are stuck at home, so they’re pouring themselves a Tito’s and soda, and the same $20-30 bottles of wine. They are looking for better-quality, cellared wines. For BTG, we almost sold none. I think people wanted to support us and certainly with the cost of a dinner it makes a difference, and people were tipping well to take care of staff! We reopened on June 16th for indoor dining and were busy into fall for four months, but then people started prepping for holidays, so it was scaled back.
On outdoor dining
We did open for outdoor dining, but it is tough to translate our fine-dining operation to outdoor dining, and there is also a shared patio with our casual brasserie next door. At Yono’s, we have an intimate dining room, only 11 tables with 50% capacity. Guests want that upscale experience and interaction with the sommelier team.
On what wines moved this year
Our list is so big with 1,000 selections, so there is nothing that we fly through cases of, but, as always, domestic cabs in the $80 to $120 range are always big movers. That is a price point that lots of people are comfortable with. We seemed to move lots of Champagnes in summer—it was a revelation. Celebration and perhaps prematurely thinking we were out of it…and people were looking for little things to celebrate, like a sitter for their kids, just going out, celebrating small victories.
On how we’re all going through the same thing
People are exposed now on a daily basis to more content, so they have more appreciation for everything. It was almost like being in NYC after 9/11—with all of the geopolitical things and divisiveness, there has been a little bit of unity during the pandemic. We are all fighting the same fight. If you stayed off Facebook, there was plenty of empathy from people, people were more patient, kind, receptive; all my staff would concur that gratuity was much higher, people understood that we were out of work for months, so it might be difficult to cover expenses fully. For those more affluent or those who didn’t make less money—there are plenty of bankers, lawyers who continue to work from home—and people were just really kind.
On the light at the end of the tunnel
A constant pivot, restaurateurs have to be on our game. We are open, then closed, then opened halfway, then open, and closed again… To see the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our industry (like the take-home cocktail packages, chef meal kits), all just to survive! Sadly, we lost 20% of restaurants across the country, and we are hopeful that the Restaurant Rescue Plan that was reintroduced on the Senate floor today [ Thursday, Feb 4 ] will help. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the red zone, so let’s not fumble the ball now!
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