Julie Masciangelo started in September, 2019 as Wine Director for Il Posto, an Italian restaurant in Denver’s River Arts District. She became the General Manager in July of 2020 in the middle of reopening after shutdown and absorbed the rest of the beverage program as well at the end of the year.
You mentioned in our survey that this was the first year where you did retail sales. How did that go for you, and how did you set it up? Did you choose different wines for retail versus for the restaurant?
Strategically, I was trying to get rid of some stuff early on, and we did $14k in retail wine from March through May, but now that we’ve done that, I try to just have the by-the-glass wines for retail. We’ve continued to adapt our model throughout the year. We have a display table by the host stand, and, since shops close early here, we get impulse sales as dinner guests are leaving and maybe decide they aren’t done with wine for the night. Also, anything that’s under $100 on the list, they can get for half-price to-go.
We got the most traction with canned cocktails, though—I bought a canner in May to do canned cocktails. We were one of the first spots in town to do that, and we force-carbonate our own cocktails. We also can our tap wines in 2-glass cans. People have really embraced that. For a long time, people were just wandering around this neighborhood because it’s a good walking neighborhood with a lot of outdoor art, so it was a good option for people doing that.
How have you been interacting with customers?
We haven’t had to change too much in our service. We have to have water bottles on tables now, and we don’t have menus (we use QR codes). We print menus on request if needed. But it’s great how it immediately updates with the electronic way of things.
How does your area affect outdoor dining for you?
Unless it’s super windy, we’re pretty unaffected. People will stick it out. They’re willing to get snowed on on the patio.
Have you brought any new wine in during 2020 that was particularly successful in the current environment?
I guess just the fact that we brought in those tap wines. We’ve always had a pretty high-end wine program, but folks are struggling more, so I wanted to make some options more accessible. Catering to both ends of the spectrum is the most important thing right now. We’re in a young, trendy area, so not everyone is looking to spend $14 on a glass of wine.
How has pandemic dining changed your buying?
I could have tried to simplify things, but I found the most important thing was forging relationships in town. Even though I run an entirely Italian wine program, we made a huge push to support local spirits, and to keep that money in the community. And then they come in and support us as well, which is great. With wine, beer, and beverage in general, I’m ordering from about 24 different vendors. If we can share that love, because we’re here and doing better than most, we want to spread that around.
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