Has pandemic dining changed your buying?
Yes. We have scaled the wine list down about twenty percent overall. We saw that the pandemic wasn’t going to end anytime soon and had to be wary of the changing seasons, knowing that the fall and winter were going to limit our outdoor seating availability. Typically, in the spring and summer I expand the list to include more whites and rosés to cater to the larger number of guests dining on the patio, and this year I did not. Aside from that, I just let things naturally slim down by not replacing items that went out of inventory.
How does wine fit in your takeout program?
We have never been a large takeout restaurant, but we have changed that dramatically. Our wine program has changed to include things that we’ve purchased in larger quantities or at a close-out price that we can offer to our guests with their takeout meals at a value. We do a thing called “Unwind Sunday,” which is our “retail” wine night; so we’re offering those wines to go at a retail price and moving them by bottles and by cases through our website and email blasts, which has been very successful.
How have you been interacting with customers?
I’ve found that conversations with guests have become more involved than ever before. We have a “beverage book” that previously went out to tables with cocktails, wines, history of Barcelona and information on the featured artists in our restaurant. It was a little bit more involved than a typical wine list. We’ve now adopted QR codes for the menus and wine lists, and not everyone is adept at using those, so we are now having more conversations with guests! People don’t always want to look at the small print on their phone, which means servers are working with the guest to find things to suit their needs. Similarly, a lot of people are not familiar with Spanish wines, which is the bulk of our list. This has provided us an opportunity to have more interactions with guests who want to try Spanish wine and just aren’t sure what to get.
Have you implemented any programs or special promotions to try to increase wine sales?
We’ve been doing virtual wine tastings since last June. We had always done wine tastings in the restaurant before, and we have had more success with the virtual versions than the in-person ones! There’s at least one a month, and we’re recording them so we can offer the featured wines with the recording to those who couldn’t tune into the live event. We’re selling paella kits as well, and most people who are ordering those are adding on the suggested bottles of wine to go with it, or they’re ordering the kit to go with the wines they purchased for the tasting.
How has the pandemic changed your role at the restaurant and how might that impact your approach to your job when the restaurant reopens for indoor dining?
We went from 12 shifts a week down to 6 dinner shifts with less seating capacity, which of course means we need fewer people. Unfortunately, that means that we lost both front-of-house and back-of-house people who needed more hours. I am the general manager and also handle the wine program, and I of course had to compensate at times for having a smaller staff by providing a helping hand wherever necessary.
What is the craziest thing that has happened in your wine program or at your restaurant this past year?
As you can imagine, New Year’s Eve in Ohio is pretty cold. It was maybe mid-30s, and we were prepared to host people outdoors anyway. Because there was a 9 p.m. curfew, however, what we did was open at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve and did a countdown of every hour on the hour to celebrate the end of 2020, and we put the emphasis on 6 p.m. Eastern Time, which was midnight in Spain. It was amazing to see our tables on the patio full, despite the weather, celebrating New Year’s Eve at 6 p.m., having a great time. Everyone made the best of it!
This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.