Crying into my wine

Customers are crying out for support when buying wine, according to our latest research in partnership with Hallgarten & Novum Wines. KAM MD and keen wine drinker, Katy Moses, shares why we need to re-connect and re-engage wine drinkers in our pubs, bars and restaurants to improve the wine buying experience.

The full “Wine Decisions” whitepaper can be downloaded for free from our Knowledge Hub. 

“Wine. Do you remember your first glass? I do, it was with my friend Katy Lawton in her parent’s kitchen, and it was a cold glass of Chardonnay. Her parents, it has to be said, were not aware of this at the time, we might not have been of legal age. The fact that I remember drinking it alongside a cheese sandwich on Mighty White bread certainly points that way.

Wine, and my consumption of it, has come a long way since 1995, but the experience of sitting in a pub or restaurant, with good friends and sipping a perfectly chilled glass or three simply cannot be beaten. I have a feeling many of you would agree with me, but KAM’s latest research identifies one part of this experience that many hospitality customers really don’t enjoy… the actual process of choosing and ordering the wine.

Why are customers crying into their wines?

I was surprised to find that 1-in-3 customers don’t feel confident ordering wine in pubs, bars and restaurants, with 1-in-9 admitting that they often find the experience intimidating. They are put off by confusing jargon and the perceived complexity around wine. They feel embarrassed to ask staff for advice and therefore default to what they know, switch to a different category, or worse, go without.

Not quite the outstanding customer experience we’re hoping for in our great venues.

The research, carried out in partnership with Hallgarten & Novum Wines, a leading specialist wine supplier to the On Trade, looks at the customer experience when ordering wine in pubs, bars and restaurants and found that 70% wine drinkers don’t feel that pubs and bars provide enough information to help them make an informed decision when ordering wine. Restaurants fared slightly better with the equivalent figure being 43%.

So how can we address this confidence problem?

How can we re-engage and connect with wine drinkers in venues? Whilst the layout and copy on menus is critical in helping give greater clarity and confidence for customers, there is also obviously a key role for staff to play when it comes to breaking down this confidence barrier. Nothing can replicate the ease at which well-trained and knowledgeable staff can put the customer when guiding them through their selection.

During a recent chat with wine guru, Harry Crowther from Grain to Grape he suggested that operators need to train their teams to talk about wine in a language that they can relate to. If they can relate to it, then so can your customers. We need to use less formal knowledge – indeed the majority of customers really don’t care what soil or type of oak a wine comes from; they can’t relate to that. The research does show that ‘organic’ and ‘sustainability’ are however creeping into our wine customers’ vocab.

So what is the current experience? How do our guests select their wines?

42% order a style of wine that they usually drink at home, 30% always order the same style of wine when out and just 26% told us that they like to try new wines they’ve not had before. Are we missing an opportunity here? Should venues be making it easier for drinkers to explore and discover new wines?

“By creating the same, well-worn path we inevitably end up leading customers down the same route.”

We end up in a situation whereby on-trade sales are influenced most by what consumers are drinking at home and not by what hospitality venues have to offer. We see that 1-in-4 drinkers want to try something new – firstly are we helping these customers on their journey of discovery, and secondly, we should be encouraging this figure to rise higher.

The wine buying experience

If customers are just drinking the same wine in pubs, bars, and restaurants as they are at home, then it becomes much easier for them to stay at home and not venture out. In 2022 we need to work hard to provide that point of difference for customers- and wine is a great place to start.

Since lockdowns, we are seeing a much more discerning customer base. Venues must recognise the value proposition for customers – if the experience isn’t there then it’s a much easier decision for them to enjoy their wine experience at home instead of going out. Getting that experience right is key for venues and with a category that customers find so enjoyable, it needs to be dialed up to ensure it’s an experience that they don’t forget.”

The full “Wine Decisions” whitepaper can be downloaded for free here or register for our Access All Areas knowledge hub here.

Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).