Creating Custom Beverage Menus With Private Bottle Programs

There is a growing trend of adventurous restaurant goers who seek out new and unique experiences. Customers at bars and restaurants are looking for new wines to drink, old cocktail recipes to resurrect, and exotic fusions of new flavors to taste.

One trend on the rise in the beverage industry that consumers are excited about is private bottle programs. Bars and restaurants in this new beverage consumption category are looking to buy in bulk, and to buy something unique. You may have seen a program like this advertised as a private-label wine bottle, or if you’re a whiskey aficionado, maybe you’ve had a neat pour of private-barrel whiskey.

These private bottling’s create a competitive advantage for the seller because it creates a custom drink menu and offers something completely unique to guests. The selling point is easy to see.

Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic, a consulting and research firm specializing in the food industry, illustrates the appeal of private-labels, “Private- label wines can allow a restaurant to further define and promote its own brand, bring something truly special to the guest and leverage the resources of a supplier partner.” It’s a way to further push your own brand by offering customers something they actually want, and a way for them to connect even further with your brand.

Private bottle programs started out in large-scale retail stores like Binny’s and BevMo, but a spokesman at Heaven Hill Distilleries, has seen off-premise account sales “spike” over the last few years, as restaurant goers are now willing to break out of habitual ordering.

Adding a private bottle program to your list is a way to enhance your beverage program and offer something to your customers that your competitors can’t. It will also build in a go-to option for your servers and bartenders to suggest to patrons. Instead of listing the bland call-brands for a whiskey to stir in a manhattan, or the usual red wine to pair with steak, why not allow your staff to offer an option that will stand out.

These programs also offer a way for beverage directors to have an even more integral role in their beverage programs. Larry Rice, owner of the Silver Dollar bar in Louisville, KY, told the New York Times why he chooses to run a private bottle program, “I’m looking for richer tastes. I don’t want it to have a similar flavor profile from what’s on the shelf. I want to buy it knowing there’s nowhere else you can get it.”

The growth in private bottles has even gone direct to consumer. Connoisseurs and whiskey enthusiasts are able to purchase barrels directly from whiskey distilleries. City Winery in Chicago even offers the chance for guests to make their own wine, barrel it, and create their own labels for unique vintages.

This is all part of the growing trend of customers who are knowledgeable and want to learn more about what they’re about to indulge in.

Kyle Thacker