The Check Out: Weekly Restaurant and Wine News

The Check Out: Weekly News Bites for Restaurants January 20th

Every Friday Uncorkd compiles the top restaurant and beverage industry news and opinions that had us talking. Here are the must-read stories from January 14th – January 20th.

Wine News

Big Blends Take Over US Wine Lists

The Wide World of Wine is just that: an expansive and nuanced category with stakes in different markets and sub-markets and as such, is subject to many micro-trends and confusing, often conflicting information. So when a bank survey notes that wine sales have grown by a slight margin, it’s worth looking at where that growth took place. Unfortunately for restaurants, wine sales for on-premise accounts are down. The retail side of wine is bullish, but the decline in wine volume being sold in restaurants has some producers worried. The worry is felt strongest by small and mid-sized producers who are loosing out on restaurant sales to large producers bottling big blends being sold at high volumes.

Half of U.S. Wineries Might Be Sold in the Next Five Years

What does it mean for the future of wine when billionaires and the owners of NFL teams are buying up wineries across the world? The growth of premium wine sales is being driven by consumer interest in boutique wines and a new direct-to-consumer sales strategy that has pumped a lot of money into the wine industry. This is causing wineries to be bought-up like monopoly property and will lead to consolidation in the wine market. It mimics the mergers happening across the distributor tier, and could lead to an increase in prices at the counter or on wine menus. There is also the fear of a decrease in wine quality as producers eye profit over production standards.

Alit is Taking the Mystery Out of Wine Pricing

Speaking of wine prices, how do producers decide on the price of their wine? It can seem like a mysterious process – the pricing of wine – that owes itself to the awkward marriage of wine as art and wine as a product. But a new start-up is looking to paint a clearer image of how wine is priced. Alit is a direct-to-consumer wine brand looking to remove parts of the supply chain that cause mark-ups on wine as it travels from producer to consumer. The unique angle of Alit is that it breaks down the pricing of their wines by detailing their overhead and cost of production. So your wine is priced at $27 bottle  because the “all-natural farming & fruit” cost Alit $5.66, while the “French Oak Barrels” it was aged in adds $1.11 to the price tag. They aim to give consumers a better understand of wine value and what their dollars are going to.

Restaurant News

December Marks the Worst Month in 3 Years for Restaurants

2016 was a dismal year for many people. We all saw the hashtags and blog posts decrying 2016 as the WORST YEAR EVER, muttering a salty good riddance to a year that planted beloved celebrities in the ground, plagued us with “fake news,” and saw a country divided and angry, with partisanship reaching feverish highs. But we trudge on, as always. And so to will the restaurant industry. The recent numbers for restaurant sales show that 2016 ended on a bad note for hospitality professionals. A strengthening economy has led consumers to spend money on reducing debt and buying “big-ticket items.” Despite check averages growing, restaurant traffic declined in 2016, and same store traffic in December was down -6.4%. The silver lining? Fine dining still performed well in December, and as bank accounts recover from holiday spending, we can hope diners return to the family and casual dining spaces that were hit hardest by declining traffic.

Looking For a New Way to Increase Sales? Download Uncorkd’s Guide to Increasing Wines Sales and Help Your Restaurant Stay in The Green.

9 Ways to Survive a Cash Crunch in Your Restaurant

If slim end-of-year sales has left your restaurant finances in dire straits, don’t give up: There is a path to recovery. This article will break down strategies to get your restaurant through a cash crunch and leave you ready to take on new business in 2017.

NRA Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Tip-Sharing Case

One of the big topics of discussion in the restaurant industry is how employees should be paid. The conversation, led by icons in the industry like Danny Meyer, is shining a heat lamp on the issues of the often under-appreciated and always underpaid back-of-house workers in restaurants. The latest rumble in this discussion is the NRA taking a case to supreme court in an effort to overturn a rule that doesn’t allow for back-of-house employees like cooks and dishwashers to share tips that front-of-house employees make their living on. The case is not a sure bet to be heard by the black robed-arbiters of the U.S.’s highest court, but it will be a story that you should keep on eye on as it develops.

Kyle Thacker