Wine Flights: Welcome Aboard!

If it seems like moving your wine inventory is a tricky business, you are not alone – but there’s good news: offering wine flights is not only a great way of addressing much of what’s challenging in balancing the contents of your wine cellar, but many patrons love the idea in and of itself. Offering flights of wine is an obvious draw for customers who are interested in wine-tasting – or for those who simply want to learn more. One might even assume, therefore, that the popularity of wine-tasting is how flights first got their start. Actually, however, the concept was invented in the first place with the aim of using faster-moving menu items (in this case, servings of alcohol) with slower-moving items: several strange dessert items that no one seemed interested in ordering – until an inventive restaurant worker suddenly got the idea to get patrons interested in those misfit desserts by selling them with a glass of wine.

A Win(e)-Win Proposition

While desserts have generally been factored out of the wine flight discussion, flights remain a fantastic way to balance inventory (in this case, slower-moving wines with those in limited supply), to the simultaneous pleasure of business owners and patrons alike. Consider this typical wine inventory problem: on the one hand, an intriguing wine available only in small allotments can draw in sophisticated patrons – but every time you run out of one such product, the constant challenge is to find something new to capture a similar level of interest. Also, some fine diners will certainly be eager to try more esoteric wines, but that’s always a gamble; even among more adventurous customers, how many are going to risk ordering the whole bottle? Unfortunately, patrons who are curious to try several new wines often aren’t quite interested enough to order four different glasses of wine in one sitting (especially not in the current economic climate). Offering flights – smaller pours of your choice of several different products for a set price – can solve your dilemma.

An Educational Experience for Patrons and Staff Alike

Typically ranging in price from $10 to $25, wine flights offer your patrons an opportunity to try two-to-three ounce pours of three or four different wines. Not only do many consumers prefer the amount of alcohol – not too much but also not too little – but they also appreciate the educational component of any good wine flight program. For instance, a Pinot flight can give patrons an opportunity to compare a number of varieties, with knowledgeable restaurant staff answering their questions and offering additional information. Bar and restaurant menus might offer as few as four different flights at any given time, or they may offer as many as twenty. Either way, many establishments find it helpful to hold frequent staff trainings (which can take the form of wine-tastings; that hardly sounds like dull work), in exchange for which employees are proud to contribute their own “staff picks,” in much the same way bookstore employees do.

Regardless of how you choose your wine flight themes, it’s a great idea to group more approachable varieties with wines that offer more of a learning experience for your patrons – and to rotate the flights that you offer on a regular basis. This is not only a good way to keep patrons coming back to try new offerings; having a flexible, rotating flight menu means being able to take control of moving your wine inventory by coming up with creative and thoughtful ways of grouping together varieties that you have available – allowing you to sell more of what is challenging to move and to ration wine varieties that come in more limited supplies. Using a digital tablet wine menu, such as from Uncorkd, can help you describe each of the wines in the flight and makes it easy to switch up different flights, without printing new menus. Regardless of what your wine cellar holds at any moment, a smart, well-thought-out wine flight program ensures that you’ll be in for a smooth landing.

Josh Saunders