As many consumers look to spend with brands that support a cause, some restaurateurs are switching to wine on tap as an eco-friendly way to appeal to sustainably minded guests today. But the eco-benefits aren’t the only perks; storage, shelf life and labor are also factors. “I love that draft wine doesn’t oxidize, so there is no waste. Plus, it’s super fast ... we don’t have to uncork all those bottles,” says Alli Jarrett, owner of Harold’s in the Heights Restaurant & Tap Room in Houston. Jarrett renovated her downstairs Tap Room last year, installing eight nitrogen tap lines for wine. One financial benefit she’s since realized: Not having to recycle glass wine bottles can reduce waste-disposal costs.
Portioned to sell
Jarrett has also found that she can offer a variety of portion sizes since switching to tap wine. Harold’s Tap Room offers four reds and four whites by the glass, along with half- and full-liter carafes. An in-between size compared to a bottle of wine, the half-liters have been popular for two-tops and parties looking to order both red and white, she says. Also, she’s been able to create a wine flight program, allowing guests to choose any four 2-ounce pours.
No matter the size of the pour, consistency—and training to hit exact portions—is key. Not only is it something that repeat guests notice, she says, but it also helps control costs. To take out some of the guesswork, Jarrett stocked wine glasses marked with the restaurant’s logo right at the 6-ounce point, giving staffers a visual pour line.
Installing a keg system for wine is no inexpensive shift, and some operators are assuming even more of a financial undertaking by adding self-serve systems. Customers can pour themselves as little or as much wine as they want at the two Frankie & Fanucci’s Wood Oven Pizzerias in New York, says co-owner Brad Nagy. Guests use smart cards to unlock tablets controlling the taps, then dial in the number of ounces they want and place their glass under the tap. Per-ounce prices as well as the amount dispensed are displayed on the screen, and guests are charged for what they pour. In addition to creating an interactive experience, the systems helps control labor costs, says Nagy.
With a range of portion sizes, pricing can be a little trickier for draft wine. However, “Overall, tap wine offers better margins than bottled wine,” says Jarrett. She calculates what the wholesale price of a bottle would be, based on the keg price, then determines the per-glass price from that cost. Jarrett also marks up high-end wines less than others. “We want those wines to move,” she says.
At Frankie & Fanucci’s, Nagy targets a 25% cost of goods on wine. However, he may adjust the price of a specific wine depending the local market, decreasing the price to match a competitor or increasing the ratio if a brand commands more. “It’s just applying common sense,” he says.