Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

How can suppliers get their foot in the restaurant door?

Published:  09 August, 2012

For on-trade suppliers, getting a restaurant buyer to taste your wines can be difficult. We ask five wine buyers to tell us the approach that works best for them.

For on-trade suppliers, getting a restaurant buyer to taste your wines can be difficult. We ask five wine buyers to tell us the approach that works best for them.

Phil Crozier, director of wine at Argentinian steak restaurants Gaucho, says he is by no means a "prima dona" buyer, but since the weight of people trying to sell wine is "immense", there are some things a supplier needs to do.
? Do your research - the restaurant, price level and specialisation ( if any)
? Don't assume that your customer knows less than you - always assume that they know more
? Approach first with a letter if you are introducing your company - and make it personal
? Pounding the beat with samples rarely gets results
? Be patient - once a contact has been made, strike up a relationship. It is by far the most important aspect of selling. Being pushy will make a buyer run a mile
? If sending samples, then put the price on the bottle. Tasting is so much easier if you know the price
? Offer to taste with the buyer, but don't expect it to happen. Most buyers will want to taste without pressure. I always taste at home, where I can enjoy the wine as a guest in the restaurant would
? Always follow up after initial contact and samples have been sent, but not straight away. If the wines are good, the buyer will, in most cases, contact you
? If you are successful, then make a plan re listings and then offer to train staff, etc. Fiche techniques are a must
? Never, ever rely on one customer for a listing. Have the stock ready in the UK
? Be prepared to do whatever it takes to support your client. Service is everything.

George Bergier, buyer and head sommelier at Sam's Chop House, Manchester, likes a good personality, but dislikes pushiness.

"Usually it takes me rather a long time to change the supplier because of my strong and long-lasting relationship with my present ones but in many circumstances a personality of the rep plays a big part in my future relationship. I do not like pushy reps/suppliers who do 'forceful' selling of their products. I do not like it when they call on us in the catering environment during service hours and  I do not entertain any reps/suppliers without an appointment. I have to trust in the quality of the product on offer, taste in advance the lines I am interested in and seek the lines that are unique to the supplier. Price plays a big and important part, as well as service/delivery facilities and, most importantly, support with staff training, tastings, wine lunches/dinners with the producers/growers and, if possible, wine trips for members of staff to winegrowing regions. Any changes to suppliers' portfolios, new products, change of vintages, discontinued lines and bin-end offers must be filtered to us buyers promptly. One of my suppliers gives us access and full financial assistance with WSET courses."

Jane Dowler, owner of Evuna, Manchester, a Spanish restaurant, bar and wine merchant, says: "I would say by email detailing why their wine is different and pricing is also important. As a buyer I would always consider a new product as it may be fantastic and you never know. Simply state the USPs and price, etc, and then follow it up with a phone call."

Yohann Jousselin MS, head sommelier, the Vineyard at Stockcross, says: "It's important for us that the buyer is friendly, and understands our business and what we like to have on our list. We have around 40 different suppliers and opt for those that don't sell their wines in supermarkets. We prefer unusual wines that are sold in very small quantities. Good pricing and a good presentation by the supplier is always important. First meetings are, too."

Mia Knecova, head sommelier, L'Etranger, says: "It's always difficult during the summer as we are mid wine list, so we like to wait until September and October before we start to discuss our next seasonal one. We are very open, don't focus on anything specifically and have a lot of suppliers working with us. We're quite flexible and contact by phone or email is fine, followed by the receipt of a few samples and/or a fixed tastings."

If you would like to make further comment contact