|Santa Rita's Terry Pennington looks at the Irish on-trade|
|Thursday, 12 July 2012 13:31|
Terry Pennington, commercial director for the UK and Ireland at Santa Rita talks to Harpers about how the on-trade is coping in Ireland amid the euro crisis and on the back of the fall of the Celtic Tiger.
There are no large restaurant or pub chains in Ireland, unlike the UK, and consumers still prefer their beer. One thing Ireland can produce is a good beer serve and wine is always competing against that in pubs.
Quarter bottles of wine represent a large amount of the on-trade, mainly because of the lack of understanding about the category by some pub owners. The offering is limited, too, between the likes of a Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon, basically red or white. But consumers react positively when good-quality quarter-bottles are offered and the two most popular quality brands are Santa Rita and Wolf Blass.
Consumers will choose quality over cheaper wine, but if they can't get that they will opt for beer, which means proprietors risk losing customers because of it. Smarter publicans offer good wines by the glass.
Those restaurants that have survived on the back of the Celtic Tiger period are holding up well, as they have already gone through the worst. But there are a lot of high-end fine-dining restaurants running offers as they fight to hold on through turbulent times. There is a lot of cost-cutting going on in terms of purchasing cheaper house wines. But we are trying to educate restauranteurs them that it's a lost opportunity if they don't focus on the beverage side as well as the food.
We are trying to promote nicely executed programmes to stimulate extra turnover at the table, for instance selling an aperitif. There is very little upselling done in restaurants currently and people will actually spend more if given a reason. We hatched one promotion at a bistro in Dublin that if they bought a premium bottle in house, they would get the same to take out free. It got our brand on the table and in people's homes, plus better sales of the first bottle. Sales were really good, no one has quite figured out how we did it financially, but it worked well.
The exchange rate has been troublesome, too, but we are trying to remain consistent. There still remains a good core group of sommeliers in Ireland, but it's also an area that can't always be financially justified. Restaurants are minimising their stock holdings due to cash-flow problems and are looking more towards next-day deliveries and controlling the stock themselves. They are less interested in buying direct and prefer to pay a more premium price to to rely upon local suppliers and importers to manage things for them.
Santa Rita sponsors the Irish Restaurant Awards in association with the Restaurant Association of Ireland. It's a good way of keep the standards high and continuing to raise standards in the industry, as well as driving improvement and awareness. It's also split regionally rather than being city focused, so everyone gets a good chance. It's doing an outstanding job of promoting local food producers and trying to work on the small dining experience.