By Len Panaggio
After the winter we’ve had, we’re all suffering from cabin fever and are ready to make up some of that lost revenue. Before we can do that, there is a lot of work to do! Much like the end of summer, when everything is beat and we can start the rehab process, spring offers a time for renewal. As good operators, we need to step back and examine everything we do, from top to bottom. There is a lot on our plates this time of year, but let’s start with the beverage list.
Just as our food changes seasonally, so do our choices in beverages, and we need to start planning for those changes now. I have talked about my search for new and different varietals in the past, and this is the time to try it. Rosé has finally taken off, and the season for them is expanding beyond summer as our guests are beginning to understand the virtues of dry rosés.
Lighter wines are the wines of choice in the summer, so my suggestion is to mix up your offerings: drop some Cabernets and add more Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or Chianti for reds and look to drop some heavier Chardonnays by adding another Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet or even another food-friendly Pinot Grigio. Of course, sparkling wines need to be available as guests are beginning to understand it is more than a celebratory wine.
As I have mentioned before, in the beer world, real lagers, not industrial lagers, are starting to arrive. I for one would embrace these products as they are lighter in weight (not lo-cal) and are more crisp and refreshing than an IPA, and actually have some flavor! Perfect for a hot, humid day.
As you evaluate your spirits program, think about what you can do logistically and the products you already have that you can use. There are so many new items coming out; the big companies are looking for the next home run, but be careful…trying to get rid of them after it is apparent they don’t work can be a daunting task at best.
Speaking of inventory, while you are in your POS system adding new products, clean it up! Delete items you no longer have, make it easier for staff to find things. Evaluate your pricing. We are being assaulted with price increases — proteins, electricity, water, minimum wage, etc. — are your costs in-line, allowing you to make a reasonable profit?
When you have made all your decisions about product, you will be going to print. Your menu and drink/wine lists are your biggest marketing tools; they end up in the hands of your guests, so take the time to make it right. Ensure your spelling, grammar, and capitalization are correct and don’t rely on autocorrect! Attention to detail sends a message to guests – good or bad. There are also new types of easy-to-clean materials for menus that last longer and hold up to the normal wear and tear we put them through. They cost more up front, but in the long term, a wise investment.
Lastly, look at your bar; does it need some work? And what about your equipment? I always did a preventative maintenance program this time of year to ensure the efficient use of refrigerators that will be taxed later in the season. Again, costs some money, but avoids headaches. Talk to your staff; ask them what tools they need to do their job properly and efficiently. Getting buy-in from them is big. The most important resource is your human resource — make them feel as if they have a vested interest in your success, because it will come back to you, and them, in spades.
There is much to do this time of year to prepare for the May – September timeframe, whether in the city or on the shoreline. Remember, prior planning prevents poor performance. After all, your guests expect you all to run a great operation, all around!
Len Panaggio’s career in food and wine spans more than three decades as an owner and as a beverage director at some of the top restaurants in Rhode Island. Currently a hospitality consultant, Len is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and has attended the Culinary Institute of America Master Sommelier program and the Sterling School of Service and Hospitality.