Posted on | February 25, 2016
Written by | Jeff Siegel
Like Book Clubs in the 1990s, ‘Paint & Sip’ nights have become bonding experiences.
Stacy Miller knows exactly why people come to her Paint & Sip Studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side: “It works because it’s an alternative to a night out that’s not passive, that’s in a social environment, and that’s kind of like a party,” says the Chief Operating Officer, adding that a night spent painting and sipping is rewardingly interactive and eminently affordable compared to an evening at a club or a movie.
In this, occasions where customers spend an evening drinking wine and painting pictures has become a surprisingly successful small business trend. There are at least four national paint and sip chains, and the two largest have almost 200 franchise units each. And that doesn’t include independent operations like Miller’s—all of which should give any wine retailer who has spare space, an inclination for art, and the proper liquor licenses canvas for thought.
The appeal? The paint and sip demographic, which roughly parallels that of Pinot Grigio fans. They’re women of a certain age who want to get out of the house but don’t necessarily want to be hassled in a bar or deal with the aggravation at the local cineplex. Paint and sip lets them drink wine, hang out with friends, and do something creative. A souvenir you can actually hang on your wall is icing on the cake.
So what do you need to know if you want to let your customers paint and sip?
• BYOB or retail? This depends not only on whether you have the inventory, and necessary employees but local liquor laws. Does your license allow you to do one or the other, if not both?
• Paint supplies? Do you want to provide them, or let your customers bring their own? Or team up with a third party that takes care of the paint part while you take care of the other liquids.
• Lessons or doodling? Most of the chains have instructors who guide customers through the process of creating a picture, but that’s not required. Sometimes, it’s as much about the social aspect—like-minded people getting together to visit, paint, and enjoy wine.
• When can you do it? Most paint and sip events are held at night, which isn’t going to help someone who doesn’t stay open in the evening. On the other hand, for a store with limited open space, opening after hours may be the ideal approach.
• What to charge? The fee for an evening’s painting class, depending on the operator and location, is about $30 a person. Is it worth the time and trouble for the $400 in revenue to get a dozen people in at night? It certainly is if the event brings the participants back for the wine, sans paint.