68
BEVERAGE MEDIA
September 2013
WINE
MANAGEMENT
locations in the Tao Restaurant Group.
“The Lavo clientele know a lot more
than Tao’s. You can get away with more
at Tao.” So Tao’s mark-ups, especially at
the lower end, could be 3.5 to 4 times
cost, or even higher. While that’s not
possible at Arlington Club, Nelson says
the more knowledgeable clientele there
also “understand they’re not having the
wine in their living room, they’re hav-
ing it at a restaurant.”
Nelson generally aims for a 5 times
mark-up (above the listed bottle price)
on by-the-glass wines, or slightly greater
for Champagne, and likes to offer a range
of prices—$10 to $25—instead of pricing
all his pours in a narrow band. While the
latter means guests can choose more by
style than by price point, he also believes
it is important to have some higher-priced
choices “so that one person who wants
another glass after drinking a $150 bottle
doesn’t have to drink a $10 Lodi Cab.”
Tao and Lavo both transform
into nightclub venues after a certain
hour, at which time pricing takes on
a “down the rabbit hole” character
for beverage managers accustomed to
dining clientele. “We have a 10-times
minimum markup on vodka and most
Champagne,” says Nelson. Whether
it’s Dom Perignon or Ace of Spades,
clubgoers pay for exclusivity—or at
least the perception of it—and size;
keeping stocked on jeroboams and the
like is a challenge. “It’s the display of
spending,” notes Nelson. “We get a lot
of guys who just point at the most ex-
pensive thing on the menu.”
Keeping Things Ultra Simple
At Arc and Shuck Oyster Bar in Los
Angeles, chef and owner Noah Blom
has sidestepped normal pricing struc-
ture. All the wines on the short but
well-chosen list are offered by-the-
glass at two prices, $10 and $20, with
bottles at a corresponding $40 and
$80, respectively. “It alleviates huge
amount of carrying costs; we’d rather
sell things than inventory things,” says
Blom. “A lot of restaurants tie up a lot
of cash sitting on $20,000 of inven-
tory, while we get a lot of rotation on
small production wines.” There’s a big
difference in mark-up in some cases,
with lots of gems—1
er
Cru Burgundy
or Grand Cru Alsace Riesling—priced
at $10 with just a two-times markup,
whereas a varietal Chardonnay might
be more conventionally marked-up at
$20 a glass.
Blom’s preference is to favor the
downsell for the beverage program. It’s
an outside-the-box approach that he
says looks to simpler wine lists of the
past. In these days of complexity, it’s un-
usual to see a restaurant reframe its wine
list pricing so dramatically, but it is also
a reminder that there are no set rules
in this area of restaurant management.
Sure, a restaurant’s concept helps deter-
mine the content of a wine list, and it
also plays a part in pricing; but there’s
a lot more to pricing all those wines out
than just multiplying by three.
Chef and owner
Noah Blom of
Arc and Shuck
Oyster Bar in
Los Angeles
BR GUEST PULLED A
BY-THE-GLASS ROSÉ
FROM THE LIST WHEN
THEY FOUND IT
SELLING FOR $7
OR $8 AT A NEARBY
TRADER JOE’S.
LAVO ITALIAN RESTAURANT PHOTOGRAPH BY EDWARD MENASHY / ARLINGTON CLUB STEAKHOUSE PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA HOM
LEFT: Dining
room at Arlington
Club Steakhouse
RIGHT: Exterior
of Lavo
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