Putting together a successful restaurant wine list is no easy thing. It takes knowledge of wine, a good culinary sense, a mind for business, a good dose of humility and the ability to really listen to what customers want.

What does your wine list actually say about your Hotel? Your wine list is an important tool in the advertising of your Hotel, some say it tells your guests a lot more about your property than most of the pretty pictures do. Your wine list should be aimed specifically at your particular guest demographic, domestic – corporate – tour groups or internationals.


Your wine list is filled with brands that are readily available in Countdowns & Pak n Saves throughout the country. Household brands you might argue, and indeed they are, which means your domestic & corporate customers know them, they trust them, heck they drink them on a regular basis and as such they know the price. So when they sit down in your restaurant to peruse what their drinking pleasure will be, they don’t see recognized brands they see ‘outrageous’, ‘rip-offs’ they see the price triple what they have bought in the supermarket.


House wine at less than $10 a glass. Lots of blends in a bottle and no ‘single vineyards’ on offer here. Wine quality is acceptable but the 2nd bottle sales won’t happen ( unless it’s a wake or 18 year olds having their 1st night away from the back seat of the Skyline). Varieties well known in New Zealand are on offer but they will be from Australia – Chile etc.


Either a Sommelier or wine buff F & B Manager has taken great care to source those bottles that can’t be found in a competitors Hotel. Contacts strong enough to get hold of some cellar stock or a few cases of the Reserve that is boxed and ready to be shipped overseas. Your F & B staff will be well trained, they will have your permission to open a bottle for a guest to sample with the belief your staff have made the right recommendation and the bottle will be bought. Your wines will have a story, one that your staff will regale to your guest in a captivating way adding another layer to the guest experience. The prices are not cheap but you are paying for quality and you get that quality with every glass.


Overpriced glass prices with the wastage built in because the staff turnover is as high as the mark ups are. The wine list has a number of wines that are out of stock, vintages are wrong and you will have a very average Sauvignon Blanc that is at least 2 years old. The $0.50 increase in house wine from the supplier means you can push the glass price up by a $1.


Wines are priced to compliment the menu on offer. You may be carrying a few supermarket brands but they are priced to encourage a sale and therefore become value for money. Wines of the month are supported by POS material and the staff have been well educated in order to ‘sell’ the wines. Wine makers are supportive of doing one off events like ‘meet the wine maker’s dinner’. Your list has been complied in conjunction with the Chef and is changed at least twice a year.


The wine list here resembles a good book, you keep it at the table throughout the meal. Your customer has confidence in the wait staff after their 1st recommendation worked so well that they can’t wait to see what comes with your next course. The Restaurant feels like a Restaurant and not a Hotel Restaurant, your customers are happy to take that glass of sticky to the lounge to finish with a coffee or digestive.

If you ever need examples of how your customers view a Hotels wine list then jump on TripAdvisor in the 1st instance and see what they say. Generically it’s the same comments when written in the positive & the negative. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to fix the negative, price quality & training are areas in which you actually do have total control and yes I get it that you don’t make the wine yourself so therefore what’s in the bottle is beyond your control but as you have a massive say in the actual list, you should have tried what’s in the bottle before it becomes part of your list.

If your Hotel Group is on your back about getting that extra 0.5% out of your F & B Department have a closer look at your wine list. Don’t go putting your prices up without going through your list with a fine tooth comb and look at adding value to it. By looking at ways of encouraging your customers to have another glass you might even move your list from ‘don’t care’ to the ‘do care’ and that alone will deliver the 0.5% required to keep the bosses happy.