As restaurateurs, you are well aware of the trials and tribulations of pouring wine by the glass. While it makes for an enjoyable (and now pretty much demanded) guest experience, it comes with a lot of obstacles.
- Time – Opening and storing the many bottles needed to fulfill your program.
- Wasted wine – Not all bottles sell at the same rate, as you know. How often have you had to throw away bottles that have become oxidized?
- Refuse – While empty bottles mean more profits, you have to deal with all that recycling. If you don’t recycle, well, you’re just filling up the dump.
Now I know you have all heard about wine-on-tap, but now may be the time to investigate the concept more thoroughly. While not all wines are available of course, a growing number of premium labels are. Free Flow Wines is the leading logistics provider of premium wine-on-tap wines today and has partnered with an extensive list of wineries to offer wine-on-tap from their environmentally friendly stainless steel kegs. A list of distributors in your area that carry their winery clients’ products is available at FreeFlowWines.com.
There are many advantages to using a wine-on-tap system. They include:
- No wasted wine; your wine is always fresh. Premium wine-on-tap never sees oxygen.
- Streamlined and faster service.
- No corks to pull, no bottles to stock or inventory.
- One reusable barrel holds the equivalent of 26 bottles. No bottles, no corks, no labels or cardboard. Less to manufacture, less to ship, less to store.
- Less trash and recycling. Each keg will save at least 2,340 pounds of trash from the landfill over its lifetime. In 2012, Caesars Palace saved over three tons of bottle waste from the Las Vegas landfills by installing wine-on-tap in ONE location in the casino.
- A reusable keg reduces the carbon footprint of the same wine in bottle by 96 percent during its life.
- Wines are usually priced better in the keg format.
I asked Ted Carrick, director of business development for Free Flow Wines, about the benefits of using wine-on-tap. “At Free Flow Wines, we pride ourselves on quality and sustainability. We believe that a wine should taste exactly as the winemaker intended and a wine-on-tap system ensures that this is the case. Once hooked up at an account, the keg’s headspace is blanketed with a blend of 75 percent nitrogen/25 percent CO2. As more wine is poured, more gas fills the headspace — ensuring no oxygen touches the wine and that your last glass is just as fresh as the first!”
He went on to say, “In addition to quality, we believe that it is all of our responsibility to minimize our impact on the environment. In accordance with this value, all of our kegs are made with 100 percent stainless steel. Not only is this the safest and best packaging format for wine from a quality perspective, but it also allows for a completely reusable keg. Once a keg is emptied at an account, it is picked up and returned to our facility in order to be cleaned and refilled. Each keg will remain in circulation for 30 plus years, thus eliminating anything from ever entering a waste stream (unlike the disposable keg formats, which use a lightweight and porous plastic).”
What are the challenges? Equipment, taps and storage are all things to consider. Depending on how many taps you want, you will have to make an investment into your new wine program. Four tap systems can cost $3,000, or more for custom installs. Remember you cannot use a beer system; it is a different process and equipment altogether. The gas and system upkeep are also considerations, but minimal in the scheme of things.
If you consider the savings on eliminating product spoilage, corked bottles and waste, you will realize a relatively quick return on your investment. Another benefit to ruminate, and a big one, is the added sales from your customers’ satisfaction. Think about it: As a customer, don’t you just love it when you order a glass of wine and the bartender has to open a new bottle for you? And vice versa, when you get the last glass in the bottle? I know I do. Having such a fresh glass of wine is pure happiness and will encourage repeat sales.
I asked Meagan Hooff, a strategic accounts manager for Constellation Brands, her thoughts on the benefits of using a wine-on-tap system. She replied, “The cost benefits for using wine-on-tap are quite extensive. Generally speaking, WOT offers an average savings of $.50 a bottle to the customer, which really does add up over time. Additionally, 1 in 12 bottles of wine is usually tainted from the cork, so the use of WOT eliminates that issue all together.” She added, “When you consider the time saved from using WOT, it really does begin to add up from a financial viewpoint. By eliminating the need to stock multiple bottles of each wine, to opening bottle after bottle on a busy night, it really does give your hotel or restaurant a much more efficient service method when you can just pull the tap.”
For national accounts, consistent availability for state, regional, and countrywide programs is essential. Tap wines are available in almost every state. Free Flow, along with your national account wine suppliers, will work with you to provide equipment sourcing, ROI analysis, coordination with local equipment providers, distributor set-ups, staff trainings and more. They are here to walk you through the process and create a seamless launch of your new wine-on-tap program. It’s exciting, profitable and makes your customer very happy! So take the initiative to spend a little time and explore the possibilities.
It is best to talk to your tap provider or call a company such as Micro Matic, which specializes in these systems. Free Flow will also be glad to help steer you in the right direction.
Constellation Brands currently carries many brands in Free Flow kegs, including:
- SIMI – Sauvignon Blanc
- SIMI – Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
- Franciscan Estate – Chardonnay
- Mark West – Pinot Noir
- Toasted Head – Chardonnay
- Nobilo – Sauvignon Blanc
- Diseño – Malbec