A very special case: having the whole wine list

To own the entire wine list at a restaurant, wether it’s a coffee café that happens to pour a couple of house wines at night, or the hot new restaurant with the hot new chef that is packed every evening, is a very particular situation that deserves a different playbook.

A few thoughts:

You’re a target. Other wholesalers are circling like wolves and will jump in if you take your eye off the ball. Don’t believe your peers from other companies that say “that’s yours, man … I’m not going to invade your list.” Someone is always around the corner wanting to grab the business.

You have to be careful and thorough about the information you send them. If you own the whole list you have to be diligent about watching inventory, invoices, and vintages to makes sure you’re way ahead of the curve of any problems. Of course ideally you do this for all accounts, but of course, realistically it’s impossible. But for these special accounts where you own the list you need to do it.

You need to appear relaxed about the situation while at the same time being very much on top of serving them well. Most situations of a wine sales rep owning a wine list either come from a close friendship or social connection, or a close connection evolves as a result. You’re their buddy. And when it becomes a friendship more than a business relationship that’s when you show up at the end of Thursday just to say hi and suddenly you see another company has moved onto the list. Why? Because you’ve trained the customer that a wine sales rep is a great friend to have so if I let this other one in I’ll have even more friends. It makes sense on their end, doesn’t it? Keep a business relationship clean and focused on business primarily.

You have show generosity and gratitude. Remind them through a simple deed: show up once a month, like clockwork, and pour them a kick ass glass of wine. “It’s the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm, so here I am again to say thank you, tell you how much I appreciate your trust in me and our company, and thank you for entrusting your entire wine list with our products. You rock, and here’s a glass of Barolo as thanks.” This is a great trick, goes a long way, builds the relationship (and acknowledges the friendship), and becomes something they would lose if they allowed another company onto the list.

Don’t take it for granted. It’s a gift to be in this situation. Something truly special. Thank them. Do what you can for them. Show your gratitude through deeds, but remind them through words why you’re apprciative.

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