Manorview Group

Manorview Group have an excellent working relationship with Crown Cellars.  The move was smooth and professionally managed.  The staff training was perfect and has been followed up with refresher training which has increased our wine sales. There is rarely stocking issues and if this does happen it is handled in a fast, smooth easy process for us to resolve. The products are strong in the market place and they have something for every property from 5 star to night club level. We benefit from a close working relationship with our accounts managers, whom are always on hand should we need assistance. The working relationship is very strong and we hope it will continue for many years to come.

Susan Spence​, Group Procurement Manager, Manorview Group

Beales Hotel on how to grow your sales by double figures

When Chris Hall took over responsibility of running Beales Hotel’s West Lodge Park in Hadley Wood in 2014 he was keen to put his mark on what had become a much loved and respected traditional establishment, but was also, in fairness, in need of some fresh thinking and, in particular a better quality food and drink offer.

“When I came here the wine range was focused mainly around margins and percentages so it was a good opportunity to rip it up and start again,”said Hall.

Developing the wine range

Which meant working hand in hand with the Crown Cellars’ wine development team to get the range just how he wanted it.

We were able to start from scratch which is quite an unusual opportunity,” said Hall who has been working with Crown Cellars throughout the 11 years he has been with the Beales Hotel group.

“Crown Cellars has supported us every step of the way and been able to provide us with exactly the wine range we wanted. I find its wine offer improves exponentially every year.” Before, the range at West Lodge was more focused around hitting price points and had a much larger selection of entry level wines, concedes Hall. He was keen to change all that and introduce a much more focused range that allowed Crown Cellars to build a choice of wines from different countries and regions, as well as ensuring all the major grape varieties were covered as well.

He felt this was much better suited to developing a more interesting wine list that would appeal to the demographic of the hotel, which attracts a middle aged to older customer who are looking to enjoy good quality, but well priced food and drink.

This meant selecting wines that were more suited to a traditional palate with a heavier focus on Old World, classic regions.

Driven by France

France was highlighted as the hero country to work around with a good selection of wines from all its main regions. So much so that France now makes up a third of the total list with 33 bins out of a range of 100. “That was not the exact number of wines we wanted, it has just worked out that way,” he said.

Other countries that Hall picks out are its “good selection of Australian wines” along with “Chile, Argentina, Italy and New Zealand”.

“A lot of our customers will choose their wines depending on the grape variety. Our customers, for example, are very familiar with Malbec,” said Hall. Its other big selling grape varieties are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon. “Customers definitely now recognise the styles of wine they like. Over the last 5 or 6 years their knowledge of wine has gone up enormously.”

Overall the range breaks down as 35 whites, 44 reds, 6 sparkling (including a rosé), 9 Champagnes (including a rosé), 4 standalone rosés and 2 dessert wines.

Wide selection of prices

Hall has also worked hard with Crown Cellars to offer a wider range of prices, to hopefully provide its customers with a good choice for all budgets. “We have everything from around £20 right the way up to £150 or so,” said Hall.

“But our best selling wines sit between £25 to £35. We have looked to price a lot of our wines just under £30 rather than have too many sitting at £32 to £35. We find an increasing number of our customers are looking to choose wines that are the next level up from entry level and house wines,” he explained.

Improved food and wine offer

Improving the hotel’s wine and food offer, alongside other enhancements, has certainly helped raise its image and reputation both for guests and in the local area, said Hall. Which is particularly important as the hotel’s restaurant and bar relies on attracting both residents as well as having a good following in the local community locals and across the nearby area. “The improved wine list has most definitely helped,” claimed Hall.

“It encourages people to spend a little more as well.”

“Midweek it will mainly be our residents, but come the weekend it is about 50/50 with locals as well,” said Hall.

As well as changing the wine offer, Hall, when he took control in 2014, also looked to offer a wider “A la Carte” menu. Before guests had a choice of four starters, four main courses and four desserts. Now, to complement the wider wine offer, they can choose from a selection of six to eight starters and main courses and six to seven desserts.

“It means we now have more styles of food with which we can pair with our wines,” said Hall.

Having a more ambitious and wider wine range has placed more importance on ensuring waiting staff have the right skills and confidence to sell and serve the wines. Again Hall makes full use of Crown Cellars wine training and development support services, “it’s a key benefit for us,” he explained.

“We don’t have sommeliers, so we rely a lot on Crown Cellars’ training.”

Crown Cellars works with West Lodge Park to put on regular wine tastings and WSET courses for key members of the team.

Hall said what has been particularly useful is the opportunity for his staff to go through certain wines with the Crown Cellars team so that they can learn little aspects that will help them sell and explain the wines to their customers. “We open this up to all the staff in the restaurant and the events side of the business,” said Hall. “It’s a good way to look at wines right across the list and the different styles. It helps to make it a lot more relevant to them.”

The fact that Crown Cellars is able to support the hotel with their own WSET-qualified educators makes a big difference in that they can do the training on site, rather than having to send team members away to a formal training day in London.

“You have to invest in your staff so that you are doing all you can to help them be the best they can be,” said Hall.

Through Crown Cellars it has also been able to enjoy and offer its staff specific bar and spirits training from the Diageo Bar Academy. The time and investment it has taken to get its wine offer right is certainly making a difference to the bottom line. When Hall took over in 2014, wine had around 44% share of total beverage sales, the next year that had gone up to 57% and in 2017 it had gone up to 61%.

“Importantly it has also helped our overall restaurants sales to go up as well,” said Hall and allowed it to put on special themed nights, including a Hertfordshire Gourmet night, and host private dinner parties.

Most of all, said Hall, it is that long standing and trusted relationship with Crown Cellars that really works for the hotel and his team.

The Morritt Hotel & Garage Spa on quality and choice from Crown Cellars

Johnathon Cairns and Crown Cellars have only been working together since last September, but already the relationship, he says, has helped the hotel take the wine, and with it the food offer, to another level.

“I could not speak more highly of the work we have done together with the Crown Cellars team” says Cairns.

“They blow other people out of the water with the levels of service they provide.”

Getting the wine and drinks offer right has been crucial for Cairns as he continues to put his own mark on the overall offer and service levels available at The Morritt Hotel & Garage Spa.

Cairns is clearly still passionate about a role he says was a big step forward in his career from his previous positions in a more corporate environment.

By moving to the General Manager’s position at The Morritt Hotel & Garage Spa, Cairns knows the buck now stops with him.

“I moved because I wanted, at this stage in my career, to have a role where I was involved in all aspects of the business. Before, working in corporate companies, decisions were being made for you. Now the entire decision-making process is made by me and I have to spend a lot more time doing my research and analysis of what I want to achieve.”

Changing the wine and food offer

One of the biggest decisions has been deciding what to do with the hotel’s wine and drinks offer.

As a former food and beverage manager, Cairns was quite clear he wanted to develop its wine offer very much hand in hand with the food side of the business. “We looked at the overall food menu we were creating and then built the wine list around that,” he explains.

On the face of it, the hotel’s food offer did not need to be changed too much as it had long had a 2 AA Rosette rating, but Cairns felt there was an opportunity to keep that standard, but make it less of a structured approach and more in keeping with the overall relaxed offer of the hotel and spa.

“Before, you could only order from the 2 Rosette menu in the main restaurant. We wanted to make it less formal, still have the 2 Rosette offer, but make it available in all eating areas of the hotel including the bar and the bistro. That is what our customers want. They want that flexibility to be able to eat and enjoy the food in different parts of the hotel,” he explains.

The main objective with both the food and wine offer has been to create a combined menu “that had something for everyone on it,” says Cairns. “We wanted our guests to feel comfortable with the choices they could make.”

Less wines, but more quality and choice at the right price…

It’s certainly a very different approach to what had been previously a more structured list that was biased very much towards the Old World leaning of the previous owner, with a number of high priced Champagnes on the list.

Cairns sat down with the Crown Cellars development team to create a list much more in keeping with the overall relaxed, comfortable atmosphere he wanted to have in the hotel and spa.

Fundamentally, it meant devising a list that reduced the overall offer in terms of actual wines, but crucially opened it up to more guests by having quality wines at more price points that Cairns and Crown Cellars felt they would be more comfortable with.

The list is now running with around 35 wines, down from 60, with a bigger presence of New World wines, whilst still keeping the Old World classics.

“The Crown Cellars team has helped massively with the list we have created” says Cairns. “There might be less wines, but there are now more affordable, quality wines there for our customers.”

Adding more wines…when ready

Once the new list has bedded in and the staff are familiar with what is available, Cairns will then look to work with Crown Cellars and introduce more depth to the range. “We will probably look to add another 10 to 12 wines in April, when Crown Cellars is introducing some new wines to its overall range.”

Cairns is confident his guests can be encouraged to try different wines at slightly higher prices. Even in the last five years he has noticed a marked shift amongst guests moving away from just being happy to order a Pinot Grigio or Rioja. “They are now more knowledgeable and confident about what they like. They have tried wines they have seen on Saturday Kitchen and other TV shows and are open to more variety on a list” he says.

At the right price

The key, though, is to ensure they keep that balance between quality and affordable pricing. Which again, is where the Crown Cellars range comes in.

The new wine list ranges in price from £18 to £39 on still wines, moving up to £70 to £80 for sparkling wines and Champagnes. Before, the top end for still wines was nearer £55 with a starting point of £20. “People just feel a lot more comfortable picking up the menu knowing there are wines there they can enjoy.”

It’s not just the quality and range of wines that has impressed Cairns about Crown Cellars offer, but the added services it has been able to bring to the table. Like designing, from scratch, the new, combined food and drinks menu.

“It really has been fantastic and was an additional service I did not expect to get, but the quality of the design and the menu really matches what we wanted to achieve with the food and wine offer. Each dish, for example, has a wine pairing, or suggestion, to go with it.”

Crown Cellars also encouraged Cairns, he says, to include his own ‘General Manager’ wine recommendations which have also gone down well with the guests. “They are more likely to try a wine if they see it has been recommended, so that’s working well. It helps them make the choice they want easier.”

Business focused training

Cairns is also taking advantage of the full wine training services that Crown Cellars offer for his team. Again, he has been impressed by how personalised and business focused the training is.

“The staff get the right level of knowledge and information they need on the wines they have to sell. That’s the key. They are not just learning about wine for the sake of it, they are being given relevant knowledge that really helps them in their jobs,” says Cairns. “That’s the best way for them to learn.”

It also allows Cairns to work with his service team to promote and suggest wines at different price levels on the list. “It’s been a really good way for us to introduce and sell our mid-priced wines” he says.

What has also impressed Cairns by the Crown Cellars training service is the approachability and friendliness of the team.

Wine training can be intimidating and hard for hospitality staff to take on board, but the Crown Cellars approach has made the sessions memorable by being both fun and informative.

“At the end of the day people buy people and that has been very much the way that Crown Cellars has gone about it. It’s why we have been able to build such a good relationship so quickly” explains Cairns.

“I have a big passion for wine and I like to pass that on to my staff, offering them advice on a daily basis, but it is also why I like working with Crown Cellars. I have been really impressed in how easy they have made it for us to work with them. Often it is hard bringing in a new supplier, but that has just not been the case at all. I know I can pick up the phone and they will have the answer there waiting for me.

The results

It’s also a relationship that is making a difference to the bottom line with Cairns putting its recent 6% increase in wine sales down directly to the impact that Crown Cellars has had. Wine now accounts for 50% of all drinks sales, compared to 44% before Crown Cellars came on board.

“I can only see that growth is getting bigger as we take on more wines, have more training and work with Crown Cellars even more.”

Talk to your Sales Manager about our great range of wines.

Carden Park

Whether you are a member of One Direction, part of the England football or rugby team, or simply visiting the Carden Park Hotel to use its spa, award-wining golf facilities or dine in one of its restaurants, you are guaranteed the same welcome and level of service.

For that’s the number one objective and motivation for Mark Roberts, the person responsible for managing all the drinks listed and sold in the hotel.

Those are also just some of the few celebrity and star guests that Roberts and his team have served over the years as Carden Park is one of the most celebrated and respected hotels in the North West. Ideally located only 20 minutes from Chester, and close to the city hubs of Liverpool and Manchester.

Roberts, who has been with the hotel for 19 years, is better placed than most to know what it is that Carden Park’s customers are looking for when eating and dining at the hotel.

A customer base that splits neatly into three separate areas; weddings, corporate and private drinking and dining.

Roberts also knows his way around the bars and restaurants of Carden Park having spent many years working his way up as a bartender, waiter, supervisor and a series of assistant manager roles before being promoted to head up food and beverages three years ago.

Drive and passion

But spend half an hour talking to him and you would think he had only just joined the hotel such is his passion and enthusiasm, not just for his own job, but the level of service he can provide his customers.

“What I love about my role is that it is constantly evolving. No two days are the same, there are always new things to do, different ideas to look at, new products to taste,” he says.

“As we are an independent hotel we do not have a head office telling us what to do and can make our own decisions,” he adds.

Which is why he very much likes working with the development team at Crown Cellars.

“One of the main reasons we work so closely with Crown Cellars is to be one step ahead of the curve,” he explains. “A lot of properties tend to latch on to trends after they have happened. The Crown Cellars team is able to provide us with lots of data, be it national or regional trends, which help us keep up to date with what is happening. It mostly gives us the ability to get into trends as they are about to happen,” he explains.

An area that Crown Cellars has been able to help Roberts and his team with across wines and spirits. Like gin. Crown Cellars and Roberts identified gin as a potentially big growth area for the hotel considering its wide customer base. They worked together to create a bespoke gin menu, taking the number of gins stocked from 8 to an impressive 34.

As well as a new bespoke Gin Menu, Roberts also worked with Crown Cellars and Fever-Tree to create a separate gin serves menu with suggestions on different premium mixers and gins to create gin cocktails.

“With a premium mixer costing 60p or more than a standard one and a premium gin a further £2 more, it meant customers were quite happy paying upwards of £2.60 and more over standard.”

“Gin, and its associated products, has been massive for us over the last year,” says Roberts, adding an extra £50,000 to its overall food and beverage turnover.

An initiative that also resulted in a special innovation prize for Roberts and the bars team, at the local Cheshire Hoteliers Association awards.

Change in supplier

The decision to work with Crown Cellars came around six years ago when Carden Park took back the management of the hotel from a partnership it had with De Vere Hotels and it was able to go out and look for new suppliers.

The contrast, says Roberts, in working with Crown Cellars compared to its previous drinks supplier could not be greater.

“We have gone from a situation where we got minimal support, which mostly went to head office in any case, to almost having an abundance of support. We have gone from next to no training at all to the ability to have as much training as we want, whenever we need it,” he adds.

“In the past we did not have any of the staff doing WSET training unless they paid for it themselves. Now Crown Cellars will put all our staff through WSET Level 1 and 2 training if they want.”

All of which has had a big impact on the hotel’s overall service levels. “All that increased knowledge, training and support we have had from Crown Cellars has been the key to our success as an independent hotel,” says Roberts.

When it comes to the hotel’s wine offer it helps having an owner, Steve Morgan, who is so into their wine, adds Roberts. So much so that the hotel even has its own vineyard and has been making its own English sparkling wine for what is one of the most northern vineyards in the Country, for the last 20 to 25 years.

House appeal

Roberts has worked with Crown Cellars to widen the offer and appeal of its two main wine lists: its house wines; and its main restaurant list.

Its house wine selection is key as it makes up nearly 80% of the hotel’s total wine turnover thanks to the large amounts of business it does with conferences, weddings and functions.

Under Crown Cellars the choice of house wines has nearly doubled to now include six whites, six reds and three rosés, ranging in price between £20.50 and £25.

One of the key lessons he has learnt from Crown Cellars is the importance of having a laddered pricing structure for its wine list.

So as well as expanding the main restaurant list to nearer 60 wines, compared to 40 previously, the price jumps between each wine can be as little as 50p, encouraging customers to trade up by just £1 or £2 at a time. He has also introduced a wider choice of more premium wines, particularly from the New World like Crown Cellars’ Bone Orchard Malbec.

It has helped push the average selling price from the restaurant list to between £25 to £30, with a top bottle price of around £200. Classic wines from France, Italy and Spain all proving strong sellers. “Wine has been key to our overall beverage growth and now makes up 39% of our total beverage sales.”

“We had met with other potential suppliers but what stood out most with Crown Cellars was the overall package. The benefit of working with Crown Cellars I have found is that we are treated as equals and not just a number, they recognise first and foremost that without a great relationship we, and in turn they, don’t prosper and that relationship has been developed on both a business and a personal level.”

Mark Roberts, Food and Beverage Controller, Carden Park Hotel

Waterside Bistro

Wines that match the customer’s needs make the difference at Waterside Bistro.

Matt Buzzo takes a very different approach to deciding which wines go on to the wine list at the Waterside Bistro in Totnes, Devon. Yes, they need to taste right and be at a good value price point for his customers, but most of all they have to go well with the food. For as well as owning the Waterside Bistro with his wife Delphine, he is also an experienced chef.

But then looking at wines through the eyes of a chef is nothing new to Buzzo, for that’s what he has done all his career, making his name working across a number of leading hotels in London and top restaurants, including Scotts of Mayfair and Livebait.

It’s at his own Waterside Bistro that he has been able to work far more closely with wine and take full control of the wines he chooses to serve with the restaurant’s style of food, which has a heavy leaning to local produce and seafood. Although he now leaves the cooking side of the business to Waterside’s head chef, Simon Drew, who he works with to create the menu.

The wine list is also a close collaboration, this time between Buzzo and Crown Cellars, a relationship that goes right back to when he first opened the Waterside Bistro some 14 years ago.

Covers all the bases

Buzzo says he really has no need to consider working with other major suppliers as Crown Cellars is able to cover all the bases for him across all his drinks.

“I would say it is the depth and breadth of its range that really makes Crown Cellars such a great company to work with. There is such a diverse choice of wines to choose from and they are always adding new interesting wines to the list,” he says.

In particular he enjoys the way that Crown Cellars’ wine consultant, Jonathan Pedley MW, describes the wines on the list with “clear, interesting tasting notes that just make you want to taste the wines,” says Buzzo.

Having such a long standing relationship with Crown Cellars is also typical of how Buzzo likes to work with his food and other drinks suppliers. He is a great believer in loyalty and working up long term relationships with the suppliers that mean the most to him, the restaurant and then its customers. The Waterside Bistro, for example, is part of the Food & Drink Devon initiative to bring producers and operators closer together.

The Waterside Bistro website even includes a special local suppliers section where you can plot and see where his producers come from, which on the wine side includes an English sparkling wine from the local Sharpham Vineyard.

“I am also seeing a big growth in gin sales and Crown Cellars again has a good selection of premium local gins to choose from,” he adds.

Every day value

Being a long established local restaurant, the Waterside Bistro is able to rely on a number of regular customers who might visit every day, be it for a coffee in the morning or a crab sandwich and glass of wine at lunchtime or light bites in the afternoon.

It is important, therefore, says Buzzo to have a wine list that offers great every day value as well as some fine wines for a treat. House wines start at around £17 to £18 with an average price per bottle of £19, moving up to the more expensive wines that are still very good value at around £35.

Buzzo says it has been a question of learning over the years and working with his customers to get the right balance of wines at the right price point.

Instead of a large wine list, Buzzo has worked with Crown Cellars to create a relatively tight list including 10 whites, 10 red, 3 rosés and some sparkling wine and Champagne. A list that is well balanced between Old and New World wines.

Its most popular wines, though, are New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Two classic styles that customers are happy to return to time and again, says Buzzo.

Crown Cellars’ Cloud Island New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is by far the restaurant’s best selling wine which is on the list at £22.

Buzzo says he has definitely noticed a marked shift amongst his customer base and their approach to wine. “People are a lot more confident now about what they like and what grape varieties they prefer, which is why we work hard with Crown Cellars to make sure the wines we choose are the ones they are know and trust,” he adds.

It’s also why the menu is a balance between family favourites such as a full pizza selection, a number of burgers and then more serious fish and local produce dishes. He admits he is still to get round to offering wine choices with each dish on the main menu, but does do for his desserts.

Hands on support

Buzzo says he also works with Crown Cellars to take advantage of the wide training opportunities it offers. All his senior management team have got WSET Level 2 wine training and he is looking to carry out more training for his other staff. “It’s an important part of our service as well and it’s great to be able to work with Crown Cellars for our training as they know our business so well,” he says.

It’s also, he says, about creating the right atmosphere in the restaurant and by offering training and support it helps to create the family, community feel that he is looking for from the restaurant.

Wines by the glass

Wines by the glass have an important role to play at the Waterside Bistro, particularly with lunchtime diners and those visiting the restaurant during the day. Buzzo says it’s important to choose the right wines to put on by the glass to ensure there is no wastage.

But some of the best-selling wines will move by the day, or within two days, so he does not need to worry about investing in an expensive wine dispensing system. Here, he is able to work with the Crown Cellars team to introduce both popular and new interesting wines that can encourage his more ambitious customers to try different styles of wine.

Buzzo says he normally has around six white wines by the glass and five or six reds to give a good choice to his customers. He offers both 175ml and 250ml glass sizes with prices ranging from £4.50 for a smaller size, through to £8 for a larger one. He also offers his three rosé wines by the glass and has a Prosecco and Champagne by the glass offer as well.

Liz Cottam on why there really is no place like HOME

Crown Cellars has worked closely with the chef owners of HOME restaurant in Leeds from the day it opened to ensure its wine list stands up to its award winning food offer.

Liz Cottam and Mark Owens HOME restaurant in Leeds certainly lives up to its name. The whole concept is about creating an experience that makes its customers feel as comfortable about eating out as they would do, well, at home.

The two chefs have worked hard to create an atmosphere, and a food and wine offer, that offers a genuine relaxing experience that in their words means their guests “arrive as customers and leave as friends”.

To do so they have created a menu where every dish is made up with fresh, seasonal ingredients that changes on a monthly basis.

Some guests will feel as though they have met Liz Cottam before as she has been a guest in their own homes as a contestant on BBC’s Masterchef in 2016. Mark Owens brings with him a Michelin star background having worked at both the two star Le Gavroche in London, the Star at Harome which, appropriately enough, has one star and The Box Tree which also has a Michelin star.

Cottam explains what they are both trying to achieve with their menu: “We offer a series of tasting menus inspired by seasonal British produce. There’s “The Season” which is the full experience of what we’re all about, “The Selection” which is a shorter version of The Season, because sometimes a three-hour lunch or dinner just isn’t practical, and our Sunday lunch-inspired tasting menu. All of these change every month.”

These are chefs that are just as interested in the wines that their customers are going to pair with their carefully assembled dishes.

“The kitchen and front of house teams work together to pair every dish we serve with at least one wine to enhance the overall experience,” says Cottam. “That means that our drink selection is also constantly evolving. By changing the wine pairings every month it means as a team we are constantly trying and discovering new wines and developing our knowledge one wine at a time.”

Choosing the right wines for the list is as challenging an exercise for the two chefs as it is creating their award winning menu. To get it right Cottam was quite happy to bring in outside expertise to offer them the support they needed. Crown Cellars has been working with the HOME team from the day it opened.

“We work with Crown Cellars because we love a lot of their wines,” says Cottam. “We have been very lucky to have an amazing rep who goes above and beyond to help up with our monthly tastings and pairings. He also really helps us find the best match for each dish.”

Food and wine together

Together they have looked to create a list that is both practical, and supports the restaurant’s menu, but also flexible enough to suit the changing tastes of its customers.

“There’s not really a ‘typical’ HOME customer,” says Cottam. “We’ve got a vast and varied array of regulars and new customers each month who are coming in for different reasons – the only common trait they all share is a love of great food.”

And for great food to really work then you need a great wine list to go with it. It’s why Cottam says she is so happy to work with the Crown Cellars team to help them choose the right styles of wine that are going to match their ever changing menu.

“Generally the clue lies in what sells well and what doesn’t,” says Cottam.

Fresh and interesting

Rather than have a list that remains the same for months on end, she is keen to be always looks to adjust the choice to keep it fresh and interesting for its customers.

Each month Cottam will introduce a new flight of wines to give guests the chance to try something new. That also means making hard decisions about “older wines that have kind of run their course” which “sometimes have to come off to make room for them,” she adds.

“We’d rather have a concise list of wines we’re passionate about and know inside out than a big one just for show. We have fallen in love with English wine recently and consequently have a bigger selection of English white wines than we do Italian or American whites.”

With such an ever changing list it is vital the staff are also constantly on top of the wines they are being asked to sell. To do so means Crown Cellars is offering regular, on site, training and support.

“We have monthly tastings where as a team we discuss certain wines and come to a unanimous decision on what to pair with what. Once something’s declared a “double dinger” we lock it in for that flight,” says Cottam.

That way the team also feel like they are part of the decision making process and are more likely to recommend wines that they personally have been partly responsible for being on the list.

It means HOME is able to present as personal a wine list as the food it is serving. Which, in turn, is reflected in the premium price points it is able to achieve.

Cottam says the “average price for a bottle is around the £35-£45 mark, with glasses coming in at anything between £6 and £11”.

Attention to detail

This attention to detail and working closely with Crown Cellars has helped HOME achieve a strong uplift in its overall drinks offer, says Cottam.

“Over the last eight months our total wet sales have gone up and are now around 45% of our sales come from drinks.”

Looking ahead Cottam hopes and expects to build on its wine and food reputation by constantly adapting and offering new choices to its customers.

“We’re looking to expand our list in breadth, rather than just size – so bringing in more premium and unusual wines. We offer a Premium Wine Flight as well as our standard which a lot more guests are going for, so we want to be able to offer a truly premium experience, rather than simply filling the flight with more expensive bottles.”

She adds: “We’ve very recently been able to hire a full-time member of staff dedicated to the bar, too, so we’re looking forward to being able to develop our spirit list and cocktail offering, working closely with the kitchen.”

Tasting menus

As part of the restaurant’s £70 seven-course seasonal tasting menu, which is changed on a monthly basis, a 100ml glass of wine is carefully selected to complement every course, plus a 50ml glass of dessert wine.

The selections for the May menu include a 2013 Vinho Verde Adega de Moncao to accompany cod cheek and mushy peas; a Crozes Hermitage Domaine Pradelle from the same vintage to team with the spring lamb; a 2014 Vouvray Bougrier to complement a dish of stone bass, and a 2015 Feral Fox Pinot Noir to partner duck breast and cherry. English sparkling wine – a non vintage Chapel Down Brut is served with a lemon verbena parfait for dessert, while a 2014 Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is perfectly paired with carrot cake.

Tony Callaghan on creating the right pub for the right customer

Anyone in the casual dining sector scratching their heads worrying about where all their customers have gone should jump on a train and head to Wigan and spend some time with local pub operator Tony Callaghan.

Not that he would claim to have all the answers mind. That’s very much not the style of this friendly, enthusiastic, straight talking, but also highly experienced and successful pub operator.

Yet for all of Tony’s success he’s still very much in touch with what makes a good pub. In fact, talking to him feels like chatting to the friendly landlord down the local pub.

He has what he calls a “simple” and “straightforward” strategy of running a successful On-Trade group.

Open the right outlets in the right locations with the right food and drink offer. Sounds obvious enough, but it’s a very hard to trick to pull off.

‘Inn The Bar’ group is the latest of Tony’s pub developments that have seen him become one of the most respected and admired operators in the North West of England over the last 30 years.

Part of Tony’s success is to try and make every pub in your group different from the rest. So, whilst behind the scenes might be very much the same, what the customer sees out front has to appear and feel very different. Which is exactly what he has done with the 19 pubs, and growing, in the ‘Inn The Bar’ group.

It’s a trick Tony has pulled off time and time again. So much so that he runs three different pubs next door to each other in central Wigan that you would think come from three separate companies.

It’s all about having different concepts within the same group, says Tony. For example, within the ‘Inn The Bar’ group there is the Number Fifteen brand that offers a good quality, smart but also traditional pub atmosphere, alongside a separate boutique hotel offer.

“It’s about creating real pubs, for real people,” says Tony. Which for him means offering “real chips, with real bread and butter” that have come from “good, quality local suppliers”.

Get that right and it really does not matter what your competition might be doing, says Tony. Just concentrate on doing what you can do to create the best, most comfortable and relaxing environment for your customers is Tony’s frank but refreshing view on running a successful pub business. “You make your choices and then sink or swim by them” he adds.

Variety is key

In order to be able to create a different offer for each outlet Tony says he relies heavily on his suppliers. Which for wine and spirits has meant a long-standing relationship with Crown Cellars and Distilled for over 10 years.

“I love working with Crown Cellars for one simple reason.” says Tony. “They can get me what I want when I need it.”

It’s also the fact he can rely on Crown Cellars and Distilled to keep on coming up with new ideas for his pubs. “They are always changing their range of wines and spirits which means I can always be offering my customers something new,” says Tony.

Which is not surprising with 19 different wine and spirits ranges to source. But with 50,000 bottles of wine now going through his pubs a year, it’s vital he gets the right wines in the right pubs.

“Deciding what goes where”, says Tony, “is very much a team effort, working alongside Crown Cellars and Distilled.”

But he particularly likes the fact that Crown Cellars does not look to push any particular wine on the group. All decisions are made based on what is right for each outlet.

Tony’s wine ranges are driven by grape variety and not the country where they are made. “Our customers are so much more knowledgeable about the wines they like than they were 10 to 15 years ago. A lot of that is driven by what they are buying in the local supermarket to drink at home. It means they come into the bar asking for a ‘Merlot’ or ‘Pinot Grigio’” he explains.

Wines to trust

Tony says the beauty of the Crown Cellars range is that his customers, the vast majority of which are local, have grown to completely trust the wines they offer. They are the varietals they want, but crucially wines they are not going to see down the local supermarket or off-licence. “That’s really important for us,” he says.

As is the fact that Crown Cellars has a constantly changing selection of wines from the same grape variety from around the world, so Tony and his team are able to refresh their lists with the same style of wine, but from a different producer, region or country.

Tony explains: “As all our trade is repeat business, we have to make sure everything we sell, be it a Pinot Grigio or Merlot, is the best we can offer to our customers.

“It would be very hard to find a different supplier that can offer me so much different choice throughout the year. I would probably have to work with three or four to get close to what Crown Cellars can offer me.”

The wine ranges across the 19 sites vary in price from £9.50 to just over £20 with £14 being an average purchase price. Wines by the glass are also a good way to differentiate a bar’s drinks offer, with prices ranging from £4 to £7.

Tony says he might have two pubs on either side of the same street selling different wines at different prices.

Personalised training

‘Inn The Bar’ group also works closely with Crown Cellars to offer personalised training based on the needs of the local staff. Tony believes the key with training is to give his staff the right level of knowledge they need to be able to go out and personally recommend and get excited about wines they like.

“It gives our staff the chance to taste the wines and get to know something about them,” says Tony. “It’s fantastic then to see our staff going out and talking to our customers. You are so much more likely to buy a wine that someone has recommended to you, and it creates that added connection between the customer, the staff and the bar.”

Fast changing spirits

Tony also sources all his spirits through Distilled and again is thankful he has such a wide, growing and varied selection of brands to choose from. Particularly for gins where there is still enormous demand. “Our gins are flying,” says Tony.

So much so that one of his bars now has a gin range of nearly 80 different brands, including his own locally produced gin, ‘Uncle Joe’s’ named after the famous local Wigan sweet, ‘Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls’. Rum is also one of the fastest growing categories and again Tony and his landlords are able to take advantage of Distilled’s growing and changing list of dark rums in particular.

It’s all about creating the right atmosphere

As well as the food and drink offer there are two other key factors in determining what a pub or bar feels like for customers: the decor and the music.

Here Tony admits he lets his eccentricity take over and goes to great pains to source the right kind of furniture and fixtures and fittings for his pubs – with a heavy leaning towards a Victorian look and feel. He has even included a “two for one” cubicle in one of his pub’s womens’ toilets. “Well, they always go to the toilet in twos,” he laughs. Its proved to be not only a great talking point, but as Tony predicted it’s been very popular too. He is also happy to take inspiration from far and wide. On a recent trip to Indonesia, for example, Tony came across a 6m wooden table that he arranged to be shipped back for one of his pubs. “It’s completely unique and not what you would expect. It also sits around 30 people at any one time,” he says.

“We change the lighting during the day as that creates the right atmosphere as well,” he adds.

He also works very hard to make sure the right style of music is played to create the right atmosphere for that outlet. “I don’t want someone playing the Best of Abba or Donna Summer all day, every day,” he says.

Instead he will change the style and pace of music throughout the day and night. Which might mean a playlist that moves from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra, to a bit of jazz, some friendly pop, and yes “the occasional Abba or Donna Summer” to keep customers happy.