Restaurant goers frequently look for more than a fantastic menu and an eclectic ambiance: they want to have a good time!
As a result, many restaurants are adopting an experience-first approach, which seeks to improve the entire process for restaurant patrons. Many restaurant and liquor store owners, managers, and chefs use food and wine pairing to impress their customers.
Wine pairing for beginners
Doesn’t be intimidated if you’re new to the concept of wine pairing! There is no general rule that can be applied to wine pairing. Wine and food can be quite complex, as can the possibilities for pairing the two.
Why combine wine and food?
The right wine can enhance the flavours in your food. Experimentation is often required when pairing wine and food. Consider this: wine and food are partners at your table. Classic Wine and food pairings must be coherent and balanced—neither must be stronger or weaker than the other so that you can fully enjoy your dining experience. So, how exactly do you begin?
Basic Rules for Pairing
- Focus on the dominant flavours
- Match wine and food textures
- Trust the region. what grows together, goes together
If you were wondering
Some wines are dry and bitter because they contain a lot of tannins, which are found in grape skins, stems, seeds, and wood barrels where wine is aged. Tannins are a natural preservative that is commonly found in younger red wines. The less tannic wine becomes as it ages.
Tannin is also responsible for the drying or astringent sensation on your tongue. The more tannic wine, the more likely it is to pair with a richer, more flavorful dish, allowing the flavours to pop after each sip of wine. Tannic wines, such as Shiraz or Bordeaux, will not only cut the richness of a fatty cut of steak but will also clean your palate.
Red wines are created by soaking grape juice with the skins that produce the red colour and tannins. Meanwhile, white wines are produced by pressing the grapes, resulting in little to no contact with the skins and, as a result, little tannin extraction into the wine.
The Influence of Food and Beverage Combination
Fine-dining restaurants have long capitalised on the effective power of food and beverage pairing, but few other full-service operators are doing so.
Pairing food and beverages that augment each other is an easy way for operators to increase interest and check averages — and opens the door to even higher restaurant sales volumes and profits. Connecting the restaurant and the bar allows you to:
- Profits should be increased. Food and beverage pairing margins typically provide a higher return to a restaurant than a beverage alone.
- Reduce decision fatigue among customers. Customers like options, but too many can be overwhelming, especially if they are unfamiliar with the vast array of wines and beers available. Pairings can assist in resolving this issue.
- Enhance the customer experience. Pairings contribute to a better customer experience, which leads to higher customer retention.
- Set yourself apart from the competition. With few full-service operators currently utilising food and drink pairing, doing so distinguishes a brand — a huge plus in an especially difficult time for restaurateurs.
When deciding which food to pair with a beverage, go high, go low, or aim for something in the middle.
- Consider non-alcoholic options.
Non-alcoholic beverages are becoming more popular, particularly among younger generations. According to a 2018 Berenberg Research report, younger consumers are drinking so little alcohol than older generations, and most are abstaining entirely. Refreshing smoothies work well too, gets some ideas on refreshing smoothies for this summer. Offering innovative, food-friendly beverages, such as flavoured seltzers and teas, as well as lightly fermented kombucha and mocktails, has the potential to excite this and many other customers, leading to higher check averages.
- Staff Training
According to Oracle, 74% of consumers believe that an expert team is essential to their brand experience. So, if you’re offering food and beverage pairing, make sure your staff is well-versed in all available beers, wines, and cocktails — and why they pair well with the food options.
- Don’t limit pairings to fine dining
Multi-page wine lists or elegant entrées aren’t required for successful food and beverage pairing. Beer, for example, pairs perfectly with pub fare. Chefs and bartenders can collaborate to find the perfect beer for everything from beer battered shrimp to seafood stuffed mushrooms. Meanwhile, they could serve craft cocktails made with ingredients that complement plant-centric menu items, such as a shareable appetiser of thick fried green tomato slices or a veggie patty on a brioche bun topped with fresh slices of avocado.
Marketing that works
Properly marketing food and drink pairing boosts both beverage and food sales. Here are five pointers to get you started:
- To capitalise on the food pairing trend, create wine, beer, cocktail, or non-alcoholic drink lists.
- Begin small. It is possible to recommend a beverage for each main course on your menu, but it may be best to start small, perhaps with small plates, apps, or bar-bite pairing menus. According to Foresight Factory, a consumer analytics firm based in London, consumer conversation about food and beer pairings has increased by triple digits on social media in recent years.
- Give something of value. Consumers continue to seek good value. Deliver on that expectation by providing food pairing promotions, such as those in which the package cost is slightly less than the cost of the two items separately.
- Make it simple. Include a description of each beverage along with its food pairing on the menu. Use icons for beer, wine, or cocktails to make it even easier.
- Collaborate. Consider collaborating or associating with well-known local or national brewers, wineries, or spirits producers. Affiliations increase consumer trust and allow operators to cross-promote or even co-host unique events.
Finally, keep in mind that any changes to the menu will have an impact on operations. Take into account practical issues such as capacity. Can your bartenders handle making a variety of cocktails from scratch, which takes more time than pouring a glass of wine or beer? Or should you think about preparing batches ahead of time? Offering food and beverage pairing on just one slow night could solve capacity issues on a busy night while also increasing food and beverage sales during downtimes.
As restaurants face more challenges in today’s market, full-service operators who capitalise on the trend toward food and drink pairing are less inclined to leave money on the table or lose valuable customers.