A special wine deal at MK the Restaurant, an independently owned fine-dining spot practicing contemporary American cuisine in Chicago, is leading customers to new delights and moving high-end wines despite the recession. On Sunday through Thursday nights, all bottles priced under $195 on its nearly 600-item list are 10 percent off and all bottles priced over $195 are 25 percent off. Price incentives have boosted wine sales anywhere from 10 to 20 percent on a given night, particularly of the higher-end bottlings that aren’t apt to move on weeknights.
Wine-loving chef-owner Michael Kornick hatched the idea to counter soft sales at the beginning of the year, reports Patrick Ewald, manager and wine director. It is not only boosting sales and overall cashflow, it is evening out the inventory as well. Ewald explains that when patrons get budget-conscious they stick to a few familiar names, leaving a lot of bottles on the shelf in MK’s cellar, which is full of unusual offerings.
“Wines like Silver Oak and Jordan sell, but things from Spain, Australia and obscure regions fall by the wayside because people choose something they know they’re going to enjoy,” says Ewald.
However, the discounts, backed by the enthusiastic salesmanship of Ewald and his staff, are steering people toward lesser-known but exciting offerings like Bodegas 2006 Ateca Atteca Garnacha, $95, from Spain’s Calatayud region, and an array of white wines from Alsace such as Domaine Zind Humbrecht and other prominent producers. “For every wine with a big name on our list, there’s another one just as good or better that they’re unaware of,” says Ewald.
Thus the wine deal is helping MK leverage more of its cellar investment. “Those wines are paid for and in the restaurant,” says Ewald. “Also rewarding is how customers react to the price cuts. “Their eyes light up” when they see opulent bottlings like Sine Qua Non 2005 Atlantis Syrah, regularly priced at $410, or Bryant Family 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, regularly priced at $510, offered at a 25 percent discount, says Ewald.
“It opens up the list for them. They start looking for wines they’ve always wanted to try.”