Throughout this summer, Cheers Magazine and freelance writer Amanda Baltazar is highlighting how chain restaurants are testing and implementing new products, equipment and tactics to produce unique experiences for guests.
Smith & Wollensky is opening up the world of wine for its consumers by using the Coravin wine system. The steakhouse chain began using this tool last fall to open premium wines to serve them by the glass.
The Coravin system punctures the cork with a needle, making a small hole for the wine to pour though, and uses argon gas to replace oxygen in the bottle. Opened bottles of wine can be kept indefinitely.
“A lot of restaurants will shy away from superpremium wines by the glass, because you can end up with a lot of waste which impacts your cost,” says Tim Speziale, assistant general manager of the Boston Wharf Smith & Wollensky. He’s also corporate beverage program manager for the Boston-based chain, which is owned by Danu Partners in Ireland.
Smith & Wollensky now offers six wines ranging from $25 to $50 per glass. “They’re not flying off the shelf, but it’s not really about volume—it’s about the experience we offer,” Speziale says. “What we do is about show, and this is in that realm of theater and a top-notch dining experience.”
The benefits are clear: Couples or groups can drink different premium wines, or guests can try a different premium wine with each course, he says. It also simply allows more experimentation, so guests can try something new and spend $45 rather than $155.
The downside, Speziale says is that the argon cartridges are expensive. “You are talking about an added cost of about $1 per glass, but since we’re selling more of the wine it’s worth it for us.”