The alcohol industry continues to digitize. Customers can already buy wine, beer, or spirits from their Smartphones to be delivered to their doors. So why shouldn’t retailers enjoy similar ease-of-access when locating products in wholesale?
SevenFifty is a new digital service that seeks to accomplish just that. Available for on- and off-premise accounts (and distributors), the platform allows its 30,000+ users to more easily view and explore available products from distributors, including tracking down harder-to-find items.
We recently spoke with beverage director and sommelier Isaiah Estell of the New Orleans restaurant Cavan (pictured atop) about how this platform changes the way modern operators can do business.
Cheers: How are you using SevenFifty?
Isaiah Estell: It has a variety of applications, the most essential being the ability to track down almost anything available in my market. It has made my work 10% to 15% easier in terms of the time saved. I think some users use this exclusively for finding wines, but I try to use it across the whole beverage alcohol program.
It puts a little more power into the buyer’s hands. As opposed to the seller always being in control and you being at the mercy of what they’re incentivized and compelled by their bosses to show you. It sort of turns the tables, because there are all sorts of products just sitting in their warehouses that don’t get promoted as much, because these brands don’t have the muscle to promote themselves.
A lot of the time you’ll be using this tool to establish and verify the existence of a product that brand reps themselves have no idea they had access to. It’s happened to me more than once. Earlier this summer, when I was at Tales of the Cocktail and trying to conduct business remotely, I wanted to put together a special drink for a scotch brand. And for that I needed Strega, which I don’t normally stock. Using SevenFifty, I established in 10 seconds who has it. I sent them a message. They replied, “We don’t carry that.” I’ve learned not to respond to these kids of messages immediately, because a few minutes later they came back and said, “Yeah, actually, that is us.”
Cheers: Can you give me an example of a product you discovered this way?
IE: Sure. Our most popular cocktail is a variation we do on the Moscow Mule, using Irish whiskey. But I didn’t want to use an Irish whiskey that was super obvious or cheap. So with the help of SevenFifty, I stumbled across an Irish Whiskey called Clontarf. I would never have found it otherwise, but with this platform I found it without much effort on my behalf.
The cocktail with Clontarf has become a signature of our restaurant. After its first several months on the menu, I actually received a call from a gentleman in Miami who represented Clontarf, and who was impressed and perplexed that we’d gone through the quantity of the product that we had.
Cheers: Though you do also use it for wine.
IE: My background is firmly in wine and this project with Cavan came to me as means to explore that. Other restaurants in our group have smaller, static wine lists. Here we have a couple selections of wine on our list. Our cuisine is broadly American coastal, and SevenFifty allowed me to find coastal wines more easily. I could type in Canary Islands, which is pretty obscure, and quickly see 10 or so wines available here from there. Wines that wouldn’t otherwise be brought out by the purveyors.
I can search regionally across eight or so different distributors, and sort out wines by price point and availability. This is an effective way to cut through the time normally spent sending emails in tracking down products. It puts a lot more power in operators’ hands, rather than waiting for things to come across our desk.
Cheers: How have customers reacted to your greater variety in products?
IE: It’s been a trust-building exercise with customers. I always try to think what I would want as a guest, particularly in terms of pricing. I want to incentivize risk-taking and being adventurous. It’s not such a huge risk to order a $35 bottle of wine from Serbia. And if they don’t like it, I’m more than happy to stick a cork in it and bring it home.
I do think we’ve become known as a place where people can find out-of-the-box selections. I notice people taking pictures all the time of the bottles they order, and asking where in town they can find them.
Kyle Swartz is associate editor of Cheers magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org