Allegrini 2018

The role of sommeliers, which 30-50% of the restaurant’s turnover depends on, by Paolo Basso

Managing the wine cellar and offering by the glass, drawing up the wine list, fighting waste and matching each dish with the right wine

Wine weighs from 30% to 50% of a restaurant’s turnover, and has very interesting margins and profits. However, managing the wine cellar, besides considering spaces and possibilities, is not so difficult because wine, unlike food, does not perish. The real challenge, though, and where the waste risk is high, is the by the glass offer, which consumers are requesting more and more. They want to taste and discover different wines, combine different wines with different dishes, beyond the recommended pairing paths at gourmet tables. This situation is where making a favorable and advantageous wine offer becomes difficult; therefore, relying on a professional sommelier becomes the only possible solution. The sommelier should not be considered a luxury, but rather a “fully integrated member, who has specialized skills in beverages. Hiring a sommelier could mean having one less waiter or supervisor, but it does not represent an additional cost for the company. The sommelier is, instead, an element that manages a product that generates profit”, Paolo Basso, one of the most famous sommeliers in the world as well as a producer and lecturer at the Glion Institute of Higher Education, wrote.
According to Paolo Basso, a reference figure in the dining room is necessary even in the smallest restaurants, because when the chef is also the owner, “he does not have time for other activities. Wine requires time and passion and it, therefore, becomes necessary to have a person who can work on it full time. If you are working in the kitchen you cannot be in the dining room, in contact with customers to sell drinks. And, of course, there is the art of pairing wines and foods, while chefs often don’t realize that a dish can be annihilated simply because it is paired with the wrong wine. Chefs, focusing exclusively on the dish, do not consider the other taste elements that are at the table. Some chefs even perceive wine as a hindrance that distracts the customer from their culinary creations. To successfully combine food and wine, you need sensory skills. These skills must be refined and enriched through personal interpretation that comes from extensive experience. The combination of food and wine is a science, a technique, an experience and an art”.
Another fundamental aspect is drawing up the wine list. There is no golden rule, because it depends on a myriad of factors. “I have seen several successful establishments work only with wines by the glass, and they do not have a proper wine list. Or perhaps, just a small list to view the prices of rare and expensive bottles, which it is always better to show the customer before uncorking them”, Paolo Basso continued. “There was a time when restaurants had numerous types of menus: aperitifs, mineral waters, wines, dishes, extra virgin olive oil (at least in Italy), sweets, dessert wines, coffee and tea, a list of liqueurs and even a list of cigars. But this was totally counterproductive. The customer wants competent staff to choose for him and surprise him. The dining room staff’s real work is understanding the customer’s needs and supporting him in his choice to live an emotional taste experience. The modern sommelier is also deeply involved in the management of the wine cellar. Therefore, it takes technical skills and a substantial component of psychological perception interacting with the customer, developed alongside master experts who teach the secrets and tricks of the trade. Just as selling is important, so is the ability to make purchases in a safe and appropriate way. There are some cases where lower prices hide numerous pitfalls, such as bad storage or even falsified wines. In this case, the experience of a sommelier is essential to protect yourself from these numerous complications”, the sommelier, Paolo Basso, concluded.

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