Restaurants are tapping into a seemingly insatiable desire from customers for sparkling wine at brunch. We're seeing more and more all-you-can-drink fizz promotions, not to mention the prosecco-for-a-penny deal reported in the press this week.
Instead of the unlimited-fizz deals from restaurants such as Quaglino's and Rocket Bishopsgate, Covent Garden's Black Penny are offering customers one 1p glass of prosecco per plate ordered. The Q Brunch at Quaglino's in London's Mayfair includes 'bottomless bubbles', a sparkling wine from Argentina in this case, from 12pm to 3pm on Saturday.
'This is our own in-house promotion,' says Quaglino's manager Leslie Kwarteng. 'We don't have help from the supplier.' He explains that customers only have unlimited wine during the meal, and adds that when it comes to balancing the books, the deal is 'a gamble'. 'Some weeks you make profit, and other weeks you don't,' he says.
Rocket's deal includes unlimited Bloody Marys, Bellinis and Prosecco (Valdese Prosecco Brut) for £15 when ordering a main meal, or £22 if you'd prefer the real French stuff. Their deal runs from 11am to 2pm on Saturdays. Like Quaglino's, this is self-funded. 'It's definitely worth it as a starting point to bring in the numbers, and we'll see how it goes,' says Rocket's national sales and marketing manager Clara-Louise Paul.
But not everyone thinks that bottomless brunch fizz is the best way to bring in numbers. 'This type of deal attracts the wrong type of customers – those looking for a deal, discounts and free things,' says Andre Luis Martins at St James's Hotel and Club.
The Gilbert Scott's Giancarlo Cuccuru is of a similar opinion. 'I think there would be very few cases of the customers becoming regulars. I hear more about how drunk people were and how many glasses they had, but rarely anything about the food they ate or the ambiance of the restaurant.'
At OXO Tower, Diego Muntoni is more concerned for the customers themselves. 'This could be very dangerous for customers as it is encouraging them to drink excessively, and as the deals are often timed, I can see many customers trying to drink as fast as possible to get their money's worth,' he says.
'It's positive if it's well controlled,' says Quaglino's Kwarteng. 'If someone's had enough, you need to tell them that. But generally, we don't have issues like that, and haven't had any since the promotion started in May.'
William Wilson at The Chesterfield Mayfair spares a thought for the potentially negative effects on the sparkling wines themselves. 'I would say that it's negative for driving quality, and just a cash cow for businesses,' he says.
'It may have a negative effect on prosecco itself,' adds The Savoy's Erik Simonics. 'People may think about prosecco as being a very inexpensive, low quality sparkling wine once they've heard about such a thing as a "penny for a glass,"' he adds.
But Simonics can also see the positive side for the restaurant. 'I think it is a great idea for any restaurant to promote their popularity and boost their profit by having more customers. Nowadays, many restaurants are offering great deals like a three-course meal and a glass of champagne for a certain price to attract more people. Moreover, people don't realise that they do not get a glass of champagne for free, as the cost plus a little profit is included in the price of the offer.'
Paul at Rocket has another additional reason to run her offer: 'Apparently the grapes haven't been that good this year and there's about to be a world prosecco shortage, so if we're going to go dry I want our customers to be able to enjoy the last of it in Rocket Bishopsgate!'