Following Hallgarten’s month long initiative to help venues get through the Covid-19 crisis, Jacopo Mazzeo caught up with managing director Andrew Bewes to assess the results of his 100,000 Glasses for Hospitality scheme
As on-trade venues were given the green light to reopen in early July, merchant Hallgarten & Novum Wines devised a plan to help restaurants get back on their feet: ‘We spent the first few months of lockdown and immediate aftermath of that looking after our customers as best as possible. A lot of them were challenged in terms of finances settling their outstanding accounts,’ says Hallgarten managing director Andrew Bewes.
‘We came up with the idea to fathom some sort of tangible support for our customers, corralling the good will of our supplier base.’
With the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme being solely focused on food, Bewes explains that something had to be done to support ‘the upper end of the industry, the sommelier-led operations at the top’.
And so the 100,000 Glasses for Hospitality scheme was born.
100,000 glasses of wine
‘It’s pretty simple,’ says Bewes, ‘[we decided to give away] the equivalent of 250 175ml glasses of wine in the form of a credit. The only stipulations were that they had to order just over £1250 worth of wine in a month – which for most of our customers is pretty normal. Nothing complicated.’ Clients also had to settle any outstanding payments.
‘Originally we would have run it in August, but we decided to do it at the end of Eat Out to Help Out and invest in the second wave,’ so the scheme ran throughout September, with venues receiving their credit as we type.
Always like seeing @knackeredmutha on #SaturdayKitchen & through today's show discovered the @hnwines #100kGlassesForHospitality initiative offering 100,000 free glasses of wine🍷 throughout September🥂 . Helen says @CandiceBrown 's pub @greenmaneversh1 is taking part pic.twitter.com/hJbTrtLgPT— Women In the Food Industry (@women_food_wifi) September 12, 2020
The initiative involved a substantial financial commitment, which was made possible thanks to the support of most of Hallgarten’s agencies, with brands and wineries expected to contribute with how much or how little they felt they were able to.
‘Collectively it was quite a lot of money. We came up with numbers and approached our suppliers. There was no set amount, we asked them to donate wine or a credit and everyone came back with something. Some were very generous, others were not able to be so generous – which reflected those who had been dramatically affected by the lockdown. They were just investing in us and none of them expected any link between their wines and the scheme,’ Bewes is keen to point out.
We came up with numbers and approached our suppliers. There was no set amount, we asked them to donate wine or a credit and everyone came back with something
‘We carried this on to our customers,’ with no expectations ‘other than helping the business. The only thing we did ask not to do is to use it for entry-level wines’.
Once enrolled into the scheme, solutions ranged from a glass of wine upon rebooking a table to a discount on more expensive labels. To maximise the initiative’s potential, venues shared offers on social media by using the hashtag #100kGlassesForHospitality.
Two AA Rosette Shelburne Restaurant at Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort made the most of Hallgarten’s initiative by including a glass of wine in its two-course lunchtime set menu.
Meanwhile, Gordon’s Wine Bar, London, offered guests a buy-one-get-one-free on two of its by-the-glass wines on weekdays: ‘After being included in the support, we made the decision to offer our guests a buy-one-get-one-free offer on our Muscadet and Montepulciano,’ says operations manager Joao Carlos. ‘To help drive footfall during the daytime, we offered this to our guests during the week between 12pm and 4pm. Our guests were thrilled with the offer, and throughout September we gave away around 80 glasses of red and 70 of white, which helped to increase dwell time during the week.’
Discover our fabulous new offer - Two Dine for £29! Enjoy a two-course lunch in our two AA Rosette Shelburne Restaurant along with a complimentary glass of wine provided by @hnwines #100kGlassesForHospitality Click here for full details & to book: https://t.co/vdeMZijTzy pic.twitter.com/tzqbnltgoV— Bowood Hotel Resort (@BowoodUK) September 14, 2020
Dine with us at lunch time & receive a free 175ml glass of wine! 🍷You pick red or white, and we pour! Visit website to book a table and for t&cs. Valid lunchtimes in September. Bookings only. #100kglassesforhospitality @hnwines #freewine #winetime #cheers #sipsiphooray pic.twitter.com/nzmFoebe9v— MJP@TheShepherds (@MJPTheShepherds) September 20, 2020
The newly opened MJP@TheShepherds, just outside Cambridge, reported an increase in footfall, too, after they decided to offer a free glass of wine for all lunchtime reservations throughout September. ‘The awareness raised on social media and in the press by both ourselves at MJP & Hallgarten has helped to bring in approximately 300-350 additional covers during the month of September,’ says general manager Bradley Dorrington, ‘which has helped us generate much needed additional revenue in a time where the industry is on its knees.’
The guessing job
The next step, says Bewes, involves ‘a lot to guessing, we’re ready for the unexpected to happen.
‘At the start of this, as the rest of the industry did, we went into survival mode and our number one goal was to get to break-even point each month, which we did relatively quickly.
'Now people are working hard again, [but] there are some practical questions as of whether Christmas will happen – bearing in mind that that’s where most wine businesses tend to make most of their profits.’
And of course, as if things weren’t challenging enough, there’s still Brexit looming in the background: ‘We’re building our stock back up again to give the customers what they need. We’ve gone from a managers meeting once a month [before Covid], to every day [during lockdown], and now we’re still meeting two or three times a week just to keep on top of the situation. The restaurant industry will continue to need our help and our support. It’s tough, but we are a remarkably resilient lot.’