Why Restaurant Groups Are Adding Wine Bars To Their Portfolios

Growing consumer interest in wine experiences and higher margin sales potential are just two factors driving the trend

Verjus, a wine bar that opened in San Francisco in January 2019 features a thumping soundtrack, a standing bar, and an extensive list of natural, biodynamic, and sustainable wines. It may come as a surprise that this wine bar, raucous as it is, is the creation of the owners of the three-Michelin-starred Quince and the highly regarded restaurant Cotogna. Yet these aren’t the only restaurateurs moving to emphasize wine. Others across the country are also expanding their portfolios by adding smaller venues that prioritize the wine program over the cuisine. SevenFifty Daily spoke with representatives from several restaurant groups about the decision to expand their businesses by adding wine bars.

With 66 establishments throughout Chicago—and more than 120 throughout nine states—Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) has a lock on Windy City dining. The organization took its time establishing a venue that made wine its focal point, according to the company’s wine director, Richard Hanauer, and executive partner Marc Jacobs. “We felt there was a hole in the Chicago market—[that it was lacking] great wine-focused concepts,” says Hanauer. “We had been wanting to do a wine bar for some time but were searching for the perfect location. Independently, we were working on a small plates–tapas idea, and Bar Ramone was a marriage of the two ideas.” LEYE opened Bar Ramone in August 2018 with a selection of 20 rotating wines by the glass, about 100 wines by the bottle, and Spanish tapas. The smallest of LEYE’s establishments, says Hanauer, “Bar Ramone is definitely a neighborhood spot.”

Following Trends

The McGuire Moorman Hospitality (MMH) group, based in Austin, Texas, has 12 restaurants and added June’s All Day to its portfolio in July 2016. The day-to-night café and wine bar was created to meet the needs of a growing market, says June Rodil, MS, MMH’s vice president of operations and the wine bar’s namesake. “[We] added a wine bar because there are more people interested in having wine on a daily basis,” she says, noting that there has been a rising interest in wine-focused experiences and that wine is no longer considered an indulgence to be enjoyed only on the weekend.

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