Good Things Come in Small Packages

Small packages

Risky business

The average diner is not a risk-taker when it comes to wine.  This is evident not only in sales of fairly bland Pinot Grigio but also from our Taste Test survey results.  Many diners choose to suffer in silence rather than ask for help.

So what has stood in the way of positively engaging customers? Aside from the seemingly infinite regions and sub-regions, the local names for the same grape varieties, not to mention styles of production, the wine trade has done a great job at erecting a number of barriers along the way.  One of those key barriers is confusing, overly long wine lists that do nothing to help or guide the consumer to try different wines and move out of his or her comfort zone.

However, alongside the trend towards simplified food offerings e.g. Burger and Lobster, Bubbledogs, Flat Iron etc. there has been a move towards shorter, simpler wine lists.  Here we take a look at some key operators in London and how they are approaching this stripped back approach to a wine list.

Burger and Lobster

The Burger and Lobster group of restaurants, with its 3 item menu (let’s be honest “Burger, Lobster and Lobster roll” is a bit less snappy isn’t it?) has seemingly hit the jackpot by complementing its food menu with a grand total of 15 wines. With such a small space for the wine, you’d be forgiven for expecting to see a few safe bets amongst the more premium wines. But no, their biggest seller is a Grecanico from Sicily.   So despite its size, the list isn’t full of the same identi-kit wines that are devoid of any redeeming character other than price, they give the customer something to get excited about.  


Over at MEATliquor, you’d be forgiven for questioning whether they even need wine on their drinks list. This group of burger restaurants in London, Brighton and soon to be in Leeds hold cocktails and beer in high esteem, in line with the Americana trend.  However, owner Scott Collins and his team have a short wine list that holds its own amongst stiff competition.  Scott Collins, MEATliquor commented at Workshop by Bibendum: “The wine is a small, but very important cog in a big machine. Customers are smarter and so much better informed than they were five years ago about wine.  You cannot pull the wool over their eyes with something of poor quality at a high price, so you have to find something that works for both you and the customer. We have a simple wine list but it offers both us and the customer bang for our buck.”  

Pizza Pilgrims

Brothers Tom and James Eliot are the Pizza Pilgrims.  Having made the transition from a Pizza van to a bricks and mortar restaurant in Soho, they have also got in on the act.  Here a short wine list isn’t seen as restricting choice, it’s about choosing the right product for the occasion.  With a red, white and Prosecco on tap, served from a keg, they have taken a simplified offer to the next level.  

Restaurants like these have tapped into a growing trend of casual eating out and are great examples of how a food and wine menu can work together for an unforgettable dining experience.

In short there are some great benefits to keeping a wine list short and sweet:

•    Easier for staff to get to know the full list rather than sticking to a couple of safe options for recommendations
•    Changing a short list regularly is a great way to excite customers & keep the offering fresh
•    A small list means less cash tied up in the stock room as well
•    Wine’s already complicated enough, a short, focused list doesn’t exacerbate this

A wine list that that matches the food menu is a true winner - bigger isn’t always better…
12th January 2015

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