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Photo for: Adriana Valentini On How She Would Grow Restaurant Wine Sales

Interviews

Adriana Valentini On How She Would Grow Restaurant Wine Sales

Insights from Adriana Valentini, Head of Beverage at Oxford and Cambridge Club in London on how to grow wine sales in your restaurants.

Raised in Milan, Italy, she worked for Milan’s top restaurants, the two Michelin starred ‘Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia’ alongside chefs Fabio Pisani and Alessandro Negrini. Her passion and ambition to become one of the top female sommeliers has led her to travel the world gathering experience, from pressing grapes in the Chateau Pommard vineyard, France, to the science of the ‘New World’ wines in Australia and New Zealand.

Oxford and Cambridge Private Members Club

Oxford and Cambridge Private Members Club. Source Facebook

She has pursued a career in wine because honestly ‘When you have a fond memory of a specific occasion it normally involves a glass of wine and this is what drives me - happy memories’!
Her professional qualifications do include; the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET) Level 3 Award in Wines, the ONAF Certificate for Cheese Tasting, and a professional qualification awarded by the Italian Sommelier Association (A.I.S). Her future plan whilst in London is to achieve her lifetime goal of completing her Master Sommelier certification.

Here’s the interview with Adriana.

1. Define your role and what all tasks are involved in your role:

I am responsible for the provision of a quality drinks service to our Members throughout all of F&B outlets, events and private lunch and dinners. I am fully in charge of the management of 6 cellars and wine stock in both the club and its external wine stores (London City Bond). Leading an international team of 15 people made of Bar Tenders and Sommeliers.

Adriana Valentini, Head of Beverage at Oxford and Cambridge Club in London

Adriana Valentini, Head of Beverage at Oxford and Cambridge Club in London

Some of the tasks I am also in charge of are the following:

  • being part of the Management Team,  to work Duty Management shifts at the weekends as and when required by the duty management rota

  • to attend daily meetings with the Head Chef and with the Management Operational Team to ensure that you are advised of all Members needs and that special arrangement are properly communicated

  • to be constantly aware of member needs, scan the room and strive to create the right environment

  • monthly beverage stock take, delivery notes and purchase orders 

  • to attend the Wine Committee as required on a bio monthly basis

  • to be aware of and respond to the needs of my staff, including inductions, monitoring performance, coaching and ensuring that the appropriate training is always provided

2. Strategy to grow wine sales, where to start?

My strategy will focus on:

1.Staff education and novelty as they are key in increasing your wine sales, always "An Informed Sales Staff sells more ".

2. to use the right words on my Wine Menu, understanding the clientele. There is no point to add premium wine if our daily customers are the set menu oriented ones.

3. considering offering pre-selected Wine Boxes to implement the wine sales especially with a  mix and match offer, which may be customizable, on request. That would appeal to many, even on a budget!

3. What are the four main things you focus on daily in your role?

1. my members, my guest satisfaction when ordering and tasting one of our wine 

2. my wine racks are fully stocked with daily delivery 

3. my daily managers meeting to plan always ahead and 

4. my team well being

4. What are the things that are NOT so important to the bottom line that many sommeliers/wine directors tend to focus on?

My very personal point of view will focus on the so-called "unique aspect of Princess’ wine list". To list only a robust collection of Vintage Premium Claret, or only Super Tuscans, that unofficial category of Italian wines that combine Sangiovese with native Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and whose bottles are often too pricy in London and suitable only for oenophiles and collectors.

5. What are the points you look at when selecting a new wine for your wine program?

I personally believe that having on the list wines in a wide price range – from entry-level to premium ones – to choose from is essential, the presence of classic wine regions is important to deliver a sense of authenticity to the list and to have an adequate yet interesting selection of wines by the glass which put every guest at ease while not feeling obliged to have an entire bottle.

The markup on wines should be fair and not be so high nowadays, especially in a luxury or Michelin star restaurant. Wine connoisseurs and customers in general starts to be very well informed on prices, as they are likely to have on their smartphones dedicated apps, and paying too much for a bottle of wine, doesn’t convey the message to be a good restaurant where they can find good value for money wines and they might decide not to come back for a second visit.

6. What is the difference between a sommelier and a wine director?

As enjoyable as it is to sling bottles and chat with guests, most sommeliers crave the opportunity to run a wine program at some point of their career.

But being a wine director isn’t just about buying excellent wines to craft a unique and attractive list. There are added management responsibilities and financial considerations that come with leading a wine program, and they require the wine director to essentially run a business within a business. 
The reality is that, although it may seem as if a wine director position would be a great way to get away from gruelling floor hours, our day-to-day responsibilities are numerous, from sitting in on operations meetings to scrupulously editing the wine list.

An understanding of point-of-sale systems and reservations software can also help prepare a sommelier to be a good wine director.  Much of the wine director’s role focuses on planning for a seamless and successful service before guests even walk through the door of our restaurant.

Last but not the least, “Always put your team first,” I will advise. “Their growth and success will determine yours.” That includes not only the members of the wine team but bartenders, chef de rang and back-of-house staff as well. The team-forward mentality is so important nowadays.

7. Define a good sommelier and what qualities you would look for when hiring one:

I personally believe that to be a good professional sommelier you should be well prepared, attentive, and full of personality.

This job is a very complex one, and when hiring a new sommelier I always pay attention that he or she will always: 1) show to be humble in front of our guests and in front of senior colleagues who have more experience. 2) be curious and knowledgeable: never stop learning is my motto as there will always be new products coming up on the market either a new wine or a new drink. 3) be able to see the big picture: try always to exceed your guests’ expectations, and lastly 5) be and remain open-minded: what you liked the most in the past might change alongside with your palate and your wine preferences which may evolve into new ones!

 Adriana Valentini, Head of Beverage at Oxford and Cambridge Club

Adriana holding wine bottles

8. What do you look for when you have to evaluate the effectiveness of wine program?

As Head of Beverage in charge and responsible for selecting and updating drink lists for our Bars and our Restaurant (which in Private Members Club is designated as Coffee Room) I am constantly collaborating on an updated wine list with a Master of Wine. This translates to around 500 different bins currently listed in the dining room and augments the depth and breadth of regional and global representation.

This medium large-scale of wines allows us to broaden our appeal to not only our Londoner guests but to guests from around the world as well. Additionally, we have worked to ensure that many of the more notable producers are represented so that selection is approachable in price, but guests who wish to explore a wider premium range of price can do that too. 

International and Domestic Submission deadline is February 22. If you are looking to grow your brand in 2024, looking for product feedback, or looking to get in front of real trade buyers. It's time to enter your wines in the London Competitions. Here's how to enter.

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