Millennials are driving growing wine consumption, particularly in restaurants. Today, about half of adults age 21+ are wine drinkers. Most of them report ordering wine in restaurants as well as purchasing it at retail stores to drink at home. About one-sixth of consumers (or to put it another way, a third of wine drinkers) buy wine in retail stores but do not customarily order it in restaurants. In addition, a small group—3%—report that they do order wine in restaurants but don’t buy it at retail for home consumption.

Most consumers who order wine in restaurants do so at least monthly. Frequency seems to vary by region; in the Northeast and South, the majority say they order wine in a restaurant several times a month, while only a third of those in the West and a quarter in the Midwest do so.
 

The vast majority of consumers who drink wine in restaurants order it with a meal. However, women are more likely than men to report pairing wine with an appetizer, likely because they are using the starters menu to order a lighter meal.

Men prefer red wine, which represents 40% of their orders. Women order reds and whites about equally, with each accounting for about three out of 10 occasions. Women are also somewhat more likely than men to occasionally opt for other forms of wine: rosés, sparkling wines, or wine drinks such as sangría.

 

Beyond red, white or rosé, how do patrons narrow it down to a specific wine? Two-thirds stick with the familiar, choosing a wine they know they will like; the other third look for a new wine to try. About four out of 10 say they weigh what would go best with their food order. More than a third consider the recommendation of their server or sommelier, and almost as many take into account a recommendation from someone in their dining party. A quarter turn to menu descriptions of wines to make their selection.


 

WHAT’S WINE WORTH?

We asked consumers what they would willingly pay for wine in a bar or restaurant. For a glass of wine, the sweet spot is $5 to $10: 38% would part with $7.50–$10, while a third would pay $5–$7.50. Almost a third of diners would be happy to spend more than $10, however. When purchasing wine by the bottle, the plurality (39%) would be willing to pay in the $25–$50 range for a worthy vintage, but almost as many (35%) would pay no more than the $10–$25 range. Yet more than a fifth of wine drinkers would spend in excess of $50.


SNAPSHOT OF A WINE OCCASION

Because diners have a wide variety of wine-drinking experiences, we asked about the respondent’s most recent away-from-home wine occasion. The vast majority report that on this occasion, they ordered their wine to accompany dinner. More than seven out of 10 chose a wine by the glass. Four out of five say they noticed wine descriptions on the menu; virtually all found this information useful. Only two out of five report that their server, sommelier or bartender made recommendations, but almost all of them took the recommendation into consideration; most thought the person doing the recommending was helpful.




BOOSTING WINE ORDERS

Finally, we asked these wine drinkers what might tempt them to order wine more often. The biggest motivator was price; four out of 10 said they would be driven by specials or deals, a third mentioned lower everyday prices, and a quarter would be influenced by specials on wine/food pairings.

Others said they would step up orders if they were offered higher-quality wines (21%) or more variety: more wines by the glass (20%), split bottles (19%), or wines that go with their favorite foods (16%).

Another motivator is wine education. Respondents said they might be prompted to order more wine by information on food pairings (15%), wine flights or sampler portions (14%), advice from their server or bartender (14%) or information from an iPad or other tablet (12%).

 

Bottom line: Wine consumption in restaurants and bars is growing across the board, but there is plenty of room for savvy operators to beat the industry average through smart pricing, a wider assortment of options, and more attention to wine marketing and education.

Through MarketBriefing, American Express provides restaurants with research-based analysis of key industry developments.

Data is collected and analyzed by Technomic, Inc. To subscribe or find past issues of MarketBriefing go to: www.technomic.com/MB.