Ruth’s Chris Steak House conducts five wine- or cocktail-pairing dinners each year, all of which feature matched courses of Ruth’s Chris food and a hefty dose of fine-dining education.

“It’s about us taking the lead on education,” said Helen Mackey, director of beverage strategy at Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Ruth’s Chris’ Winter Park, Fla.-based parent company. “When you’re more knowledgeable about what you’re eating and what you’re drinking, you enjoy it more.”

The wine dinners, which cost around $100 each per customer, are a marketing tool as well as a way for Ruth’s Chris culinary team to flex their menu design muscles, Mackey said. The dinners are generally hosted alongside a partner company, such as Bulleit Bourbon or Diageo, and are intended to draw in new customers to Ruth’s Chris, she said.

Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of the adult beverage resource group at foodservice research firm Technomic Inc., said consumers are very interested in interacting with food and wine these days — making Mackey’s strategy a smart one.

“Our recent consumer survey for our Trends in Adult Beverage Report Series found 32 percent of consumers say they have a good level of understanding of the flavor profiles of different wine varietals and styles,” she said in an email. “This indicates that education about wine is important to these consumers, but also shows the opportunity to educate other consumers.”

She added that consumers in Generation X and Millenials have taken the greatest interest in beverage education.

Ruth’s Chris’ focus on education makes the events interactive and engaging, Crecca said. “This strategy should support the chain’s efforts to engage current consumers and attract new ones with their wines.”

Generally, Mackey said, consumers like the idea of the pairing dinners because it helps them learn about combining wine or cocktails with food in a meaningful, fun way. By the end of 2013, Ruth’s Chris will have hosted a total of 13 wine or cocktail dinners. Coming up in June is a $100 event celebrating Napa-valley legend Robert Mondavi’s 100th birthday, which includes five Mondavi wines and summertime foods like a chilled watermelon, goat cheese and toasted almond salad, and a grilled spring lamb chop served with polenta.

In May, the company hosted a $90 nationwide “Big Reds and Bourbons” Dinner, which featured mint juleps, pinot noir, Bulleit bourbon, and southern-inspired cooking like bacon-wrapped scallops and steak served with bacon barbecue butter. Prices varied somewhat based on the Ruth’s Chris Steak House location.