At the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, there’s a month-long flurry of preparation preceding National Wine Week in September, with a great deal of money flowing into marketing, and a great deal of time put in to growing relationships with suppliers and vineyards to select and source the wines that will make the week a success.
After all of the effort—even though it consistently results in great customer response—the restaurant’s VP of marketing Kim Lapine says there’s a bit of a “day-after-Christmas” feeling to the week’s end.
The restaurant group, which owns 11 restaurants nationwide, decided to overcome this ennui by taking wine week to new territory—the rest of the month of September.
“There’s such an outpouring of interest and attendance and participation, so we thought, ‘Why can’t we evolve this great event into something that lasts an entire month where we can offer great wines and great value to a much wider audience?’” Lapine says.
Thus, the all-new Steak & Wine Month was launched to give more guests more opportunities to participate in the festivities, and to ensure a less anti-climactic payoff for all of the preparatory efforts. In addition to putting some of the restaurant’s vast library of wines on sale (many of which need to move in the next six to eight months to make room for new vintages), guests can also order two specially crafted wine flights—one red and one white—to sample offerings that are typically too pricey to be consumed by the glass in one sitting. Smith & Wollensky is also switching up the format by offering its tasting, which is traditionally done only at lunchtime, during dinner hours in one of their two Boston locations, which Lapine says should make the event much more accessible to people who may not be able to attend during the day because of other commitments.
The extension of Wine Week into a month-long celebration is also giving the group a chance to showcase its food more than the typical arrangement allows, which Lapine says often turns into a beverage-centric occasion that doesn’t provide enough exposure for the restaurant’s premium steakhouse menu. This year, the restaurant is introducing two new menu items—the Stout-Rubbed Sirloin and Tuna au Poivre—to pair with the red and white flights, respectively, and to give the concept’s food items a chance to shine alongside the wine. “We want to make sure that people are eating, being responsible, and learning about the food and wine pairing education behind it—not just sampling 100 wines!” Lapine adds.
During the National Wine Week Celebration itself on September 14-18, each restaurant will be offering customized selections varying by location and changing daily, offering eight super-premium wines rated 90 points or higher for $25 dollars with the purchase of a lunch entrée.
While Wine Week already attracts both the regular guests and new (but soon-to-be-regular) guests, Lapine says Smith & Wollensky’s marketing team has found success reaching out to a broader audience of wine-lovers and travel enthusiasts through social media efforts, hyping both Steak & Wine Month and their National Wine Week offers.
So cheers to flights that turn into bottles, weeks that turn into months, and marketing budgets that are well-spent.
By Emily Byrd
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