Access Craft Members and brand development experts Simone Bianconcini, Vice President for RNDC’s craft brand division TAG and Lee Hastings, Vice President of Arkansas’ Moon Distributing as they share strategies and tactics to gain on-premise success. They will be joined by Max Goldberg, co-founder of Strategic Hospitality, a Nashville-based hospitality company shaping the city’s dining landscape with innovative, one-of-a-kind concepts that feature a wide array of wine and spirits. We’ll share best practices on how to focus your sales force to engage restaurants and bars, how to get into cocktail programs, and best practices to work with mixologists. We’ll even have something for the wine folks who often ask, “what’s on the wine list?” Recorded on September 19, 2023.
From Wine & Spirits Daily:
RELATIONSHIP WITH DISTRIBUTOR. WSWA’s evp, strategic communications and marketing Michael Bilello moderated the webinar, and kicked things off by posing the question: how can craft brands prepare for on-premise engagement and maximize the distribution partnership? “Your relationship with your distributor is going to be critical to your success,” said Simone, emphasizing the importance of a good relationship with the distributor’s portfolio manager– who is usually the primary point of contact– calling them the “gateway” to distributor resources. “I’m gonna encourage you to invest heavily in that relationship, you’re gonna get out what you put in.” Simone also recommends brands be ready to hit the ground running once they’ve joined a distribution portfolio. Distributors “find that we are being tasked to do more with less every year, and one of the things that we really don’t have time to do is spend a lot of energy in onboarding and getting … our new brands up to speed on industry jargon and subtle nuances.”
HOW TO APPROACH AN ACCOUNT. Once you’ve established a relationship with a distributor, another hurdle for craft brands is getting onto back bars. The panelists gave a few pieces of advice on how to approach on-premise accounts. Doing tastings is a solid place to start, as the “liquid to lips concept is really where you’re going to win,” but Simone cautions that suppliers should know all the relevant laws around sampling and gifting merchandise, from federal down to county-level regulations. “The TTB has never been [busier] than they are today, we need to make sure we are following the letter of the law,” as the agency has been stepping up enforcement, he warned. On top of that, Simone added that giving free samples or drinks away to consumers isn’t particularly beneficial for the brand. Instead, he recommended hosting flight tastings or providing meal pairing suggestions for accounts. All three panelists also highly recommended setting appointments with accounts to conduct tastings, as opposed to making drop-ins, to respect account managers’ time. Lee suggested using a distributor to help get an appointment as well, as it can be difficult even finding a slot. “You might only get 30 seconds with a mixologist … if you can get more than 30 seconds you’re doing pretty good,” Lee noted. He recommended having a pre-batched cocktail ready to go to save time and effort for both parties.
EDUCATION CAN HELP PREMIUMIZE YOUR PRODUCT. Not only is education important for consumers, it’s also key for pitching craft brands to accounts, and can elevate the value of your product. “Of course you’ve gotta be competitive in the market that you’re in, especially with pricing,” said Lee, noting that with current premiumization trends, “everyone expects a premium product.” The best way to be “value-conscious” but still deliver a “premium” product is by educating bar staff about the quality of your product, he added, a sentiment that Max shared. Typically, the most expensive products aren’t going to make it onto a cocktail list, as on-premise operators are often dealing with tight margins, noted Simone. That doesn’t mean that a high-end product won’t be picked up by accounts. Instead, it may take some education about the story and the quality of a product to convince a bar manager to place your premium-plus product on a sipping list, added Max.
Please send all media inquiries or follow-up questions to Michael Bilello at firstname.lastname@example.org
ACCESS VOL. 2 OF THE DISTRIBUTION PLAYBOOK
Get the scoop from successful craft brand owners and operators on best practices and tips that are leading to impressive growth both on- and off-premise. Proven craft brand distributors give insight on getting into the most competitive marketplace in the world, as well as what it takes to run a business in the current climate.