Innovation and Strategy Lead to Wine Program Success
Maintaining a reputation for a top shelf wine program takes more than savvy shopping and lengthy lists. Guests need to be made aware not only of the wine selection but also of an operation’s expertise. Additionally, frequent promotions need to be utilized effectively in order to ensure that guests make return visits. Those strategies are the aim of Ruth’s Chris Steak House – along with their commitment to provide the best steakhouse experience – and those efforts won the chain the Best Chain Wine Program award at this year’s VIBE Conference.
To promote their wine program last year, Ruth’s Chris’ Helen Mackey, Vice President of Menu Strategy & Innovation for Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc., organized a series of wine dinners. Notable was the series of 50th anniversary five course pairing dinners, which included a Veuve Clicquot Champagne dinner, a Caymus Wine Dinner featuring the Wagner Family of Wine, the golden anniversary dinner, and a 90+ rated wines of the world dinner. Suppliers participated in each event. Marketing support and promotional materials included a script of key messages delivered for each event, video interviews and beauty footage, a designated educator host in all markets for 50th anniversary dinners and additional initiatives, and proprietary menus that paired with the wines or spirits and told the culinary story of the evening. At each event, guests received an educational component that could include maps, history, tasting notes, and brand visuals, as well as the evening’s menu and a gift giveaway. Lobby posters, check stuffers, E-blasts, website alerts, social media campaigns in partnership with beverage suppliers, and media guests helped provide buzz for the events.
Ruth’s Chris served more than 15,000 incremental guests in five dinners on five nights across the globe, an increase over the previous year’s pairing dinners. From Hawaii and California to Puerto Rico, Panama and Canada, all guests enjoyed the same menu with the same message on the same night. With wine and spirit expert hosts serving and providing educational interaction with guests at each dinner, Ruth’s Chris maintained its reputation as a leader in experiential dining and engaging guests in wine, spirits and inspired culinary journeys.
Also notable was the Women of the Vine Mixers, part of Ruth’s Chris Steak House support for Women of the Vine to celebrate the legacy of chain founder Ruth Fertel and women in the industry. The Women of the Vine, the first of its kind organization enabling women across all sectors of the wine industry and those women interested in wine to connect, network, mentor, collaborate and support each other in life and in business, sought out Ruth's Chris to be their first networking events partner. It fit the chain’s strategic goals and traditions, as Ruth Fertel spent her life helping and encouraging other women to achieve their own potential.