How long before chain restaurants discover the advantages of wine on tap?
A few smaller chain operations already have - Atlanta-based Fresh To Order (f2o) offers self-serve draft wine along with local draft beers at its Decatur, Geordia, unit. Matchbox, a casual chain with six units primarily in the Washington, D.C., area, has introduced the systems as well.
Wine on tap (as opposed to wine preservation serve systems, which many fine dining restaurants employ in order to serve at optimum quality high-end wines by the glass) is still considered a novelty, but it can solve a multitude of issues for the right operation. The sheer cost of storing and disposing of so many 750 ml or 1 liter bottles of house wine can be wiped away with one installation. Storage space becomes less precious, environmental impact all along the supply chain drops, time of service can be cut as servers no longer need to open new bottles every six glasses or so, and, with the growing number of wines being made available in kegs, the number of options at various price points and in different varietals is expected to continue to increase.
Concerns about taste can be addressed at one sitting (or at the upcoming Vibe conference seminar on draft wine, which will include sampling opportunities), and most tasters report draft wines to often taste fresher and rarely not as good as the same wine packaged in bottles. Spillage, breakage and other losses due to human error can be trimmed, and correct temperature can easily be maintained - no more fast-chilling white wines in ice because the last shift didn’t stock the bar properly.
Of course, installation is an issue, and for many multi-state chains, the availability of wine brands in keg can vary from state to state, depending on the local distributors. But those in the industry report keg sales doubled in 2014 and are expected to do so again in 2015, as consumers, especially Millennials, see the systems for what they are - perfectly acceptable, even responsible, ways to serve young wines.
As for the savings, those should be obvious, as operators can easily glean an extra quarter or more per glass poured under most circumstances. At a time when major chains are cutting down the number of wines by the glass they carry, draft wine might be just the way to turn faltering wine programs around, at least in terms of profitability and convenience.