Columbia Sussex Makes Wine Sales Grow

Image: Osteria Pronto at JW Marriott Austin Downtown

Beverage execs in charge of Columbia Sussex Corporation, a chain of 44 hotels and resorts whose brands include Marriott, Hilton, Westin, and some independently branded resorts and casinos, wanted to create a progressive wine list with offerings for all types of guests. To do that, and to deliver Columbia Sussex’s philosophy that wine is an integral part of the dining experience, they focused on offering varietals to satisfy all guests and quality wines familiar to the customer while staying abreast of industry trends, and increasing overall sales and growing revenue.

Their program did so well that it earned the 2016 VIBE Vista Award for Best Wine Program among hotels, cruise lines and casinos.

The program elevates the overall beverage program with a specific focus on wine: tiered wine offerings based upon hotel brand to ensure that the wines offered match the guest profile at each property. The program also builds consumer awareness through staff training on wine selling, wine pouring and preservation techniques.

Carafes with pour lines, seasonally relevant wines for limited time only lounge programs, two wine pour sizes, custom training videos, and on-site and in-person training at each property made up the execution of the program. Wines are listed by varietal, and sequenced from soft and sweet to bold and robust. Each section of the menu lists wines by name, varietal and origin.

With two pour sizes (6 ounces and 9 ounces), Columbia Sussex ensured that each glass was consistently poured to minimize waste and build credibility to their wine program. The pre-measured carafes were specific to Columbia Sussex and ensured consistency on every wine pour. Seasonally relevant wines were offered on LTO lounge programs and featured seasonally relevant wines such as La Crema Chardonnay, MacMurray Pinot Noir and Murphy-Goode Homefront Red.

The program focused on staff training to elevate the bar experience and raise sales with implementation of a new training model that improved guest service throughout all hotels. Wine presentation and service training was conducted at the store level along with providing tasting notes and selling points for each wine. A training video was developed for all staff members that walked them through the proper way to serve wine, cocktails and beer, along with cleaning standards.

Proof is in the results, of course, and in this case the benefits were clear: since adding the option of two pour sizes to the wines by the glass list BTG, the 9-ounce pour now comprises 60% of overall wine sales in 2015. Columbia Sussex total BTG wine sales grew 15% last year over 2014.


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