A look at why half-price wine is so common in Louisville restaurants

It may be true that there is no free lunch, or at least a free lunch rarely comes without consideration. But wine at half price? Now that’s a thing!

Locally and across the country, a surprising number of restaurants choose at least one evening a week to offer all or part of their wine list at half price, usually with the purchase of a meal. A few, like Louisville’s Volare Ristorante, go even further with half-price wine seven days a week for patrons dining at the bar.

These offers go beyond the traditional happy hour, with its half-price offers on beers, drinks and wines by the glass, by allowing the diner to choose an interesting bottle of wine to enjoy with a partner throughout. of the meal. And if a whole bottle is too much for you to finish in one sitting, Kentucky law now allows you to take your leftovers home to enjoy another day.

“That’s a good thing,” says Josh Moore, executive chef and managing partner at Volare. “With one or two of the small plates we have on the bar menu, or half price pizza and wine, you can get a really good meal at an affordable price.”

It should be obvious that the half-price wine party has its appeal for wine-loving diners. “We had a nice restaurant nearby that had happy hour, half-price appetizers, and reduced price wine,” Facebook friend Frank D. said. “We have been there several times, and otherwise we rarely visit the restaurants.”

But what about the restorer? It gets a bit more complicated, but it makes sense. “We’ve been doing this for more years than I can say. A long time,” said Chef Moore of Volare. “We’ve done other promotions over the years, but half price wine at the bar we’ve always done. That’s great, that makes sense. There’s no work in a bottle of wine, so it’s easy to do.

“Half-price appetizers or cocktails are harder to justify,” he said, because you can’t cut the labor costs of making those items. But half-price wine “makes sense to us and the diners love it. I think a lot of our customers come for the half-price wine.

Volare offers about 55 bottles on its list at half price at the bar, Moore said. At half price, they range from $20 to $65 a bottle. Plus, on Wednesday nights, the entire dining room wine list is half price, excluding only the premium reserve menu.

What Moore doesn’t say out loud is the simple truth about alcohol’s place in the restaurant business: Markups on wine, in particular, are so high it’s easy to overbid. substantial discounts while earning.

The numbers are simple: A bottle of wine at a wholesale price of $12 might sell for $18 at your local wine shop, but it costs between $25 and $35, or even $40 when you order it from the wine list. a restaurant.

Restaurants are operating with tight overall margins, more so than ever now that salaries for waiters and kitchens are gradually becomes a little fairer. Food prices are rising and it is difficult to reduce costs there. But alcohol is selling well, and that’s where restaurateurs are turning to make their numbers work.

Wine by the glass, in particular, is a category that makes the owner smile. It is customary to set the price of a drink at the wholesale price of the bottle. Sell ​​a drink and you break even; the rest is profit.

Bottle pricing isn’t quite as dramatic, but many restaurants still price their wine list at triple the wholesale price. This leaves plenty of room for discounts – yes, even half price – and the restaurant always comes out on top.

“When I was waiting tables before grad school,” recalled former server Brian Smith, “my restaurant offered a half-price bottle night. I found that while it didn’t necessarily drive more business ( we weren’t necessarily busier that night than the other nights of the week and I doubt we were busier that night than we would have been away from the deal) it made for averages While a couple could normally each get a glass of wine, they opted for a nicer bottle instead as it was half price.

Cindy Franklin, another former restaurant waitress, agreed. “I haven’t worked in the service for many years, but as a consumer I didn’t mind increasing the total bill by buying a bottle on sale. It’s good business and you can be more generous with your guests.

Ready to go for a half-price bottle with dinner? You will have no trouble finding such an offer. A list posted on the HotBytes forum in 2019 lists more than 75 half-price specials from local restaurants. Wednesday was the big day, with many more on Mondays and Tuesdays, an apparent move to bring traffic to traditionally slow evenings.

The Louisville Mom Collective maintains an extensive list of local restaurants with half-price wine deals. It’s not hard to find deals on your own at your favorite places. Just follow the Facebook and Instagram pages and websites of your favorite restaurants and watch for announcements. And then put on your evening clothes and enjoy dinner with wine. Cheers!

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