15 Aug

Beyond the Cellar

Why Private Clubs Should Invest in Wine

It’s no secret that many private clubs are a haven for wine lovers. Some clubs, particularly those who have long and storied histories, are known for their extensive wine collections. But are most clubs using this unique feature to their advantage? Wine is only growing in popularity, and as demand rises, private clubs must begin looking beyond the subterranean wine cellar to please wine loving, or even wine curious, members.

Many of the world’s leading clubs have encouraged the creation of ‘clubs within a club’ and activity groups that revolve around wine consumption. The creation of front and center wine displays and private lockers, and the investment in sommeliers and knowledgeable wine professionals, can be a worthwhile investment for clubs. So… what’s the advantage of putting time and money into these facilities?


Engage the Right People
“Wine cellars and wine displays are not only becoming more popular, they are becoming a necessity for dining and entertainment venues,” says Lisa Pinault, Director of Sales and Marketing at Vigilant, a wine display product manufacturer and design service. Many clubs are working tirelessly to adapt to the lifestyles of today’s private club members, focusing intently on becoming more inclusive and family oriented. Creating an environment that appeals to both millennials and women is a top priority for many. So how do we capture this demographic? Cultivating a robust wine program.

Though wine is often thought of as an old world commodity, it is becoming more popular than ever in the United States. According to The Wine Institute, total table wine consumption in the U.S. has risen from 507 million gallons in 2000 to 779 million gallons in 2015. More specifically, a recent study from the Wine Market Council shows that millennials drank the most wine out of any other age group in the same year – 42% of all wine in the U.S. to be exact. Across all age groups, women were the top consumer, accounting for 57% of our country’s wine consumption. “Wine is becoming more and more a part of our culture, much like it is in Europe,” notes Pinault.

This means that wine programs are a must – particularly for clubs that hope to diversify their membership, appeal to a wider variety of people and stay ahead of the latest trends.


Cultivate Loyalty
With wine’s popularity only growing among various demographics, creating a robust wine program complete with wine displays or private lockers has become a way to stand out against competing establishments. Pinault notes, “Clubs that install private member lockers foster an allegiance to the establishment and provide a reason for members to choose their club over other restaurants or clubs,” says Pinault.

In order to create a more immersive experience, many clubs are building dedicated wine rooms, hiring certified sommeliers and investing in their internal wine clubs or societies. In a recent renovation, St. Clair Country Club in PA created Bistro 1916, an entire dining venue themed around wine. This new adult casual dining venue even featured its own private wine lockers, which are heavily utilized by the club’s thriving wine society of over 200 members.

Ultimately, when a club invests in their wine programs and wine related facilities, they are actively engaging members (and potential members) with an active interest in everything vino. “Wine consumers are becoming more educated and thus have higher expectations with regards to how a wine they are about to purchase has been stored. A venue that has properly displayed and stored wine has a distinct competitive advantage with the wine consumer over the venue that does not,” says Pinault.


Increase Sales
While the subterranean wine cellars of yesterday haven’t entirely disappeared, the latest and greatest trends in wine storage go far beyond keeping the precious vinos cool — it’s a sales tactic. “An effective wine display should be located in a high visibility area, blend seamlessly with the existing décor and present the wine in an attractive way,” says Pinault.

These kinds of displays not only serve as a repository for the club’s stores, but also provide a point of aesthetic interest that passively sells the wine they contain. “An effective wine display brings wine to the forefront and will increase sales. A properly cooled display also shows clients/members that you are knowledgeable and invested in wine, giving them confidence that the wine they purchase will be perfect,” says Pinault.

Cape Fear Country Club has experienced this phenomena firsthand. Though the club had been developing a wine program prior to the wine room’s construction, estimates have shown that since implementation, program participation rates have doubled. “Our investment in the wine program has done amazing things for our members’ experience. It’s become so popular that we now have a waiting list for wine lockers!” says Mary Geiss, the club’s general manager. “And in addition to enhancing the member experience, it’s been great for revenue as well. The wine lockers alone produce an additional $9,000 in revenue per year, not including wine sales” says Geiss.

The Union League Club of Chicago also used the development of their wine display as an incentive to kick off a more established wine program. Though the club had accumulated an impressive collection since its establishment in 1875, it was hidden in an underground room that was inefficiently inventoried, meaning it took a while for members to get their bottles. The club already had a well-rounded program before embarking on their renovations, which included the addition of a temperature controlled ‘wine wall’ in the Wigwam Bar, and a separate display in their private dining area. These renovations provided a new incentive for customers to buy, and the results have been incredible.

Conditioned wine cabinets are growing in popularity for this reason. “They require less space, are more efficient to cool and construction preparation is far less than a wine room. Because they are more compact, they can often be placed in more visible locations within the establishment,” says Pinault.


Is Wine a Smart Investment?

Absolutely! Once thought of as a world commodity, wine is now more popular than ever, especially among American millennials and women. Wine programs within clubs can help appeal to a diverse demographic and attract younger members. Wine lockers cultivate a more exhilarating experience – attracting members (and potential members) to venues with them, over others without. Wine cellars serve not only an aesthetic interest, but they also sell themselves. Developing a wine program not only creates a short term investment into member experiences, but also contributes to additional revenue per year for your club!

Have you successfully implemented a wine club into your private club? Share your thoughts! Leave us a comment or
send us an email.

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