At the Pride of Britain Hotels' wine, beers and spirits seminar, the most contentious issue was the mark-up selling price, says Peter Hancock
Every year at Pride of Britain Hotels we stage a wines, beers and spirits seminar for the restaurant managers and wine buyers in the consortium. The idea is to help our members to keep abreast of what is out there in the drinks world and to allow our beverage sponsors access to the key people who work at the hotels in a convivial setting.
Our last such gathering took place a couple of weeks ago and was well attended. Knowledge was shared freely and nobody got drunk. We learned about some of the best products on the market and how to encourage guests to try them, taking advantage of the relentless demand for "something different" whether it be an outstanding wine from a lesser known region or a cocktail that breathes new life into a neglected liqueur.
A high point for me was discovering how well a certain dark Belgian beer goes with puddings. What could chime better with the trend towards less formal dining than that? And we were privileged to taste some of the finest Australian wines ever made, prompting a flurry of superlatives from around the room.
Perhaps the most contentious issue of the day was the way customers regard the mark-up used to arrive at a selling price, especially with products that are available in the shops and whose high street value is therefore known to all.
I think there are several sides to this debate. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with selling brands that are well known. In fact, their success can actually drive demand because people order with more confidence when they are already familiar with the name.
Secondly, an increasing number of operators now apply a sensible cash margin to their more expensive wines and spirits, rather than a simple percentage one which can distort the list and make the best vintages absurdly expensive. The beauty of a cash margin is that everyone wins: guests are able to enjoy something better and the house is still making money.